A National Education Funder Makes its Home Region a Priority with “Good Neighbor” Grants



Students and education organizations across America are familiar with the name Jack Kent Cooke: the foundation that bears the businessman’s name has long supported philanthropic partnerships for college readiness, college access, low-income enrollment, and gifted student education. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is a major supporter of scholarships and also funds a limited number of nonprofit grants nationwide. But despite this broad geographic focus, the Cooke Foundation also makes its home region a priority, giving significantly each year in the Mid-Atlantic States.

In 2012, the Cooke Foundation established a Good Neighbor Grants program to serve the communities near its home base of Lansdowne, Virginia. These grants support organizations in Northern Virginia, the Washington, D.C., area, and Maryland. They are one-year grants of $10,000 to $35,000 each and must go towards specific programs or projects. These grant amount are considerably less than many other Cooke Foundation awards, but are still the best opportunity for local education nonprofits to catch Cooke’s attention.

It should be noted that Good Neighbor Grants cannot be used for general operating support, but can help launch new programs or enhance existing ones. Engagement, creativity, intellectual curiosity, talent development, and enrichment are all things that this funder looks for in an effort to aid local low-income populations. Here are some examples of the type of programs commonly funded by these local Cooke grants:

  • School-year and summer academic enrichment opportunities

  • College access programs

  • Arts education

  • Service learning

  • STEM programs

  • Programs that bridge gaps between education and technology

  • Education products that directly benefit students (handbooks, training guides, written/digital media)

To be eligible for Cooke grants, local groups should focus on engaging low-income students with strong academic potential through K-12 education, college access and completion, and/or visual and performing arts education programs. Maryland counties in focus are Montgomery and Prince George. In Virginia, Cooke focuses on the cities of Alexandria, Manassas, Manassas Park, and Falls Church, as well as the counties of Loudoun, Fairfax, Arlington, Prince William, Clarke, and Fauquier.

This year, the funder awarded grants totaling $250,000 to 12 nonprofits in Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. Grantees included American Youth Philharmonic Orchestras, Young Artists of America at Strathmore, and Building Bridges Across the River.

The Cooke Foundation will begin accepting proposals for the next round of Good Neighbor Grants on August 30. However, this foundation practically never funds unsolicited proposals, which means that most grantees receive direct invitations from Cooke staff. We expect to learn about the next batch of local Cooke grantees in March or April of 2020.

Learn more about the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s local giving and also about other funders that make this region a priority in IP’s Mid-Atlantic States Funding section.