Dedicated to Strengthening

   America's Future Through Education

Private Higher Education
Rhodes College, Memphis, TN

The Foundations’ philanthropy in private higher education concentrates on strong academic colleges and universities with four-year, residential programs where students and faculty focus primarily in the arts and sciences, rather than career or vocational studies.  These institutions exemplify academic quality and strong financial stability. Proposals from associations and consortia that serve the sector are also welcome.

While one hallmark of the Foundations’ philanthropy in higher education was our focus on the priority of the president, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations’ Trustees determined in the fall of 2013 that requests in private higher education should now meet the additional criteria outlined below.

A portion of funding is reserved each year to help improve historically black colleges and universities, Native American tribal colleges, Appalachian College Association members and/or Work College Consortium members. 

Private Higher Education Grants

The Foundations seek compelling proposals to translate thought leadership into practical, effective action.  These dynamic, influential initiatives must target the undergraduate level.  Proposals should represent a key institutional priority and seek to: advance academic quality; establish new, innovative practices; or solve persistent issues.  Priorities may include curricular or co-curricular activities related to teaching, learning, scholarship, assessment, faculty development, or cost control at either the requesting institution or across the sector. While there is no preference for a specific discipline or interdisciplinary focus, the Foundations honor attention to academic quality, innovation, and integrity of mission.

Grant Amount

Private higher education requests may range from $25,000 to $250,000.


All private four-year residential colleges and universities are welcome to apply.  Those institutions undergoing a presidential transition must wait to submit a proposal until the new president has been in office for a year.  With some exceptions, a minimum of four years must have elapsed since an institution’s most recent grant before a new request may be submitted. This is determined by the notification date of the previous grant award.

When & How To Apply

The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations invite proposals in two grant cycles annually.  Applicants are welcome to submit proposals on or before April 1 or November 1 each year (regardless of the day of the week).

Proposals should be submitted with our application form

Each initial grant application should include:
  • A one-page cover letter (signed by the president) that articulates how the proposed activities support the mission and fit within the current strategic plan;
  • A two hundred word (approximate) abstract that will be used publicly if the grant is awarded;
  • A two to three page description of the proposed grant;
  •      If applicable, grant descriptions should address the following:
    • primary goals and evaluation metrics (both process and outcome) for the proposed project
    • research that informs the need for the project and/or rationale for its design;
    • innovative solution(s) which may arise through a new program or practice;
    • potential lasting impact beyond the proposed grant (e.g. leverage, replication, dissemination, organizational and/or individual capacity building, etc.);
    • proposed activities that represent or offer the potential for effective collaboration with other institutions, organizations or associations (e.g. academic expertise, student learning experiences, technology, shared physical resources, etc.).
    • best practices with potential to benefit undergraduate education (e.g. effective teaching, fiscally sustainable models, resource management/ecology, etc.).
    • effective stewardship of resources; and
    • future funding plan beyond the proposed grant period.
  • A one-page timeline for the proposed activities;
  • A one-page line item budget that provides the projected total costs with other sources of support (The Foundations do not fund indirect costs.);
  • A completed Institutional Information Form, which is accessible here
  • A copy of the applicant institution’s current IRS statement of non-profit eligibility; and
  • The employer identification number (EIN) of the applicant organization.

Proposal Submission

Completed grant applications may be sent by mail or email to Dr. Nancy J. Cable, President.

Mailing Address:
     The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations
     225 Water Street, Suite 1510
     Jacksonville, FL 32202

     Email Address:

Proposal Evaluation and Notification

Every effort is made to respond to all questions, inquiries and proposals in a timely manner.  The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations strive to render decisions on grant awards within 6-8 months of proposal submission.

Upon receipt of a grant proposal, all materials will be evaluated according to the guidelines and criteria provided for each program area.  If a proposal is not competitive within the current cycle, notification will be sent no later than the beginning of the next grant cycle. 

At times, and in consultation with the grant applicant, a proposal may be tabled for further consideration into the next grant cycle.  Additional information may be requested from competitive grant proposals.   The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations’ Board of Trustees renders all final decisions.

Please direct all questions regarding the private higher education program to:
Mr. William Keator, Vice President for Programs – Higher and Secondary Education

Mailing Address:
     The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations
     225 Water Street, Suite 1510
     Jacksonville, FL 32202

     Email Address:
     Telephone:    904-359-0670

For Recent Grants in Private Higher Education, please click here.