Macy's Inc.: Grants for Visual Arts

OVERVIEW: Philanthropy at Macy’s Inc. is directed toward arts and culture, education, the environment, HIV/AIDS, women’s health, and domestic violence. Giving flows through the Macy's Foundation for programs operating on a national scale, and through the corporation for local-level programming.

IP TAKE: Macy’s makes substantial and widespread contributions in the area of arts and culture, with visual arts at the forefront of this giving (especially museums). Some of this happens through its national foundation, but much more of it occurs through the corporation supporting local visual arts organizations—and this is a very good thing, because only the latter that has an open application process.

PROFILE: Macy’s Inc. (which these days, due to corporate consolidation, includes Bloomingdales department stores) is a big player in the world of corporate philanthropy, both through a formal foundation (the Macy’s Foundation) and through the company itself (a program called My Macy’s District Grants).

In some ways, the foundation versus corporate giving is a moot point, because both sides have the same five areas of philanthropic focus: Arts and culture, education, the environment, HIV/AIDS and “women’s issues” (with primary focus on women’s health and domestic violence).

Of course, you’re reading this in order to find money for your visual arts organization/project, but it’s always useful to keep these other giving priorities in mind; if your visual arts program intersects with additional areas of Macy’s focus, that can only enhance your profile.

And since you’re reading this to find money for visual arts, let’s also make clear that museums get the vast majority of contributions from Macy’s visual arts coffers. (Whether this is because the majority of potential grantees are museums or because Macy’s actually favors museums is unclear).

The Macy’s Foundation only supports national-level programming and does not accept unsolicited requests; it’s invite-only.

The My Macy’s District Grants program was established in 2010. Recently, it awarded $3.5 million to about 1,200 individuals across its five areas of focus.

The My Macy’s District Grants not only give a lot, they give flexibly. Organizations can apply via either an “Event” application or a “Program” application. Both are useful for theater organizations. Macy’s defines the Event category to include exhibitions; the Program category is for “ongoing program or general operations support.”

Other corporate grantors often speak to their support of arts and culture in terms of audience outreach, diversity of storytelling and artists, and commitment to community; Macy’s, by contrast, doesn’t address any social contract at all, nor does it delve into what it looks for aesthetically from its arts and culture grantees.

That said, a corporation is looking to positively impact community—that’s why it grants at a community level. So if your visual arts project promotes audience development and community engagement, you’re coming out ahead. It’s also safe to assume that Macy’s is looking to support visual arts organizations that have a track record of success in the multiple ways you could define success within the arts. And it’s a requirement that your program is a 501(c)(3) that operates in or is engaged with a community in which Macy’s and/or Bloomingdales has a presence. (It’s a good thing they’re virtually everywhere in the country).

Recently, Macy’s Inc. support of visual arts organizations/programs and those that are visual arts-related spanned $250 to $290,000 in giving. In other words, there is a range of possibility here. Here is a sampling of that giving, through both My Macy’s District Grants and the Macy’s Foundation:

Grant applications for My Macy’s District Grants are accepted year round, and are addressed on a rolling basis; granting made by the Macy’s Foundation is by invitation only.

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