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:


    1. a public charity (and not a private foundation) as defined by Section 509(a)(1) or 509(a)(2) or 170(b)(1)(A)(I-VI) of the Internal Revenue Code; or
    2. an exempt operating foundation as defined by Section 4940(d)(2).
    3. No grants will be made to private foundations (other than exempt operating foundations) or 509(a)(3) organizations.


  • 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 two consecutive full, certified, audited financial statements prepared on an annual basis.

Organizations must also be able to provide the most recently filed complete Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), including Public Charity Status and Public Support (Schedule A).  If an exempt operating foundation, the organization must also be able to provide the most recently filed complete Return of Private Foundation (Form 990-PF) rather than Form 990.

If the organization is a government unit as defined by Section 170(b)(1)(A)(v) and (c)(1) and, therefore, does not receive a determination letter as to such organization’s tax exempt classification from the Internal Revenue Service, such organization must submit a Declaration of Status signed by the organization's chief executive or president and by its chief legal officer.  The declaration must specify:

  • the federal, state or local laws pursuant to which the organization is created and governed;
  • whether the organization also is a (a) school as defined by Section 170(b)(1)(A)(ii), (b) hospital or medical research institute as defined by Section 170(b)(1)(A)(iii) or (c) other organization described in Section 170(b);
  • that the organization is legally and financially responsible for its debts; and
  • that the organization is not a non-operating private foundation within the meaning of Section 509.

Grant agreements will be deemed to have been entered into in the County of Los Angeles, State of California; and, California law will apply to the interpretation and enforcement of the grant provisions.

If the organization is part of a group that received a determination letter as to the group’s tax exempt classification from the Internal Revenue Service, the organization must provide the determination letter that identifies the organization as part of the group.  The organization must also provide an attestation as to the continued group status of the organization.  The attestation must be signed by the organization’s chief executive or president and by its chief legal officer.  The Form 990 required for such organization may be the Form 990 of the group.

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

The Foundation takes into account the management and fiscal condition of an institution when reviewing an institution for eligibility.

If you are submitting a collaborative project, the lead institution must be identified and all members must meet the Foundation’s eligibility requirements.  On a case by case basis, we may request that other members of the collaborative also submit additional documentation.

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, or if a government unit, do not have a signed Declaration of Status
  • 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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