Dorsey & Whitney Foundation: Los Angeles 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 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. It seeks to support “charitable causes in the communities where Dorsey attorneys and their families live and work.” The foundation was established in 1982 by the firm’s partners, whose personal interests and talents are reflected in the organization’s funding initiatives.

The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation runs both direct funding and employee matching programs, but not traditional grantmaking programs that target specific fields of grantmaking. It funds more than 200 organizations each year with operating support. Applications for capital and endowment funding are reviewed on a selective basis, as are applications from organizations with no involvement of Dorsey & Whitney partners or employees.

The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation only makes grants 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).

The 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.)

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?”

Past Los Angeles area grantees 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.

The foundation’s board of directors meets twice each year to review proposals. Questions may be directed to Rose Wilson, the foundation’s Community and Legislative Affairs Administrator.


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