Eligibility & Priorities

Research universities, medical colleges and major private independent scientific and medical research institutes are eligible to apply to the Research Program. Organizations must be exempt from federal taxation as defined by Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and be designated as a public charity (and not a private foundation) as defined by Section 509(a)(1) or 509(a)(2) or 170(b) of the Internal Revenue Code. If the institution is located in the State of California, the organization must also be exempt from California State Franchise or Income Tax under Section 23701(d) of the Revenue and Taxation Code.

Organizations must be able to provide current full, certified, audited financial statements prepared on an annual basis in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles. If in existence less than five years, the organization must be able to provide at least three consecutive full, certified, audited financial statements prepared on an annual basis.

All tax-exempt documentation and audited financial statements must be in the same, current and full name of the qualifying organization.

The management and fiscal condition of an institution is taken into account when reviewing an institution for eligibility.

If a collaborative project is being considered, the lead institution must be identified and all members must meet the Foundation’s eligibility requirements.

Please feel free to contact the Foundation in advance to check eligibility and tax requirements.


Not Eligible for Funding

  • General operating expenses, endowments or deficit reduction
  • General and federated campaigns, including fundraising events, dinners or mass mailings
  • Grants to individuals
  • Conference or seminar sponsorship
  • Book publication and film or theater productions
  • Public policy research
  • Institutions that are located outside the United States
  • Institutions that do not have a tax-exempt ruling from the federal government and (if located in California) the State of California
  • Institutions that do not have at least three consecutive full, certified, audited financial statements
  • “Conduit” organizations, unified funds or organizations that use grant funds from donors to support other organizations or individuals
  • Institutions that are subsidiaries or affiliates of larger entities that do not have a separate board of directors and independent audited financial statements


Program Priorities

Funding is awarded to universities and institutions nationwide for projects in research that:

  • Focus on important and emerging areas of research
  • Have the potential to develop breakthrough technologies, instrumentation or methodologies
  • Are innovative, distinctive and interdisciplinary
  • Demonstrate a high level of risk due to unconventional approaches, or by challenging the prevailing paradigm
  • Have the potential for transformative impact, such as the founding of a new field of research, the enabling of observations not previously possible, or the altered perception of a previously intractable problem
  • Does not focus on clinical or translational research, treatment trials or research for the sole purpose of drug development
  • Fall outside the mission of public funding agencies
  • Demonstrate that private philanthropy generally, and the W. M. Keck Foundation in particular, is essential to the project’s success



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