Dorsey & Whitney Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Dorsey & Whitney, a U.S.-based corporate law firm. Its funding focuses on “organizations, programs and projects that contribute to the cultural, civic, educational, and general welfare of each community as a whole, as well as nonprofits that provide legal services for people who cannot otherwise afford representation.”

IP TAKE: The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation is built on a “tradition to aid those with limited resources.” Its open application process and its commitment to offering general operating support are compelling reasons to introduce yourself to them—so long as your organization is based in one of the communities in which the law firm has a presence, including the Bay Area.

PROFILE: The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the corporate law firm Dorsey & Whitney, which is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with offices throughout the U.S. and beyond.

Location matters. The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation only gives to non-profit organizations that are embedded in communities where the law firm is located. The Bay Area is on that list, along with Anchorage, Denver, Des Moines, Fargo, Minneapolis, Missoula (MT), New York City, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Southern California, Washington, D.C., and Wilmington (DE).

Since the foundation was formed in 1982, it has created a “strong and enduring tradition to aid those with limited resources.” The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation has no sub-programs through which its grants are filtered; rather, it speaks to its funding areas more generally as supporting “organizations, programs, and projects that contribute to the cultural, civic, educational and general welfare of each community as a whole.” (And, apropos of its corporate side, it also makes special efforts to provide legal access to underserved communities.)

This leaves open a wide range of opportunities, as long as you’re a 501(c)(3). And with an ongoing, open application process, you have every opportunity to introduce yourself to the foundation. Do keep in mind, however, that the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation prioritizes organizations with which its attorneys are actively involved. So while the application process is wonderfully open-ended, it would still suit you to do some preliminary networking. Dorsey & Whitney has 30 attorneys in its Bay Area office, so there are multiple opportunities to make a meaningful connection. Dorsey & Whitney's Bay Area offices are in Palo Alto, so the foundation's frame of reference radiates out from there.

Though the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation unquestionably gives a lot—more than $1.9 million in a recent year —it is conspicuously publicly mum about the recipients of its charitable work. There are no press releases issued from the foundation or law firm, and press releases from the receiving organizations are few and far between. This is even more notable given that the final question on the foundation’s grant application is, “What type of recognition will the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation receive?”

Nevertheless, the foundation’s tax returns shed light on its grant recipients, which all received $5,000 or more for general operating support. In this way, the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation distinguishes itself, as general support is more challenging to find in the granting world.

Bay Area organizations that have received grants from the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation include $5,000 to Rebuilding Together Peninsula in Menlo Park, $5,675 to Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto and $12,500 to KQED in San Francisco.

    Dorsey & Whitney also has an active matching gifts program through which the foundation matches individual charitable contributions made the firm’s lawyers—yet another reason to reach out and network.


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