John Templeton Foundation - Small Grant Program

The John Templeton Foundation

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Deadline: Aug 14, 2020 (Letter of inquiry)

Grant amount: Up to US $234,800

Fields of work: Economics Mathematics Philosophy Cognitive Science Genetics & Genomics Reproductive Education Religion & Spirituality Physics Astronomy & Astrophysics Evolutionary Biology Astrobiology Show all

Applicant type: Organizations, Individuals

Funding uses: Research, Project / Program

Location of project: Anywhere in the world

Location of residency: Anywhere in the world

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About this funder:




The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality. We support research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution, and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will. We encourage civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers, and theologians and between such experts and the public at large, for the purposes of definitional clarity and new insights.

Our vision is derived from the late Sir John Templeton's optimism about the possibility of acquiring “new spiritual information” and from his commitment to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship. The Foundation's motto, "How little we know, how eager to learn," exemplifies our support for open-minded inquiry and our hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.

Small Grants Program

The John Templeton Foundation’s Small Grants are defined as requests for $234,800 (USD) or less. The threshold for small grants was established by the Foundation’s Charter and is adjusted periodically for inflation.

The John Templeton Foundation is interested in your ideas for projects related to our Core Funding Areas.

Please note that Full Proposals are by invitation only.

Core Funding Areas

In the charter establishing his Foundation, the late Sir John Templeton set out his philanthropic intentions under several broad headings. These Core Funding Areas continue to guide our grantmaking as we work to find world-class researchers and project leaders to share in our pursuit of Sir John’s dynamic, contrarian, forward-looking vision.

A number of topics—including creativity, freedom, gratitude, love, and purpose—can be found under more than one Core Funding Area. The Foundation welcomes proposals that bring together these overlapping elements, especially by combining the tools and approaches of different disciplines.

Science and the Big Questions

The Science & the Big Questions Funding Area supports innovative efforts to address the deepest questions facing humankind. Why are we here? How can we flourish? What are the fundamental structures of reality? What can we know about the nature and purposes of the divine?

In keeping with the Foundation’s motto, “How little we know, how eager to learn,” we value proposals that exhibit intellectual humility and open-mindedness. We welcome requests from individuals and institutions who are inspired by relentless curiosity, willing to challenge common assumptions, and eager to advance the frontiers of human knowledge.

In addition to supporting academic research on these and similar questions, we support efforts to bring relevant findings to non-specialist audiences. Through a wide range of media — print, digital, broadcast, and film — we seek to raise awareness about cutting-edge discoveries in ways that are clear and probing. In addition, we fund programs that help teachers, journalists, religious leaders, and other professionals apply these discoveries in ways that enrich and extend their work.

Funding Area Themes

The work we support within the Science & the Big Questions Funding Area falls into one (or more) of the following themes.

Fundamental Structures and Laws of Nature

Does nature offer evidence of purpose? What is the nature of space-time? Do we inhabit a multiverse? How did life originate? The fundamental nature and structure of the cosmos remains a deep and profound puzzle. By supporting research on such questions we seek to catalyze discoveries concerning the fundamental laws and structures of nature and to examine their philosophical and theological implications. We support experimental and theoretical research in a range of areas, among them relativity, emergence, cosmology, evolution, origins of life, quantum physics, the nature of space and time, and fundamental questions in mathematics.

The Nature of the Divine

Is there a divine reality? What is the relationship of God to the cosmos? How can scientific discovery inform our theological understanding? Throughout the existence of humankind we have wrestled with the question of whether or not there are dimensions of reality that transcend the purely natural. By supporting multi-disciplinary scientific, theological, and philosophical research, we aim to deepen our understanding of the possibility and purposes of the divine. The Foundation does not privilege any one spiritual or theological tradition. As a result, proposals from any religious tradition are welcome, as are proposals that are not situated within any religious tradition.

The Nature and Potential of the Mind

What are human persons, and what makes them distinctive? What is the relationship between the mind and the body? How can we cultivate valuable qualities of the mind such as creativity and imagination? The human mind is among the most mysterious and potent forces in the cosmos. We support scientific and philosophical research that aims to foster a deeper understanding of the nature and powers of the mind. Topics in this funding area range broadly, including the nature of cognition, consciousness, intentionality, agency and free will, as well as intelligence, prospection, and creativity.

Religion and Spirituality in Human Experience

What is the fundamental nature of religious experience? What triggers experiences of awe and wonder? Do religion and spirituality promote or hinder moral behavior? Religion and spirituality are found across all times and cultures. For many people, religion is a principal source of purpose, meaning, and identity. We support empirical and theoretical research that aims to understand spiritual beliefs, experiences, and practices and their implications for human flourishing. We also encourage work that explores the ways in which spiritual well-being and physical and mental health might be mutually reinforcing.

Live, Love, and Virtue

What does it mean to love? Does optimism foster success? How can we become more generous, grateful, and forgiving? Virtuous character is essential for our individual and collective flourishing. We support empirical research concerning virtues such as generosity, hope, honesty, humility, and thrift, in order to promote a deeper understanding of how these and other virtues are internalized and strengthened, how they advance our well being, and how they shape our sense of meaning and purpose.

Character Virtue Development 

The Character Virtue Development funding area seeks to advance the science and practice of character, with a focus on moral, performance, civic, and intellectual virtues such as humility, gratitude, curiosity, diligence, and honesty.

Research we fund promises greater insight into the developmental science of virtues and character, including the identification of relevant precursors, correlates, developmental trajectories, and the assessment of potential inter-individual differences. We also provide support to organizations such as schools, religious institutions, and community organizations to develop, implement, and evaluate applied and translational research on character and virtue.

Individual Freedom & Free Markets

Religious, political, and economic freedoms are the building blocks of both spiritual and material progress. Individual and economic freedoms are deeply interconnected; one affects the other and both must be undergirded by genuine virtue and a deep sense of personal responsibility.

The Individual Freedom & Free Markets Funding Area supports education, research, and grassroots efforts to promote individual freedom, free markets, free competition, and entrepreneurship. Grounded in the ideas of classical liberal political economy, we seek and develop projects that focus on individuals and their place in a free society. Whether by academic research, instruction, public outreach, or supporting debate on public policy, we aim to contribute toward making the nation and the world more just, more prosperous, and more conducive to human flourishing.

Exceptional Cognitive Talent and Genius 

Throughout history, the insights and ideas of a relatively small number of individuals account for many of the most dramatic cultural, scientific, and technological advances. Sir John Templeton saw the potential for truly exceptional, “one-in-a-million” cognitive geniuses to bring about transformative benefits for humanity.

The Exceptional Cognitive Talent & Genius Funding Area supports programs that aim to recognize and nurture exceptional cognitive talent, especially for those at an early stage of life. This Funding Area also supports research concerning the nature of cognitive genius, including extraordinary creativity, curiosity, and imagination.


Research in genetics holds enormous promise for alleviating future sickness and poverty while helping realize humanity’s fullest physical and material potential.

The Genetics Funding Area seeks to advance genetics research by supporting novel approaches and contrarian projects, especially research that is undervalued by traditional funding sources. In addition to basic and translational research, this Funding Area supports educational programs that increase public awareness concerning the ways in which genetics-related research and its applications can advance human flourishing at the individual, familial, and societal levels.

Voluntary Family Planning Funding

Sir John Templeton believed that families would flourish when parents were empowered to choose their ideal family size.

The Voluntary Family Planning funding area supports research, programs, and policy development efforts around the world that seek to better understand factors that influence family planning decisions, provide information on and access to family planning methods, and strengthen policy related to effective family planning. We are particularly interested in partnering with faith-based organizations to support this work in their local communities. The Foundation only funds research and programs that affirm the value of human life from conception until natural death. 

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • We only fund projects aligned with our major funding areas.
  • Generally, we fund discrete projects.
    • Our process and forms are not designed for other types of requests such as donations, operational support, or program support.
  • Anyone can request funding form the foundation.
    • Generally, we fund charitable entities that operate inside and outside of the United States.
    • On rare occasions, we may fund individuals and for-profit companies doing charitable work that is consistent with our tax-exempt status.


    • The Foundation typically does not provide challenge grants.
    • The Foundation generally does not fund buildings, renovations, or capital campaigns; direct-service programs; scholarships for college or graduate school; general operating support for organizations; or disaster relief.
    • The Foundation will not fund any project for more than five years.