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John S. and James L. Knight Foundation


Last Updated: 2016-08-16

At A Glance

John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

(formerly Knight Foundation)

200 S. Biscayne Blvd., Ste. 3300

Miami, FL United States 33131-2349

Telephone: (305) 908-2600


Type of Grantmaker

Independent foundation

Financial Data

(yr. ended 2014-12-31)

Assets: $2,285,572,378

Total giving: $115,976,297





Additional Contact Information

Additional tel. for publication requests: (305) 908-2630


Incorporated in 1950 in OH - The foundation's forerunner was the Knight Memorial Education Fund, which gave college scholarships to persons of Summit, Portage, and Wayne counties in Ohio. The scholarships were replaced by student loans and extended beyond the Akron area to other cities where the Knight brothers had newspapers. While giving preference to cities where the money was earned, however, the founders chose to establish a private, independent foundation instead of a company or family foundation. The trustees soon added some other preferences that even today are included in broad policy guidelines: early support of journalism education projects of national significance, educational and human service institutions, and cultural and civic activities that enhanced the quality of life in Knight Foundation cities. On June 20, 1995, the estate of James L. Knight made its last major distribution of assets to its beneficiaries, including $65 million to the foundation.

Purpose and Activities

The foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. The foundation focuses on projects that promote informed, engaged communities and that lead to transformational change. The foundation promotes these goals through its journalism, communities and national programs.

Program Area(s)

The grantmaker has identified the following area(s) of interest:


Through the arts program, the foundation seeks to weave the arts into the fabric of Knight resident communities to engage and inspire the people living in them. The foundation believes that the arts are a catalyst for public dialogue, and that shared cultural experiences contribute to a sense of place and communal identity.The foundation seeks innovative ways to reach, engage and increase audiences for the arts, including through the use of technology. Over a three-year period, the foundation is funding 1,000 “Random Acts of Culture” to bring artists out of the performance halls and into people’s everyday lives. As a way to solicit fresh and innovative ideas, Knight Foundation launched community-wide contests in Miami and Philadelphia to seek out and fund the best ideas for the arts. Winners range from individual artists to large institutions.


The foundation is committed to strengthening the vitality of the 26 communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Their ideal is informed and engaged communities. To achieve that ideal, the foundation seeks transformational projects that involve: 1) leaders working together to find innovative solutions to community problems: 2) opportunities for new participants in community problem-solving; and 3) creating spaces where community engagement thrives. In Knight's eight resident communities, Akron, Ohio, Charlotte, N.C., Detroit, MI, Macon, GA, Miami, FL, Philadelphia, PA, San Jose, CA, and St. Paul, MN, grant seekers first point of contact is a Knight program director. In the 18 non-resident Knight communities, the local community foundation administers the foundaiton investments. Grant seekers in those communities should contact the local community foundation to ask about Knight Foundation's donor advisor fund. See the foundation's web site for a listing of those 18 communities.


Knight Foundation's signature work is its Journalism Program. Since 1950, the foundation has invested nearly $400 million with 1,000 partners to advance quality journalism and freedom of expression worldwide. Today, the program focuses on leading journalism excellence into the digital age. Its priorities are: 1) Training and Education: the aim is to speed the news community's digital transformation by working with both current and future journalists. Playing a leading role is the Knight Digital Media Center, a partnership between the University of Southern California and the University of California, Berkeley; 2) Press Freedom and Freedom of information: the aim is to advance journalism excellence, free expression and freedom of information worldwide through high-impact projects; 3) News and Newsroom Diversity: the aim is to help newsrooms and citizens use emerging technologies to better cover and engage their entire community; and 4) Digital Media and News in the Public Interest: the aim is to advance the best values of journalism through rapidly developing digital media. The program is international in scope. Grants are made to U.S.-based organizations and institutions. The foundation seeks to partner with those who choose to lead great journalism into the new century. The foundation has endowed Knight Chairs in Journalism at 22 U.S. colleges and universities. The chairs are leading journalists who take positions as tenured professors within academia. They practice journalism, teach innovative classes, and create experimental projects and new programs that help lead journalism excellence in the digital age. Also within the journalism program, the foundation earmarked in 2006 $25 million over a 5-year period for the Knight News Challenge, a contest awarding as much as $5 million a year for innovative ideas that develop platforms, tools and services to inform and transform community news, conversations and information distribution and visualization. The only place those interested can apply is on the Knight News Challenge web site. No applications are accepted by mail, e-mail, fax, or any other means. For additional information and to find the initial inquiry form please see: .

Matching Gifts

The foundation matches the gifts of active staff and trustees to eligible 501(c)(3) organizations or institutions. The foundation matches on a two-to-one ratio up to $5,000 in a calendar year per eligible participant. Organizations matched must have 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.


The program supports innovative and entrepreneurial organizations working across communities and disciplines to bring about transformation. The program's priorities includes: 1) Universal access: the foundation believes every citizen should have access to today's public square on the Internet. The program helps communities introduce technologies to allow citizens to connect; 2) Community Engagement: the foundation aspires to enable all residents to participate in their communities and assume the full rights and responsibilities of citizens in a democracy; 3) Social Innovators: the foundation invests in bright ideas and organizations with the potential for achieving transformational change. The foundation helps nurture an environment where social innovators can thrive; 4) Naturalization: the foundation works with national and local organizations to help immigrants move from green card status to become fully naturalized citizens.

Program-Related Investment

Historically, the foundation has made PRIs in the form of loan funds to support entrepreneurial media ventures that expand our informed and engaged communities strategy, the development of low-cost housing, support nonprofit intermediaries (e.g., loan funds) and community development.

Fields of Interest

  • Arts and culture
  • Child welfare
  • Civic participation
  • Community and economic development
  • Community improvement
  • Diversity and intergroup relations
  • Economic development
  • Education
  • Family services
  • Journalism
  • Publishing
  • Sustainable development
Population Groups
  • Academics
  • Children and youth
  • Economically disadvantaged people
  • Low-income and poor people
  • People of African descent
  • Students

Financial Data

Year ended 2014-12-31

Assets: $2,285,572,378 (market value)

Gifts received: $250,000

Expenditures: $154,606,552

Total giving: $115,976,297

Qualifying distributions: $143,794,705

Giving activities include:

$115,776,297 for 733 grants (high: $11,000,000; low: $2,500)

$200,000 for 1 employee matching gift

$4,940,481 for foundation-administered programs

$3,057,590 for loans/program-related investments