Frequently Asked Questions

Education Matters. Investing In Human Capital. Preparing For Future Jobs.

We believe in the value of education as a means to personal fulfillment and community vitality. Our goal is to empower today’s workforce by creating pathways to and through postsecondary education for underrepresented students. We are committed to helping them attain the marketable skills and training needed to gain meaningful employment, which we hope will result in a sustainable shift in North Carolina.

About The John M. Belk Endowment (JMBE)

How much will the Endowment invest annually? +

Annual allocations will be determined in fourth quarter prior to the start of each new fiscal year, which begins in January.  In 2015, JMBE was pleased to be able to award more than $13 million to qualified organizations and institutions that are aligned with our funding strategies and geographic area.

How is the John M. Belk Endowment related to the Belk Foundation and Belk department stores? +

The John M. Belk Endowment, the Belk Foundation and Belk, Inc., are separate entities with separate and distinct missions. All are connected by name and work in concert to support and improve the communities that have supported Belk for generations. More information on each organization is provided at Related Belk Philanthropy.

How long has the Endowment been in operation? +

JMBE has been in existence for almost 30 years. Its initial purpose was to fund a National Merit Scholarship program at Mr. Belk’s alma mater, Davidson College. In 2014, new strategies were adopted to improve access to postsecondary education for underrepresented students. 
Education issues were important to Mr. Belk throughout his lifetime. As a four-term Charlotte Mayor who ran the Belk, Inc. department store, he saw first-hand the need for an educated workforce. Mr. Belk created the Endowment to allow flexibility to address the most pressing education issues of the day. The Endowment’s strategy provides an opportunity to help North Carolina create pathways for all students to achieve postsecondary success. 

Funding Strategies

Who is eligible to receive a grant from the Endowment? +

Eligibility is based on the following requirements:

  • Organizations must be either tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code and not classified as a private foundation, accredited educational institutions or government agencies
  • Organizations should be able to present their tax-exempt letter at time of request (pending letters will not be accepted)
  • Organizations must serve communities in North Carolina. Out-of-state organizations that run programs or initiatives in North Carolina are eligible to apply
  • Organizations must serve the public without discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, marital status or national origin
  • Organizations must be aligned with JMBE’s funding priorities, which can be found at

What organizations or programs are not eligible to receive a grant? +

The following are not eligible for funding:

  • Organizations that do not have current 501(c)(3) status (pending letters are not acceptable)
  • Foreign organizations
  • Organizations providing pass-through funds to an ineligible organization
  • Individuals or families, including those requesting scholarships or fellowship assistance
  • Small businesses or private business ventures
  • Fundraising events or sponsorships that would provide the John M. Belk Endowment tangible benefits (e.g., tickets or tables at events)
  • Athletic or sports related events, league or team sponsorships, school-affiliated orchestra, band, choir, student trips or tours
  • Political campaigns, labor, fraternal or civic clubs
  • Ongoing operations for schools
  • High school drop-out prevention programs or K-8 programs
  • Organizations that discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, marital status or national origin

What does the Endowment mean by “underrepresented” populations? +

This term refers to populations with a disproportionately low number of individuals who access, persist and complete postsecondary education, leaving them at a higher disadvantage to move to gainful employment.

These populations include, but are not limited to: low- to moderate-income families, first-generation students, minorities, rural students, and veterans.

How do you define postsecondary education? +

Postsecondary education consists of educational opportunities after high school graduation, which result in a degree, certification or credential that will lead to gainful employment.   Examples include two- and four-year degrees, apprenticeships, certifications and other credentialing programs.

What is the Endowment’s geographic focus? +

JMBE will fund qualified organizations that provide programs and services aligned with our funding strategies across North Carolina.

What are the Endowment’s Focus Areas? +

JMBE is focused on helping underrepresented students access and complete postsecondary education and leave workforce ready. More specific information can be found at What We Fund.

Application Process

What is your criteria for granting requests? +

Staff will assess funding opportunities based on several criteria:

  1. Alignment of request to JMBE’s funding focus areas: Access, Completion and Workforce Relevance
  2. Demonstration of impact to increase postsecondary access, persistence and attainment
  3. The proposed impact, scope, sustainability and scalability for underrepresented populations
  4. An organization’s internal capacity to move a proposed issue forward, and demonstrations of partnerships and/or integrations with other organizations
  5. An organization’s ability to meet JMBE’s eligibility requirements. For more details visit Funding Criteria

What is your application process for grant requests? +

We value the time nonprofits spend on applications and want to ensure that the process is meaningful for all parties. As such, our grant application process is by invitation only.

If an organization is interested in providing information regarding work that aligns with our funding priorities, they may contact us Here.

If an organization is invited, the initial grant proposal steps include:

  • JMBE sends a link to the online system
  • Nonprofit answers a series of eligibility questions
  • Nonprofit registers or logs into the JMBE application system
  • Nonprofit completes the Letter of Inquiry and submits

Will the Endowment entertain multi-year funding? +

Yes, multi-year funding will be considered if appropriate for the request. These requests will be assessed based on the scope and scalability of a project or initiative.

Would you consider funding more than one program for an organization within a single fiscal year? +

Typically an organization will only be funded once within a single year.  We advise nonprofits to consider their most pressing need that best aligns with the JMBE funding strategies.  If the organizations’ work aligns with JMBE’s focus, general operating support may be considered. JMBE can provide guidance on the best approach to take at the appropriate time.

How much money is typically awarded per grant? +

There is no minimum or maximum amount for grants awarded, but all funding requests will require sound rationale based on organizational capacity, total funding needed, additional funding secured and sustainability.

Are there deadlines for submitting a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) or application? +

JMBE operates on a rolling funding cycle. Grants are typically awarded twice a year (late Spring and late Fall). Organizations in the application process are not automatically declined at the end of the calendar year, but may roll into the next year for funding, depending on where they are in the process and whether they are awarded a grant.  If an organization has a funding need for a particular fiscal cycle, they should let JMBE know in their LOI or application.

How soon will my nonprofit be notified regarding the status of its Letter of Inquiry? +

JMBE will contact the nonprofit within 90 days of submission regarding the status of its Letter of Inquiry and potential next steps.

Do you conduct site visits during the evaluation process or funding period? +

Yes, typically a representative from JMBE will conduct a site visit during the grant proposal evaluation. Additional site visits during the funding period may be scheduled in partnership with the nonprofit if there are program updates or milestones that warrant an onsite meeting. During the site visit the JMBE officer generally meets with the executive director/president/CEO, the program leadership, and tours the site/facility.

If funding is awarded, does the Endowment require impact reports to measure program success? +

Yes, if funding is awarded, JMBE will ask the organization to provide scheduled impact reports based on the goals and metrics submitted in the nonprofit’s application. Organizations will be given an opportunity to provide a qualitative (narrative) update in addition to a quantitative (metrics) update.

Does the Endowment provide funding for general operating support? For annual campaigns or other fund raising events? +

JMBE will consider providing funding for general operating support if the organization’s mission and work aligns with the JMBE funding strategies: postsecondary access and completion, and workforce relevance.  JMBE does not typically provide support for annual campaigns or fundraising events.

If my Letter of Inquiry (LOI) or application is declined, will feedback be provided? +

If JMBE declines a funding request, the primary reasons will be provided.  Depending on the volume of requests, in-depth feedback may not be possible for LOI’s.