March 26, 2023

John Templeton Foundation

The John Templeton Foundation (Templeton Foundation) is a philanthropic organization founded by John Templeton, who became wealthy through a career as a contrarian investor and wanted to support progress in religious and spiritual knowledge, particularly at the intersection of religion and science. He also wanted to fund research on methods to promote and develop people’s moral character, intelligence, and creativity, as well as to promote free markets. The National Humanities Medal was awarded to the foundation in 2008.

About the foundation

Templeton founded the organization in 1987 and served as chairman until his death in 2008. Templeton’s son, John Templeton Jr., served as president from its inception until his death in 2015, when he was succeeded by Templeton Jr.’s daughter, Heather Templeton Dill. The Templeton Foundation awards the Templeton Prize annually for achievements in spirituality, including those at the intersection of science and religion. It has a large grant-funding program (approximately $150 million per year as of 2016) to support research in physics, biology, psychology, and the social sciences, as well as philosophy and theology. It also promotes genetics programs, “exceptional cognitive talent and genius,” and “individual freedom and free markets.” The foundation has received both praise and criticism for its awards, both for the breadth of their coverage and for the ideological perspectives claimed to be associated with them.


The John Templeton Foundation acts as a philanthropic catalyst for breakthroughs in the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality. We support research on a wide range of topics, including complexity, evolution, and infinity, as well as creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will. For the sake of definitional clarity and new insights, we encourage civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers, and theologians, as well as between such experts and the general public.

Our vision is inspired by the late Sir John Templeton’s optimism about the possibility of discovering “new spiritual information,” as well as his dedication to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship. “How little we know, how eager to learn,” the Foundation’s motto, exemplifies our support for open-minded inquiry and our hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.

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When Templeton died in 2008, he left the foundation approximately $500 million. The foundation’s total endowment had grown to $3.34 billion as of 2015. According to the foundation, it has made over 3,300 grants, with over 2,800 of those going to recipients in North America. In 2016, the foundation awarded grants totaling more than $151 million.


John Templeton established the Templeton Prize, and he administered it until the foundation was established in 1987, when it took over. The award is “worth approximately $1.7 million, making it one of the world’s largest annual awards given to an individual.”

The early prizes were only given to people who had made significant contributions to religion; Mother Teresa received the inaugural award in 1973, and other early winners included Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1975), Chiara Lubich (1977), and Nikky Niwano (1978). (1979). In the 1980s, John Templeton began thinking about the intersection of science and religion, and after appointing two scientists to the judging panel, scientists who worked at the intersection began to receive it; Alister Hardy was the first to receive it in 1987. The Dalai Lama received the Templeton Prize in 2012, King Abdullah II of Jordan in 2018, Brazilian Jewish physicist and astronomer Marcelo Gleiser in 2019, and primatologist Jane Goodall in 2021

John Templeton Foundation


“He was a great believer in progress, learning, initiative, and the power of human imagination—not to mention the free-enterprise system,” according to Templeton. While science, philosophy, and religion receive the majority of its funding, character development, genius, freedom and free enterprise, and fields associated with classical liberalism receive approximately 40% of its annual grants. Grants are given to people of all faiths because Templeton believed that spiritual progress could come from anywhere. In the 1980s, the field of grants was expanded to include scientific fields such as neuroscience, psychology, and cosmology, which could be seen as being at the intersection of science and religion.

The foundation has supported the development of positive psychology by Martin Seligman, Angela Duckworth, and others; the Black Hole Initiative at Harvard University; the Gen2Gen Encore Prize; the World Science Festival; Pew religious demographics surveys; and programs that engage with Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant traditions, including support for dialogue with scientists in synagogues and a grant to the World Science Festival.

In 2015, the foundation was the 55th largest grantor among American foundations, having awarded nearly a billion dollars in grants and charitable contributions.

The top ten largest grants in 2018 were as follows:

Project Applicants Institution Amount
Science for Seminaries: Phase II Jennifer Wiseman, Se Kim American Association for the Advancement of Science $6,182,109
Character Lab Research Network: Revolutionizing Research on Character Development Angela Duckworth, Sean Talamas The Character Lab $3,717,258
Doing Development Differently Matt Warner, Brad Lips Atlas Economic Research Foundation $3,095,213
Freedom Forum Global Expansion Thor Halvorssen, Alex Gladstein Human Rights Foundation $3,074,788
Small-Scale Fundamental Physics Block Grant Gerald Gabrielse Northwestern University $3,000,000
Epigenetic Diagnostics for Preventative Medicine Michael Skinner Washington State University $2,936,242
Exploring the Informational Transitions Bridging Simple Chemistry and Minimal Life Sarah Walker, Paul Davies Arizona State University Foundation for a New American University $2,904,374
Spiritual Exemplars: A Global Project on Engaged Spirituality Donald Miller, Megan Sweas University of Southern California $2,783,594
Reasoning in moral thought and action Liane Young, Fiery Cushman Boston College Trustees $2,743,961
Character Strength Interventions in Adolescents: Engaging Scholars and Practitioners to Promote Virtue Development Sarah Schnitker, Benjamin Houltberg Fuller Theological Seminary $2,616,085


Program for Small Grants

Small Grants are defined as requests for $234,800 (USD) or less from the John Templeton Foundation. The Foundation’s Charter established the small grant threshold, which is adjusted for inflation on a regular basis.

The John Templeton Foundation is looking for project ideas related to our Core Funding Areas.

Please keep in mind that Full Proposals are only accepted by invitation.

Funding Priorities

As part of the 2020 Open Submission cycle, the Foundation is temporarily limiting the areas in which it will accept new Online Funding Inquiries (OFIs).

The Foundation will accept applications only in the following six categories for the upcoming August 14, 2020 OFI submission deadline:


Applicants interested in other funding areas should submit an inquiry during the 2021 Open Submission cycle.

Visit the funder’s website to learn more about this opportunity.


In general, we only fund discrete projects.

  • Anyone can request funding from the foundation.
  • Our process and forms are not designed for other types of requests such as donations, operational support, or program support.
  • In general, we support charitable organizations both within and outside of the United States.
  • On rare occasions, we may fund individuals and for-profit companies performing charitable work in accordance with our tax-exempt status.


The Foundation does not typically 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.


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