Core Funding Areas

In the Templeton World Charity Foundation charter, Sir John Templeton outlined core funding areas for grantees to pursue research and development. They include:

TWCF Big Questions

Big Questions in Science and in Religion

The Big Questions portfolio is the largest Core Funding Area, constituting more than 60% of the TWCF’s resources.

This area promotes the discovery of new information and research that adopts a humble approach to gaining knowledge and understanding of the universe and humanity’s place within it, with the goal of beneficial progress in all areas of life and human endeavour. It emphasizes the importance of learning from different disciplines and perspectives through open-minded inquiry. By using the discipline and logic of the scientific method and other forms of cognitive inquiry, research should produce new, verifiable information whose conclusions can be brought to bear on and enhance humanistic and religious understandings of the fundamental nature of the world. More specifically, scientia—the Latin root of “science”—reflects Templeton’s interest in supporting discoveries using the full range of intellectual disciplines focused on progress and truth in three categories:

The Nature of the Human Person and the Potentials for Personal and Societal Well-Being

This encompasses fundamental questions and discoveries concerning what it is to be human, as well as the various ways human beings can progress. It covers the study of human faculties and abilities, such as consciousness, intelligence, and free will. This category includes topics such as the nature and dimensions of human flourishing, the role of competition in well-being, the fostering of mental and spiritual frameworks, and the role of values in shaping worldviews. Also included are empirical projects that aim to elucidate the nature of concepts such as purpose, meaning, prayer, love, creativity, gratitude, forgiveness, spirituality, religion, curiosity, ethics and morality, generosity, future-mindedness, self-control, humility, joy, spiritual development, the natural history of religion, and wisdom. TWCF’s interest in quantitative research and the use of experimental paradigms to study these topics reflect the belief that scientific, verifiable knowledge can supplement ancient wisdom about these aspects of human life and experience.

The Fundamental Structures, Constituents, and Laws of the Natural World

This covers highly original explorations of topics such as cosmology, time, quantum reality, emergence, complexity, the ontology of mathematics, extraterrestrial life, multiverses, dark energy and matter, life and biological evolution/genetics, new concepts of order and form in biology, causation, information and communication, and order and chaos. Programs on the nature of progress and discovery in these core areas are also eligible for funding. This list is illustrative rather than exhaustive. Some of the concepts listed in (1) above—mind, infinity, complexity, free will, and purpose—can also be considered under this heading. We may also support projects concerning the nature of science and scientific inquiry, as well as those that promise to shed light on the existence or operation of laws governing these objects of inquiry. Because the highest level of scientific research should reveal more about the nature of ultimate reality, proposals must articulate the project’s theological or philosophical impact.

The Nature, Essence, and Purposes of Transcendent Divinity

This includes projects on the nature of God, creation, divine creativity and human participation in it, divine action, providence, the fine-tuning of the universe, the nature of divine goodness, and unlimited love. It also includes studies of human responses to the divine, such as the nature of religion, awe and wonder, the power of gratitude and future-mindedness, religious experience, and the efficacy and significance of prayer with a view that such discoveries would inform and enrich human conceptualisation of the nature of God or the divine. TWCF does not advocate any religious theme over any other.

Dissemination of information, with the intention of making a sustainable impact, is as important as discovery. TWCF therefore supports projects that effectively disseminate and communicate research findings of the highest academic standard, to both the scholarly world and the wider world. We believe that knowledge and discoveries related to big questions should inspire greater humility, and we aspire for discoveries funded by TWCF to have a transformative impact on culture and societies. Our goal for dissemination and engagement activities is to encourage and sustain people’s curiosity and openness towards an ever broadening understanding of the nature of reality—and in doing so, contribute to their development of a fuller sense of meaning, purpose, and gratitude.


Individual Freedom and Free Markets

We believe that religious, political, and economic freedoms are the building blocks of both spiritual and material progress.

Our Individual Freedom and Free Markets (IFFM) portfolio supports education, research, and efforts to promote individual freedom, free markets, competition, and entrepreneurship. Grounded in the ideas of classical liberal political economy, we support 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 world more just, prosperous, and conducive to human flourishing.

This Core Funding Area includes:

Individual Freedom

Our founder, Sir John Templeton, believed that individual freedom was an essential cornstorn of a good society. Individual freedom includes religious freedom, political freedoms such as the rights to suffrage, speech, and conscience, as well as the recognition that, in a changing world, new threats to freedom will continue to present themselves. Our efforts are directed at defending against threats to existing freedoms, advancing freedom where it does not exist, and preserving the history and culture of freedom where it does exist. Work in this area can take on a variety of forms including research and its dissemination; education; or engagement, including advocacy through public policy, legal reform efforts, grassroots outreach, or direct engagement with the public at large. Our current grant-giving initiative primarily supports economic research which explores and advances freedom.

Free Market

The notion of free markets refers to those freedoms that relate to the operationalized aspects of services, products, intentions, and intellectual property by ensuring the integrity of private property and the use thereof. These include legal, administrative, and cultural supports for free competition, free markets, and entrepreneurship. TWCF is also interested in the enhancement of those moral values that benefit a free market economy and economic liberty in society. This includes the role of moral values in enhancing prosperity and the quality of life, as well as widened opportunities of society. Projects may examine how the application of such qualities as honesty, thrift, prudence, diligence, and logic lead to sustainable stewardship and strengthen the moral dimension of free markets. TWCF strongly encourages proposals to explore current and past examples that explore how “free enterprise is a teacher of ethics.”


“Entrepreneurship” is an element of both Individual Freedom and Free Markets and Character Virtues. The critical personal and cultural virtues that contribute to innovation, initiative, and change are set within a larger moral context of service, conceived not as an obligation but as a calling. Applicants who seek to encourage or study entrepreneurship should bear in mind Sir John’s vision of the role of other character virtues in reinforcing entrepreneurship.



TWCF supports work to identify and cultivate rare cognitive geniuses whose work can bring benefits to human civilization.

In this context, geniuses are not simply those who are classified as such by psychometric tests. Rather, they are those who: (1) generate significant mathematical, scientific, technological, and spiritual discoveries and inventions that benefit humanity or have the potential to transform human civilization, and (2) show exceptional cognitive ability, especially at an early age.

Eligible projects may include research on the benefits of various attributes of geniuses to humanity, biographical studies of individual geniuses, comparisons of groups of geniuses with various levels of cognitive abilities, and projects that facilitate the spread of creative insights, discoveries, and original ideas of geniuses. Projects may also investigate genetic factors contributing to genius, and the cultural and nurturing factors that engender geniuses who contribute to such cognitive virtues as diligence, constructive thinking, and noble purposes. Ineligible projects include physical, musical, or artistic geniuses; spelling bees; geniuses with spectacular memory; and scholarships for geniuses.


Character Virtue Development

Sir John believed that human flourishing results from the active learning and practice of specific character strengths.

He saw character development as the means by which to deepen knowledge and understanding of the human person, and to become spiritually prosperous. Significantly, he wanted people to be transformed by what he perceived to be spiritual principles, and believed that the products of such spiritual prosperity would be personal, and relational, and lead to social, and economic prosperity.

Character virtues of interest

In his writings, Sir John identified nineteen virtues as crucial for living a purposeful life:

ethics, love, honesty, generosity, thanksgiving, forgiving, reliability, entrepreneurship, diligence, thrift, joy, future-mindedness, beneficial purpose, accelerating creativity, communication, constructive thinking, curiosity, humility, awe

The list of character virtues is not exhaustive and TWCF welcomes proposals on a wide range of learned and learnable attributes, virtues, skills, habits, or capabilities that enable individuals to lead better lives, such as hope, self-regulation, empathy, courage and utu or ubuntu (shared humanity, humanness). However, the Foundation will not fund proposals on the absence of positive character strengths or the presence of negative behaviors, unless the proposal includes a broader purpose of promoting specific positive character strengths and virtues.

Types of proposals

Building on Sir John’s vision, TWCF funds two types of character virtue development proposals: applied research proposals and fundamental research proposals.

Applied research proposals are expected to be practical in nature and seek to develop, deliver and/or assess interventions to educate, promote, model or train character strengths or virtues. Examples of proposals that fall into this category include the development and testing of educational curricula designed to teach character virtues to students, virtuous leadership programs which seek to equip leaders to nurture and model character strengths, and games or apps that seek to nurture character strengths through technological platforms or mediums. Proposals which are focused on the descriptive sociological realities of character virtues or seek to understand the environmental and/or social factors that strengthen or diminish critical character virtues are also included in this category. In addition, TWCF holds that the cultivation of character, while important in its own right, may also yield benefits in such areas as physical and mental health, and economic progress. As such, proposals that examine the relationship between the development and practice of character strengths and other positive outcomes are of interest to the foundation.

Fundamental research proposals should seek to better understand the fundamental nature of character strengths by exploring theoretical, philosophical and theological perspectives on the nature of a character virtue. Proposals that fall into this category may seek to explore questions of how virtues are understood, manifest and measured, as well as research into the moral and/or spiritual value of virtues themselves.

These categories are not intended to be mutually exclusive. For example, research on fundamental questions about character development may be expected to inform the development or evaluation of applied proposals. But for the purpose of grant making, proposals will be considered as either applied or fundamental based on their core focus. Likewise, both types of proposals should include an assessment or evaluation component, using study designs and research methodologies that are appropriate to the aims of the proposal and the questions being posed.


Voluntary Family Planning

TWCF supports projects focused on minimizing future poverty and sickness in ways that are distinct from more popular or traditional humanitarian efforts.

We pursue research and programs aimed at preventing the need for such traditional efforts in the future. Generally, funding is given to support education and other help in voluntary family planning to enable parents to choose the number of children they have. We encourage projects that promote self-respect, personal responsibility, future-mindedness, goal setting, reliability, and resiliency in the face of cultural and peer pressures. Projects should be outside the “mainstream”, innovative, beneficial to humanity, sustainable, and strategic in their potential to alleviate future poverty and sickness.

Sir John Templeton was clear that his foundations were only to fund work for voluntary family planning. TWCF respects the life, liberty, and autonomy of each individual. TWCF supports neither work that aims to reinforce state or other forced family planning policies, nor research or programs that promote the destruction of life from the time of conception until natural death. We affirm and reiterate the belief that each and every person (past, present, and future) has intrinsic moral worth.

Proposals for Voluntary Family Planning may:

  • Purchase and distribute contraceptive devices and medications to those who lack them
  • Promote the advantages of voluntary family planning to local communities
  • Facilitate access to tools and information concerning ways to control family size voluntarily
  • Engage religious leaders in fostering education about voluntary family planning

Projects should be forward-thinking, proactive, and sustainable. Examples might include:

  • Evidence-based education programs to inform and empower women about reproduction and control of family size
  • Research to evaluate education programs and interventions for Voluntary Family Planning
  • Research to produce new methods of birth control and improved procurement of such contraceptives
  • Improved policy commitments of domestic and foreign governments, other donors, and the private sector with respect to voluntary family planning
  • Analysis of the barriers that prevent individual women, families, or communities from viewing family planning as a legitimate personal choice
Proposal Guidance
Proposal Guidance and Related Information

Templeton World Charity Foundation funds a wide range of projects in science, theology, philosophy, and human society. Whatever the topic, all research is conducted at the highest standard of evidence and scholarship. We also support dissemination projects aimed at stimulating intellectual humility, curiosity, and enthusiasm for new discoveries.

For guidance about what we fund, go to the individual priority pages or read about our other funding areas above. For general information about proposals and other information, see our Frequently Asked Questions page.