Fleishhacker Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: This focused funder gives to visual and performing arts nonprofits and education groups focused on K-5 literacy in the Bay Area.

FUNDING AREAS: Arts & culture, precollegiate education

IP TAKE: This funder provides money for artists’ fees for creative time, production costs, and exhibition/installation costs. It doesn’t matter what type of art you’re into in the Bay Area (dance, film, media arts, interdisciplinary arts, music, theater, visual arts, etc.).

PROFILE: Established in 1947, the Fleishhacker Foundation aims to improve the quality of life in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mortimer Fleishhacker Sr. was a banker and businessman who was active in the Bay Area philanthropic community. The only contribution that the foundation made for a period of 30 years was a building at Market Street and Van Ness Avenue that hosted ballroom dances and orchestra music above an auto showroom. After Fleishhacker’s death, the board of directors made grants in the fields of art and music to prominent San Francisco organizations.

Today, there are two funding programs at Fleishhacker: arts & culture and pre-collegiate education. These have been the two priorities since the early 1990s, and the foundation's total assets have exceeded $18 million in recent years.

Fleishhacker’s arts program primarily supports mid-sized organizations for artistic development activities. All disciplines of the performing and visual arts are considered for grants. Most awards are made through the foundation’s Small Arts Grants program. This program considers organizations based in and offering programming to the Bay Area with budgets between $100,000 and $750,000. Grant awards are typically between $1,000 and $10,000 and go toward artists’ fees for creative time, production costs, performances, exhibition/installation costs for visual, media, or interdisciplinary arts, post production costs for films, and projects that aid an arts organization’s overall artistic development.

Special Arts Grants are made to organizations with budgets between $750,000 and $2.5 million, including film projects, artistic collaborations or commissions involving local artists, and upgrading facilities to benefit artists and audiences. Grant amounts are typically between $10,000 and $25,000. Again, only Bay Area groups are considered for these grants.

Meanwhile, the foundation’s education program supports very specific types of public education causes in the Bay Area. These are some of the focal points of Fleishhacker education giving:

  • Stretched budgets
  • Limited access to outside resources
  • Achievement gap between high and low-income students
  • English language learners
  • K-5 literacy for disadvantaged students

The foundation has been almost exclusively focusing education grantmaking on the K-15 demographic for literacy programs for disadvantaged students. These grants are made once a year in the spring. Interested education groups that are new to the Fleishhacker Foundation must send a short letter of inquiry to the foundation before submitting a full application. Only Bay Area organizations are considered for education grants as well.

There are typically two grant cycles each year, with deadlines of January 15 and July 15 for spring and fall decisions respectively. Past grants in each funding category can be viewed on the foundation website:

Although Fleishhacker is a relatively small grantmaker, it occasionally expands its consideration to include field-wide issues and community needs. These types of grants, however, are not open to application. The foundation also offers the Eureka Fellowship Program, an unrestricted fellowship for visual artists nominated by a nonprofit arts organization, which awards $25,000 per artist.

There are two staff members at the foundation, an executive director and a program associate, and an 10-member board of director comprised of mostly family members. Professional affiliations include:

  • Association of Small Foundations
  • Council on Foundations
  • Grantmakers for Education
  • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
  • Grantmakers in the Arts
  • National Center for Family Philanthropy
  • Northern California Grantmakers

The grant application process is conducted entirely online, and general inquiries can be directed to Executive Director Christine Elbel at 415-561-5350 or info@fleishhackerfoundation.org.

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