Fidelity Foundation: Grants for Visual Arts

OVERVIEW: The Fidelity Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Fidelity Investments, the multinational financial services corporation. Its philanthropic giving is large-scale, and focuses on two categories: Arts & Culture and Community Development & Social Services.

IP TAKE: The Fidelity Foundation views arts and culture, including the visual arts (and especially support of museums), as a primary focus of its philanthropic pursuits. In line with its corporate ethos, it takes a rigorous business-model approach to the types of projects it funds, even in this realm. However, it typically only funds organizations with operating budgets of $1,000,000 or more, and projects budgeted at $100,000 or more (though they do not necessary offer this much). It also restricts its grantmaking to twelve metropolitan areas in the US and Canada.

PROFILE: The Fidelity Foundation was established in 1965 as the philanthropic arm of Fidelity Investments, the U.S.-based multinational financial services corporation.

The Fidelity Foundation focuses on two areas of giving: Arts & Culture and Community Development & Social Services.

It pursues both avenues of giving on a large scale. The foundation seeks “projects from organizations of regional or national importance throughout the United States. High-impact projects with potential to inform or influence the nonprofit sector are of particular interest.”

As befits the philanthropic arm of an investment firm, the Fidelity Foundation adopts a rigorous business-model approach to its granting criteria. It doesn’t shy away from this approach just because it seeks to fund arts and culture. On the contrary, the foundation looks for “strategic, transformative projects that have the potential to substantially increase the grantee's impact, efficiency or long-term sustainability.” Within that construct, it seeks to invest grant money in the following:

  • Planning Initiatives, such as funding for “project consultants to develop strategic, business, technology and other types of plans;”
  • High-Impact Technology Projects “that can substantially increase an organization's efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability;”
  • Capital Improvements, “such as new construction, renovations, expansions and other initiatives that support the organization's strategic vision;”
  • Organizational Development, meaning “projects that involve the recruitment and development of senior management and operating staff.”

In other words, the Fidelity Foundation wants to support projects that are big in scope, and expects your vision for your visual arts project and your organization’s growth to be rigorously planned.

A couple more words to the wise: The foundation does not distribute grants for general operating support. On the other hand, it particularly likes initiatives that incentivize other donors, through matching gift challenges, for example. In fact, it does not want to be the sole funder of any arts and culture project, as it considers “an organization's ability to attract a broad range of support as key to its strength and sustainability.” It all adds up to a business-oriented approach to arts and culture giving, and that makes the Fidelity Foundation a unique funder.

The foundation is looking to back projects that show a "commitment to excellence and innovation." In the world of visual arts, this speaks to the end product and the visitor/engager’s experience, but what the foundation also means by this is that it especially seeks projects that find “creative and innovative means of advancing an organization or nonprofit sector and strive to remain flexible and opportunistic through a competitive selection process.”

The Fidelity Foundation gives big money to back-up its big pursuits and ideals—it has distributed more than $200 million in the foundation’s lifetime.

Recent visual arts grants from the Fidelity Foundation reflect a wide variety of geography locations and commitment to supporting a diversity of expression:

The Fidelity Foundation accepts LOIs on a rolling basis. It generally only funds organizations with operating budgets of $1,000,000 or more, and projects budgeted at $100,000 or more. It also restricts its grantmaking to these twelve metropolitan areas in the US and Canada where it has offices:

  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Boston, MA
  • Cincinnati, OH/Covington, KY
  • Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX
  • Denver, CO
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Merrimack, NH
  • New York, NY/New Jersey
  • Raleigh/Durham, NC
  • Smithfield, RI
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Toronto, ON

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