A handful of rules and why they matter.

At the McElroy Trust, we don’t really like rules.  We work hard to avoid them and we’re proud that we have about half as many as most foundations.  The few rules at the McElroy Trust are important to us, and they’re not arbitrary. Each rules keeps the McElroy Trust true to our mission and well inside what the government expects of us.  Check out the rules, guidelines, and rare occurrences to see how well your project and organization fits.


  1. Donor intent: The McElroy Trust only supports programs, projects or endeavors that help young people.

    Why? The McElroy Trust was created by Ralph J. McElroy’s will.  That document states that funding should be used to help deserving young people.  So, that’s what we do. And, that’s all we do.

  2. Organization types: The R.J. McElroy Trust assists only nonprofit charitable organizations (501(c)3) and governmental entities, like school districts or municipalities.

    Why? The IRS tells these are the types of organizations we can give to and remain in their good graces.  We take fulfilling legal responsibilities seriously. That’s why we have this rule about what types of organizations can apply.

  3. Organizations not people: The McElroy Trust does not make grants directly to individuals, except through the Gold Star and Fellowship programs.

    Why? The McElroy Trust is a private foundation in the eyes of the IRS.  Private foundations can only provide gifts directly to individuals when the IRS grants special permission. That permission exists for Gold Star teachers and doctoral students in the Fellowship program.


In addition to rules that come from the IRS and the Trust’s donor, the Board has established a short list of guidelines that limit applications for strategic and practical reasons.

  1. Geographic Area: The R.J. McElroy Trust only makes grants in the following areas in Iowa: Allamakee, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Chickasaw, Clayton, Delaware, Fayette, Grundy, Tama, and Winneshiek counties.

    We’d love to change the world, or at least the whole state, but right now the Trust’s resources demand a smaller footprint.  The counties are part of the KWWL viewing area. RJ McElroy was KWWL’s founder.

    Over the last several years we narrowed the Trust’s region to deepen engagement and giving in a smaller footprint. This corresponded to the growth of community foundations in the same counties the Trust exited.

  2. Religious programming: The Trust does not make grants to religious organizations for religious programming.

    Why? The Trust chooses not to support the promotion of one religion over another.


Not rules, not guidelines, but not often funded

Sometimes organizations have unwritten rules that are just as powerful as the written guidelines. We’ve made a choice to be open with applicants and list items that are eligible for application, but are very rarely supported.  You might wonder why the Board doesn’t turn this list into a set of “not allowed” rules. We believe innovation emerges, needs change, and so do the Trust’s preferences.  It’s a strategic choice to stay open to new opportunities. If you are pursuing a project that is inventive and needed by young people, but sounds like an item on the list below we connect with us for more discussion before sending in an LOI.

Rarely Funded

  1. 1 to 1 technology school wide: Grants to schools to purchase for 1-to-1 technology for all students

    Why? So many schools.  Not enough resources

  2. Fundraising events, ads, tables, etc.: The Trust does not typically underwrite or sponsor fundraising events or place ads.

    Why? We’d rather see funding support the overall operations or direct programming than a particular event.

  3. Endowment: The Trust does not typically support endowments.

    Why? The Trust prefers to see its resources put to use sooner rather than later.

  4. School grants: The Trust does not typically support classroom projects or through its regular grant process.

    Why? The Trust has established a classroom grants program through the AEAs in our region to support classroom teachers.  We encourage application through that program.


ResourceMeg Lehman