Wells Fargo Foundation and Your Film Festival Might Be a Match

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

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.”

None of these states or regions spells out what it means by arts and culture, but there's significant proof in the giving. Theater, music, dance, and visual arts organizations—primarily in the performance realm—are the focus of Wells Fargo Foundation's direct giving "content."

But Wells Fargo Foundation also gives substantial funds to city and community arts councils. These councils serve as umbrella grant organizations; they disperse the funding they receive as grants to arts organizations within their community. In this way, Wells Fargo Foundation is providing for film organizations, because these councils give grants to them. This includes the Denver Civic Arts Foundation, which recently received $25,000 in Wells Fargo Foundation support.

Wells Fargo Foundation also directly supports performing arts centers that showcase films and film festivals. This includes a recent $100,000 to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.

Again, remember that each state/region makes its own grant selections. If you're a film festival, pitch a line-up that includes films by locals, or a 24-hour filmmaking competition, as well as a plan to engage your community as an audience. There's no recent precedent for this giving, but it's well-within the structure Wells Fargo has created for its support of arts and culture. So be a pioneer.