by Nathaniel Shahan
“Charles Koch Foundation,” “Kraft Foods,” “Ernst & Young,” “United Way of New York City” and the “Community Foundation of Mount Vernon and Knox County”: these are just a small sampling of the 400-plus foundations, corporations and organizations listed on the Kenyon website as having donated money to the College during the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
Annually over the past five years Kenyon has received “anywhere from $4-8 million a year in corporate and foundation grants and gifts,” according to Vice President for College Relations Heidi McCrory. Much of this money is coming from foundations, which donate to Kenyon for use in specific programs. “Usually we initiate the grant or gift,” McCrory said. She explained that foundations “are set up for the whole purpose of making gifts and grants to nonprofits” and are “legally bound to give away money every year.” These foundations vary greatly in size. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, founded by the daughter of the industrialist Andrew Mellon, is a large corporate foundation with a $6-billion endowment, according to its website. Some small family foundations, meanwhile, are administered within the family, without a large corporate staff.
Many of these foundations have certain interests and Kenyon applies to receive funding for certain programs from the applicable foundations, according to McCrory. Gund Gallery, for example, is in part funded by grants for art from the Mellon Foundation. “A foundation could define what it’s interested in supporting,” McCrory said. “Most of what [the College Relations Center does] is … look around and say who out there has gifts to give and has an interest and a purpose that matches what we do.”
The College then prepares grant applications for these various foundations. Provost Joseph Klesner elaborated upon this strategy, explaining that the College approaches foundations with a request to support certain programming. Specifically from the Mellon Foundation, Kenyon has “received gifts to support … the Writing and Thinking [pre-orientation] program, … [and] the Center for Innovative Pedagogy,” Klesner said.
Some of the foundations who give to Kenyon may sound familiar, such as the National Science Foundation, or even the Mellon Foundation, which gives to many non-profit institutions. However, Kenyon also receives money from some donors who may not have been associated with the College. Charles Koch, one of the Koch brothers — who have made a name for themselves as the billionaire backers of many conservative politicians and super PACs — administers a foundation that has given money to Kenyon. It may be surprising to certain members of the Kenyon community that this high-level political donor has given money to a small liberal arts college, especially one with a reputation for having a liberal student body. But this money is not political; President Sean Decatur explained that the College is a non-partisan institution, noting that a gift “that was promoting specific partisan activity by the College would clearly be over the line.” As for the Charles Koch Foundation donations, “one was a grant for CSAD [the Center for the Study of American Democracy],” Decatur said. “These are pretty clearly connected to events that are about fundamental economic issues and approached from a non-partisan way.”
McCrory said certain gifts from the foundation helped fund the CSAD conference last spring: “Total gifts from the Koch brothers’ foundation [are] less than $30,000 over five years,” according to McCrory. The Charles Koch Foundation gives money to many academic institutions; their website explains that their “giving supports universities and other non-profit organizations to explore the institutions that foster societal well-being.”
Many corporations are also listed among the College’s sponsors. Director of Annual Giving Shawn Dailey wrote in an email to the Collegian that corporate gifts, from entities ranging from Johnson & Johnson, the healthcare and pharmaceuticals company, to Google, generally go to supporting the Kenyon Fund and are given through “matching-gift programs for their employees.” The Kenyon website provides information on corporate matching for gifts. This money supports operational costs, from professor salaries to electricity bills to financial aid.
Meg Galipault, director of corporate and foundation relations, noted that Kenyon’s small size prevents it from receiving large corporate funding in the way a large research institution like The Ohio State University might. However, many donors “give to the Kenyon Fund on behalf of employee-matching programs — as opposed to, say, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, which contributes to specific faculty and curricular-development projects that we propose to undertake,” Galipault wrote in an email.
Kenyon relies on gifts of all sorts both for the operation of the College and to support specific programming. As emphasized by McCrory and Dailey, the College’s operating budget does not just come from tuition dollars and donations from students and alumni; the College also receives gifts from specific foundations and corporations that not only keep Kenyon in operation, but also support for institutions like CSAD and other programs created by the College.