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Our Funding Process | Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Skip to main content


Our Funding Process

Grantmaking Process Overview

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s (DDCF) program staff conducts extensive research to identify gaps or needs that the foundation can address in the fields it supports. Typically, this research leads to the development of a grant initiative, which supports a set of related grants that advance a specific goal or objective. 

Once an initiative is developed, grants are awarded in a variety of ways, including foundation-initiated invitations to apply, re-granting competitions that are administered by service organizations and competitions that are run using request-for-proposal processes. Occasionally, the foundation also supports opportunistic grants that are more broadly related to the programs' missions. While there are some overarching similarities, each DDCF program approaches grantmaking in a unique way. 

The foundation generally awards multi-year grants that range from $100,000 to $1 million (as illustrated in the What We’ve Funded section of this site). The grantmaking methods used in each of the initiatives are explained on the program pages, which are updated throughout the year.

Learn more about the specific funding processes used by each of our individual grantmaking programs by visiting the following pages:

Performing Arts: Grantmaking Process
Medical Research: Grantmaking Process
Environment: Grantmaking Process
Child Well-being: Grantmaking Process
Building Bridges: Grantmaking Process

*Please note that while existing projects funded through the African Health Initiative are still active, the foundation has concluded its grantmaking in this area. 

Additionally, while the method for awarding a grant may differ depending on the funding area, the following remain standardized across the foundation:



While the method for awarding a grant may differ among programs and initiatives, consideration always is given to the following criteria:

  • Does the project address a significant funding gap or support a critical opportunity related to the foundation's mission?
  • Is the project designed to achieve both the objectives of the applicant organization and the program goals of the foundation?
  • What is the project's potential for long-term impact in terms of replication, reach, visibility or changes in the field?
  • Does the applicant organization have the capacity to effectively execute the project?
  • What opportunity exists to leverage additional resources as a result of DDCF funding?



The foundation conducts evaluation of its grants and programs in an ongoing cycle of assessment and program refinement. DDCF's evaluation objectives are two-fold:

  1. To help the foundation determine whether its grants are meeting their objectives.

    More specifically, to determine whether grants are achieving their intended outcomes and whether the grantmaking strategies the foundation has employed are helping DDCF meet its program objectives.

  2. To inform future decision-making and to guide the foundation's work.

    Program evaluations will help DDCF determine whether to continue, modify or discontinue a particular grantmaking strategy or initiative.



DDCF employs three main evaluation strategies that build on and inform each other over time. The foundation's programs tailor each of the three strategies as appropriate to accommodate their diverse grantmaking approaches.

  1. Monitoring and Assessment:

    Through site visits, grantee consultations and review of annual progress reports, staff determines compliance with grant agreements and assesses initial outputs, outcomes and indicators that are likely to correlate with the future impact of the grant. This is an ongoing process conducted by internal staff and, as needed, outside consultants.

  2. Evaluation of Initiatives:

    A specific initiative or cluster of related grants is selected for a more intensive review. This type of evaluation usually involves outside consultants to determine whether funded initiatives appear to be achieving their desired goals and objectives. Results help staff determine whether refinement in the initiative design is needed, and/or whether continued funding is merited. This process is conducted every three to five years, by internal staff together with consultants and/or field experts.

  3. External Program Review:

    The foundation's starting point in creating new initiatives is analyzing a field, or sectors within a field, to identify potential funding opportunities. It is also the point to which staff return every five years to conduct a systematic review of DDCF-supported fields and the foundation's role within them. The staff then assesses how to incorporate the findings in the refinement or redesign of program strategies or initiatives (or their elimination) and continues/repeats the evaluation cycle. These reviews are conducted approximately every five years using outside consultants and/or field experts.

If program evaluations conducted by the foundation yield information that may be useful to DDCF-supported fields, the foundation will post its findings under the appropriate News & Insights section on this website.

If you are a nonprofit organization with 501(c)3 status, have an idea that fits the priorities outlined for our funding areas and do not see an open mechanism for applying for a grant, you can submit a Letter of Inquiry to the appropriate grantmaking program.  

Grantmaking Processes for Each Funding Area