Flora Family Foundation: Grants for Visual Arts

OVERVIEW: The Flora Family Foundation is a multi-generational family philanthropic enterprise endowed with a slice of the wealth of William R. Hewlett (co-founder of Hewlett-Packard Company) and his late wife Flora. Its giving is wide-ranging, and includes support of arts and culture, education, the advancement of women, civic engagement, the environment, and global security throughout the U.S. and around the world.

IP TAKE: The Flora Family Foundation does substantial grantmaking in arts and culture throughout the U.S., and this includes the visual arts—though the foundation places less emphasis in this arena than its other "arts and culture" funding areas. This foundation does not accept unsolicited requests, so no matter what, the first order of business is to find a way to connect with the family and the foundation’s board and staff.

PROFILE: The Flora Family Foundation was established in 1998 by the family of William R. Hewlett (co-founder of Hewlett-Packard Company) and his late wife, Flora. This foundation is a wholly separate entity from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Hewlett-Packard Company, and the Hewlett-Packard Company Foundation. The Flora Family Foundation was created upon “the belief that each individual has an obligation to go beyond the narrow confines of his or her personal interests and be mindful of the broader concerns of humanity.” The foundation supports arts and culture, education, civic engagement, the advancement of women, the environment and global security by giving grants to organizations in both the U.S. and abroad.

The Flora Family Foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals or inquiries, and its funding priorities are sculpted by Hewlett's children, grandchildren, and their spouses—and therefore the giving is in sync with their interests and connectivities. A portion of the Hewlett family also makes up the foundation’s board, and, along with two non-family members, serve one- or two-year terms, then rotate out.

Formally, the foundation has no geographic restrictions on its giving. But taking in the totality of its past grantmaking reveals that it does favor particular geographic regions, which most often coincide with where its board members and/or family members reside. San Francisco and the Bay Area is unquestionably the foundation’s favorite location.

The ways in which the foundation funds visual arts projects or programs are varied. The Flora Family Foundation funds start-up expenses, program initiatives, capital improvements, media productions, and general operations. Of this general operating support, the foundation is keenly aware of its value, stating, “This form of support is particularly valuable to nonprofit organizations.”

All of this suggests that the foundation is perfectly able and ready to support visual arts projects and programs, and it states nothing to contradict that. However, past grants in the visual arts realm have been limited, and museums have been completely shut out. The primary grant has been a $20,000 two-year grant to the Handweavers Guild of America, headquartered in Suwanee, GA. The foundation has also granted general operating support to Artists' Television Access in San Francisco, CA, which "cultivates and promotes culturally-aware, underground media and experimental art." The foundation also gave the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC $20,000 of operating support over two years. It's an organization that "provides experiences in non-competitive learning and community life," including art classes for adults.

The Flora Family Foundation not only prides itself on its “flexibility and responsiveness to needs and opportunities as they arise across the entire public benefit sector”—it describes this as the foundation’s “hallmark.” For grant seekers able to create an opportunity to connect with a family and/or board member, pitching a visual arts program in the context of this hallmark is a good place to start.

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