Union Pacific Foundation: Grants for Dance

OVERVIEW: Union Pacific Foundation is the philanthropic offshoot of Union Pacific Corporation and Union Pacific Railroad. It focuses on improving and enriching health, human services, and the overall quality of life for the 23 states on the Union Pacific railway line.

IP TAKE: Union Pacific Foundation emphasizes the arts through its directive to “improve and enrich the general quality of life in the community.” Dance makes up the smallest portion of the foundation's arts support, but it is not nonexistent. However, grant seekers must be in a community that is “reasonably close” to its railroad line.

PROFILE: Originally established in 1959, Union Pacific Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Union Pacific Corporation and Union Pacific Railroad. The foundation seeks “build safe, prosperous, and vibrant communities by investing in high-quality nonprofits ad programs in the cities and towns” where it has a presence. It supports dance funding through its Community-Based Grant Program.

Geographically, Union Pacific serves a lot of “communities,” more than 50 cities/regions across the U.S. Grant seekers located in or west of the vertical geographic line of Milwaukee-Little Rock-New Orleans are likely to be on Union Pacific’s radar. Its system map is useful here.

The foundation’s Community-Based Grant Program subdivides its focus into “Community and Civic” and “Health and Human Services.” The foundation’s support of dance and the arts falls under the former.

Union Pacific Foundation seeks to promote “program effectiveness,” and therefore prefers to fund capacity building, which it describes as “helping new or existing programs reach more people or reach them effectively.” This definition and prioritization opens up a lot of opportunity for a dance organization or program seeking support.

By Union Pacific Foundation’s own assessment, the average grant amount for recipients in the past is “less than $10,000.” This is true, but there is also the possibility for far more significant amounts if the partnership is right.

Past giving in dance and the dance-inclusive realm reflects this range in dollar amount, as well as a range of distribution across its geographic areas of focus, though in the scheme of the foundation's arts giving, dance seems to draw less focus than its theater and music peers. Past dance grantees include: $10,000 to the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts (Oakland, CA); $5,000 to Ballet Nebraska (Omaha, NE); $5,000 to the West Valley Arts Council (Surprise, AZ); $5,000 The Center for the Performing Arts at The Woodlands (Woodlands, TX); $3,500 to the Sacramento Ballet (Sacramento, CA). To see a full list of grantees, click here.

Applications are an open, online process with a mid-August deadline. Union Pacific Foundation points out that it funds its grants with operating profits from its corporate side, not through an endowment, so this might also be a reminder for grant seekers to consider using a train for their next travel adventure.

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