Wells Fargo Foundation Banks on Community Arts

Wells Fargo Foundation, the philanthropic offshoot of the big banking and financial services institution, by its own accounting, granted $275.5 million to 18,500 nonprofits and schools nationwide in 2013. 

When Wells Fargo Foundation is giving you that number, what it’s really doing is adding up the giving across the 44 states (plus the District of Columbia) included in its Community Investment program. Thirty-eight of those states give grants in the arts and culture realm.

This is the point where you’ll want to know if your state is one of those 38. There’s a map on the program’s website that will help you find out, but in short, here are the places that don’t make the arts-giving cut: Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. And the states where Wells Fargo gives nothing at all: Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

On the Well Fargo Foundation website, each state and region is given the opportunity to articulate the focus of their arts and culture giving. The most popular directive is that arts organizations work to enhance “community diversity” by creating work that reflects its specific community’s diversity, and by providing access and participation for “low- and moderate-income individuals.”

The other popular directives amongst the states is to support arts and culture initiatives that “enhance a community's quality of life” and those that make “communities strong, diverse, and vibrant.”

If the key word isn’t obvious to you yet, it’s community. Create to reflect it and create for it. Unlike many other corporate-based funders, Wells Fargo Foundation is far more likely to support a city or town’s regional or community performance organizations and arts intiatives than those in the national spotlight.

So it should come as no surprise that performing arts centers, arts councils, and festivals get a nice big chunk of Wells Fargo Foundation's arts grants.

Performing arts centers (creating and showcasing a combination of theater, music, dance, and film) that have recently received funds from Wells Fargo Foundation include:

Wells Fargo Foundation also gives a lot of money to organizations that serve as umbrella funders, which then dole out their grant coffers to theater, music, dance, film, and visual arts organizations working within their communities. Recent examples of these grants to city and community arts councils include:

Wells Fargo Foundation also notably funds city arts festivals. This includes a recent $250,000 grant to the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, SC, which presents 17 days of theater, music, and dance throughout the city. The foundation also recently provided $10,000 to Grand Performances in Los Angeles, CA, an eclectic music, dance, film, and spoken-word festival.

Remember that this is a snapshot of the foundation's aggregate community arts giving. Each state/region makes its own grant selections.

Needless to say, checking out the foundation’s Community Investment search engine for your state is a necessity. There is certainly grant money to be had here for dance; just be sure to tailor you application to the structure articulated by your state/region.