This Funder Trusts in the Arts to Support Populations in Need

The May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust knows the importance of art for underserved populations.

The May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust was established in 1989 to carry on the giving legacy of May and Stanley Smith, who made their fortune primarily in the world of iron ore mining in Malaysia. The mission of the trust is to support “organizations that offer opportunities to children and youth; adults and families; elders; and people with disabilities that enrich the quality of life, promote self-sufficiency, and assist individuals in achieving their highest potential."

If you're reading this, it's because you believe in the power of the arts to achieve this very mission. The May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust's recent giving history shows that it does too.

The trust distributes grants to four different groups in need: Foster Youth, Elders, Veterans, and People with Disabilities. It has recently given to community arts programs in two of these four areas—Elders and People with Disabilities. But there's nothing preventing it from also giving to the others.

The Smith trust provides a rigorous assessment of the needs of these populations and the trust’s goals in each area—as well as discussions of what a successful program would look like. Overall, the May and Stanley Charitable Trust seeks to support programs that provide “dignity, agency, and self-sufficiency”—a good blueprint for how to present your arts program. Be sure to read these rubrics comprehensively before attacking the trust’s application in order to understand how your community arts program will best fit.

And attack the application you must, because while it begins with an LOI open to all, it is a rigorous one, requiring specific outcomes past and future, as well as comprehensive financial reporting. The trust explicitly states that start-ups, emerging organizations, and new programs are not eligible for its support, and this makes perfect sense once you delve into the LOI—there is no way a new organization or program therein could discuss financials and recent outcomes with the rigor this funder requires. If you have been around long enough, still be aware that the trust looks for organizations with yearly operating budgets of at least $250,000 and those with less than 70% of costs supported by government funding. (The application provides a notably thoughtful section in which to discuss your organization’s relationship with government funding, and why private support is important to your program/organization.)

The good news if you check these boxes: the May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust makes healthy-sized grants typically ranging from $30,000–$100,000 per year, and will give multi-year gifts for both program and general operating costs.

The other specificity is geography. The Smith trust explicitly directs its giving to the Western U.S., though its definition of the West is broad, defining it as Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. (For the record, the trust also gives to British Columbia, Canada.) While the executed work must be done in these states, the trust’s giving history shows that the organization itself can potentially be based elsewhere, with work targeted in the trust’s focused states.

Recent grants to arts programs serving the elderly include Art with Elders (San Francisco, CA) "to connect generations through art that celebrates the wisdom, creatvity, and talent of older adults in senior centers and long-term care facilities" with $30,000 over two years. The trust also granted $80,000 over two years to Bread & Roses (Corte Madera, CA) "to improve quality of life for elders in long-term care through high quality live entertainment."

Recent community art program grantees working with People with Disabilities include the Creative Growth Art Center (Oakland, CA) "to provide expressive and professional artistic opportunities for adults with disabilities" with $90,000 over two years.

The May and Stanley Smith’s Charitable Trust’s LOI is rolling; if you’re ready for its rigor, you can apply at any time.

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