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 Southern California (and especially Orange County).
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 nonprofit organizations that are embedded in communities where the law firm is located. Southern California is on that list, along with Anchorage, Denver, Des Moines, Fargo, Minneapolis, Missoula (MT), New York City, Palo Alto (CA), Salt Lake City, Seattle, 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 more than 25 attorneys in its Southern California office, so there are multiple opportunities to make a meaningful connection. That said, the closer you are in geography and programming to Orange County, the better. Dorsey & Whitney's Southern California offices are in Costa Mesa, and its recent giving history shows a definitive emphasis on organizations in Orange County.
Though the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation unquestionably gives a lot—more than $1.9 million in 2013, for example—it is conspicuously mum about the recipients of its charitable work. There are no press releases emanating from the foundation or law firm, 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 strictly 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.
Los Angeles area organizations receiving recent grants from the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation include:
- $10,000 to the Orange County chapter of Alzheimer's Disease & Related Disorders;
- $10,000 to the Public Law Center in Santa Ana, CA;
- $7,500 to Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, CA,;
- $5,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County;
- $5,000 to the Beauty Bus Foundation in Santa Monica.
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.