A Conversation with the Presser Foundation about Music Philanthropy in Philadelphia

If you’re involved on the local music scene in Philadelphia, one funder that you should get to know well is the Presser Foundation. This is a music-specific funder that supports some causes across the country, but devotes much of its philanthropy to the city of Philadelphia and surrounding areas within a 100-mile radius.

To learn more about how the Presser Foundation approaches local grantmaking in and around Philadelphia, I got in touch with Teresa Araco Rodgers, the foundation’s executive director, to chat about music philanthropy in the area. When I asked Rodgers about the foundation’s theory of change is behind its grantmaking, here’s what she had to say:

Unofficially, the Presser Foundation has been in existence for over 100 years. It was formally incorporated in 1939 and The Foundation celebrated the 75 years with a special round of Special Project grants focused on Philadelphia. The Foundation does not have a "theory of change". Rather the Trustees of the Foundation have a strong commitment to supporting the multitude of music organizations whether they present serious music, perform or educate. 

Fortunately for grantseekers, this funder is always open to evaluating new grantees in all five areas of its grantmaking. These areas include financial aid for college and grad students, construction/renovations of music performance buildings, music teacher support, collaborations between music organizations, and music groups in the Philadelphia area.

In late April, the foundation announced its new capital support grantees totaling $715,000. And in February, the funder announced its grants for the advancement of music, which totaled $700,000 and went to groups in or near Philadelphia.

Not surprisingly, Presser grantees do tend to have a few specific things in common with one another. Rodgers told Inside Philanthropy:

For Advancement of Music, Capital Support and Special Projects, grantees are all committed to and solely focused on serious music whether they are presenting it, performing it or educating students.  Grantees in these three grant making areas are all based within 100 miles of Philadelphia.

Like many funders these days, the Presser Foundation has become committed to going paperless, so now all grant money and communications are sent electronically. But this isn’t the only commitment worth mentioning. Presser is also committed to improving its transparency, starting with sending out regular news releases after each grant cycle approval. The funder’s news & updates section is updated regularly as well.

We’ll leave you with a piece of advice that Rodgers would offer prospective grantees who are interested in applying for a Presser Foundation grant. She shared:

The advice I always give to prospective grantees is to call us before submitting a grant so that we can provide guidance and answer any questions about the guidelines. The Presser Foundation is unique particularly in Philadelphia with its focus solely on music philanthropy.

This is a very accessible and responsive foundation that’s certainly worth reaching out to and learning more about if you're involved in this field. Music group in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas should check out IP’s full profile, The Presser Foundation: Philadelphia Grants, for more detailed information.