How Taproot Supports Organizations That Create Art

The Taproot Foundation doesn't grant cash to nonprofits working in the arts, but that's just because it doesn't grant cash to anyone. What Taproot does instead is grant something many organizations, and particularly arts nonprofits, would be hard-pressed to achieve on their own: the substantial ability to build an organization's capacity.

The Taproot Foundation does this through its Service Grants Program, through which top-level nonprofit consultants spend substantial time with an organization to help them address a specific internal need. And if you're still thinking dollars, think this: Taproot assesses that its in-kind services are valued at $45,000 and upward.

The foundation declares that it supports nonprofits through its funding areas, Arts, Education, the Environment, Health, and Social Services. In its support of the arts, Taproot's focus is on nonprofits that are "providing leadership or education in the art community, while making the arts more accessible to everyone."

If you're an arts nonprofit, then you're likely sensitive to the many funders out there who support arts education but not arts programming or general performance. When it comes to Taproot, you needn't worry.

What you need to worry about is your location, because the catch is that you must be based in one of five metropolitan areas: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. Granting is limited to these five metropolitan areas because this is where Taproot's network of pro bono nonprofit consultants are located; however, there are possibilities for your work to radiate out further into the country—or the world.

The Service Grants fall into four major categories: Strategy Management, Leadership Development & Strategic HR, Marketing, and Information Technology. But Taproot gets even more specific. Within each of these areas, a potential grantee applies for a specific project need. There are 19 project options in total. The foundation’s website lists and describes them all in a highly organized fashion.

A recent example of a Taproot-supported arts nonprofit is the Los Angeles Opera Company. It received a Competitor-Collaborator Analysis Service Grant. Taproot describes the circumstance:

The Los Angeles Opera produces world-class opera that preserves, promotes, and advances the art form while embodying the diversity, pioneering spirit and artistic sensibility unique to Los Angeles. As the fourth-largest opera company in the United States, they have a clear tradition of excellence over more than 25 years. At this time, the Opera needs to understand the best opportunities for collaboration, including the effectiveness of their current collaborators and identification of new partners as well as which collaborators might reach specific markets.

Another recent arts grantee is the Center for Fiction in New York City, which describes itself as "the only nonprofit literary organization in the U.S. solely dedicated to celebrating fiction."

What types of arts nonprofits are best suited to win one of these service grants? The answer lies in the Taproot Foundation’s wish for nonprofits to “do more with more.” Therefore, your organization (which must be a 501(c)(3)) must be well positioned in terms of staff size and budget (the requirements vary a bit by city and project area). You must also be able to display significant organizational buy-in to the project at hand.

Application deadlines are quarterly in order to suit your project and your fiscal year calendar. Get your art creators together and go for it.

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