Dorsey & Whitney Foundation: New York City Grants

OVERVIEW: The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Dorsey & Whitney, a U.S.-based corporate law firm. Its grants focus on “organizations, programs and projects that contribute to the cultural, civic, educational, and general welfare of each community as a whole, as well as nonprofits that provide legal services for people who cannot otherwise afford representation.”

IP TAKE: The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation is built on a “tradition to aid those with limited resources.” Its open application process and its commitment to offering general operating support are compelling reasons to introduce yourself to them—so long as your organization is based in one of the communities in which the law firm has a presence, including New York City and its environs.

PROFILE: The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the corporate law firm Dorsey & Whitney, which is based in Minneapolis, MN, with offices throughout the U.S. and beyond.

Location matters. The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation only gives to non-profit organizations that are embedded in communities where the law firm is located. New York City is on that list, along with Anchorage, Denver, Des Moines, Fargo, Minneapolis, Missoula (MT), Palo Alto (CA), Salt Lake City, Seattle, Southern California, Washington, D.C., and Wilmington (DE).

Since the foundation was formed in 1982, it has created a “strong and enduring tradition to aid those with limited resources.” The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation has no sub-programs through which its grants are filtered; rather, it speaks to its funding areas more generally as supporting “organizations, programs, and projects that contribute to the cultural, civic, educational and general welfare of each community as a whole.” (And, apropos of its corporate side, it also makes special efforts to provide legal access to underserved communities.)

This leaves open a wide range of opportunities, so long as you’re a 501(c)(3). And with an ongoing, open application process, you have every opportunity to introduce yourself to the foundation. Do keep in mind, however, that the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation prioritizes organizations in which its attorneys are actively involved. So while the application process is wonderfully open-ended, it would still suit you to do some preliminary networking. Dorsey & Whitney has nearly 90 attorneys in its New York office, so there are many opportunities to make a meaningful connection. Dorsey & Whitney's offices are in Manhattan, but its giving radiates out into the outer boroughs and even beyond New York City's technical boundaries—likely aligned with the communities in which the firm's employees live and engage.

Though the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation unquestionably gives a lot—more than $1.9 million in a past year, for example—it is conspicuously publicly mum about the recipients of its charitable work. There are no press releases stemming from the foundation or law firm to be found, and press releases from the receiving organizations are few and far between. This is even more notable given that the final question on the foundation’s grant application is, “What type of recognition will the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation receive?”

Nevertheless, the foundation’s tax returns shed light on its grant recipients, all of them receiving $5,000 or more from the foundation and all for general operating support. In this way the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation distinguishes itself, as general support is more challenging to find in the granting world.

New York City area organizations receiving recent grants from the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation include:

Dorsey & Whitney also has an active matching gifts program through which the foundation matches individual charitable contributions made the firm’s lawyers—yet another recent to reach out and network. Rose Wilson is your best point of contact to get involved, and her email address is wilson.rose@dorsey.com. 

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