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Religion Program REVISED Guidelines

The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations’ Religion Program provides philanthropic funding to high quality, creative initiatives in two areas:
  • Theological Education – These grants support programs that will advance the educational quality of leading seminaries and divinity schools. Applications are open to fully accredited ATS seminaries and divinity schools; and
  • Interfaith Dialogue and Understanding – These grants support programs that strengthen a multi-religious society and prepare leaders with the knowledge and competencies required in a religiously diverse culture. Grant requests are by invitation only.

In both categories, the Foundations’ Religion Program goal is to fund robust educational programs that have lasting impact and intellectual vitality.

Over the past 30 years, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations have made grants to top tier theological schools for projects to enhance institutional quality based on the priority of the president. In early 2013, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations’ Board of Trustees engaged in a focused, thorough review of its existing Religion Program. Following thoughtful review, the Trustees adopted new philanthropic guidelines that center on the two focal areas of theological education and interfaith initiatives for future philanthropy.

To expand and deepen the lasting impact of this philanthropy, the Trustees determined that the Religion Program would emphasize grants for initiatives that bring fresh, innovative thinking to religious leaders who will inspire, teach, and guide individuals and communities in the religious practices that enrich the human experience. The program focus will now be upon those who will serve as leaders in traditional religious organizations as well as emergent programs in interfaith understanding.

All potential grantees are encouraged to read the revised guidelines for the Religion Program carefully before submitting a request for funding. These guidelines are effective as of September 23, 2013. 

Theological Education Grants
In Theological Education, the Foundations seek to provide philanthropic support for leading theological schools that offer curricula and programs to address the pressing issues facing the preparation of religious leaders. Of particular interest to Trustees are programs that encourage aspiring clergy and lay leaders to bring energy and vision to the faith and spiritual needs of contemporary society. This includes revitalizing traditional church structures that continue to be influenced by theological, demographic, and cultural changes. Theological Education grant amounts range from $50,000 to $200,000.

Proposals in Theological Education should reflect the school’s mission and current strategic priorities. Selection criteria will focus on academic excellence, stable leadership and governance, and the potential for lasting impact on the quality of the educational experience. Competitive proposals should reflect one or more of the following:

  • Creative and transformational approaches to the current trends and challenges affecting theological education and the communities for which they are preparing religious leaders;
  • Collaborative efforts among seminaries and/or other partner institutions or organizations. Examples might be shared physical resources, academic expertise, or student learning experiences;
  • Curricular initiatives that prepare religious leaders for pluralistic contexts. Areas of particular interest are interreligious engagement, racial integration and cultural equality, sensitivity to differences in gender and sexual orientation, and ministries directed to the under-served; and
  • Programs that contribute knowledge and best practices which benefit the whole of theological education and beyond. These might include models for financial sustainability, ecology of resources, and effective educational pedagogies.
The applicant institution for a Theological Education grant must be fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools and located within the United States. No preference is given to any denomination or ecclesial affiliation.

A minimum of four years must have elapsed between an institution’s most recent grant and its eligibility to send a new request. This is determined by the date the previous grant was awarded.

The Foundations’ Trustees also continue to prefer that the CEO of the applicant institution has been at the institution for a minimum of one year.

Application Process
The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations have moved to two annual grant cycles for proposal submissions. Applicants should strive to meet one of two submission dates: November 1 and April 1 (regardless of the day of the week). Each proposal should be submitted with the application form which can be accessed here.

In addition to the application form, the initial grant application should include the following:

  1. A signed one-page cover letter from the Chief Executive Officer (president, dean or rector) of the institution articulating the relevance of this proposal to the current highest priorities and mission of the institution;
  2. A two hundred word abstract (approximate) that will be used publicly if grant is awarded;
  3. A two-page summary of the proposed grant including purpose, audience, goals, methodology, project leadership and anticipated outcomes;
  4. A detailed budget with the total project costs, requested funds from the Foundations and other sources of support (the Foundation does not fund indirect costs);
  5. A timeline for proposed activities; and
  6. A copy of the applicant institution’s current IRS statement of eligibility and Employer Identification Number.

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:

Evaluation and Notification
Upon receipt of the grant proposal, all materials will be evaluated according to the criteria noted above. If a proposal is not competitive within the current field of applicants, a notification of decline will be sent. Additional information may be requested from those judged to be competitive. Program staff will help guide applicants through the consideration process including preparation of the final proposal for action by the Board of Trustees. Trustees make all final decisions.

Every effort is made to respond to all questions, inquiries and proposals in a timely manner. Generally, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations strive to render final decisions on grant requests within four to six months of proposal submission.
Interfaith Dialogue and Understanding Grants

The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations support, through invitation only, established projects that address global religious and demographic trends. The goal is to affirm the ever-broadening need for a deeper level of understanding and exchange among major faith traditions as well as within a larger social context. The Foundations’ focus is on programs that address interfaith work in curricula, student and faculty life, and that foster interchange among differing faith traditions. Potential grant recipients may include those within or related to higher education, theological schools, other programs for the preparation of religious leaders, and other organizations with an established record in interfaith engagement.

Grants are generally given to strong institutions and programs with demonstrated leadership in high quality, potentially replicable and sustainable pedagogy, academic research, and curricular initiatives. Interfaith initiatives that have received past support include research related to educating religious leaders, compilation and dissemination of information on multi-faith engagement, and student led programs on college campuses.

Please direct all questions regarding the religion program to: Ms. Cheryl Tupper, Vice President for Programs - Religion and Healthcare

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 Religion, please click here.