Wells Fargo Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: Wells Fargo considers proposals from education, housing, job training, and human services organizations in the Bay Area. Although the bank foundation awards grants across the country, each region, including the Bay Area, has its own set of funding areas and guidelines.

FUNDING AREAS: Community development, education, and human services

IP TAKE: Application instructions vary depending on which Bay Area county you're in. Even though Wells Fargo is a huge corporation, its Bay Area grantmaking is broken down for relatively specific purposes.

PROFILE: Wells Fargo, a banking, investment, and financial services leader, awards grants to organizations in every state across the country. However, the foundation's program areas vary from state to state, and a lot of funds are being directed to the San Francisco Bay Area. In Wells Fargo's eyes, this region is split into two sections: the San Francisco Bay (Lake, Humboldt, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, part of Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma) and the Greater Bay Area (Alameda, Contra Costa, southern Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz). Either way, you're dealing with the same grantmaking focus areas, which are community development, education, and human services.

Wells Fargo established a philanthropic foundation in Minnesota in 1979. As with many corporate-based foundations, the Wells Fargo Foundation has developed into a tangled web of giving, categorizations, and hierarchy. In addition to the state-by-state giving program, Wells Fargo has separate giving programs for financial education, a housing foundation, an employee giving program, an environmental stewardship program, and a regional foundation that serves low-income neighborhoods in New Jersey, Delaware, and eastern Pennsylvania. The foundation gives out about $100 million in grants each year, most ranging from around $10,000 to $3 million.

If you're in the Bay Area, your community development grant proposal should feature a program that creates affordable housing, provides job training, and benefits either small businesses or farms. Education proposals in the Bay Area should focus on K-12 students from low- to moderate-income families and provide training for teachers working with those kids. Human services proposals should provide basic needs assistance, health education programs, and child care services in low- to moderate-income communities. Low- to mid-income families are defined as those bringing in less income than 80% of the area median income in that community.

The foundation award grants not only to non-profit organizations but also to governmental agencies, tribal organizations, and public school systems. Don't bother sending in a grant proposal for individual funding, political causes, endowments, film production, religious causes, or travel. Although the foundation might possibly consider proposals sent in for hospitals, technical equipment, and sports groups, it's very unlikely that these groups will receive funding. Wells Fargo also doesn't like to read about multiyear programs or capital campaigns. And if you're deciding whether to submit an application for program support or event support, always go with program support. 

Wells Fargo's foundation has made headlines for youth mentoring grants, housing support grants, and environmental grants. Although education has not traditionally been one of Wells Fargo's grantmaking priority areas, it awarded a $75,000 grant to NatureBridge, the Environmental Education and Stewardship for an underserved Central Valley youth project.

Grant proposals are reviewed throughout the year, so there are no hard deadlines to meet. More than likely, you'll hear back from the staff within three to six months, but you can call in to check on your application if you haven't. Site visits do happen, but they're not all that common for grantees. 

If you're operating in one of the San Francisco Bay counties, your point of contact is Mario Diaz at 415-623-7598 and diazm@wellsfargo.com. If you're in one of the Greater Bay Area counties, your point of contact is Randy Chun at 415-396-5830 and chunran@wellsfargo.com. Either way, you'll need to submit your application online through the Wells Fargo website. If you send an application via mail, email, or fax, it will be kindly returned to you. 

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