OVERVIEW: The Knight Foundation is one of the larger grantmakers in the arts, especially when it comes to more innovative, modern forms of expression, which includes many different types of music projects. They are especially interested in ideas that incorporate technology and that bring diverse communities together through "shared experiences."
IP TAKE: Unlike many of the other larger organizations that make grants in music, the Knight Foundation is fairly wide-ranging in the genres they consider, so if your project leans more toward the popular culture end of the spectrum, you'll find perhaps more openness to your idea here.
PROFILE: John and James Knight were once print media moguls, owning newspapers in 26 cities across the United States from Miami, to Detroit, over to San Jose and Silicon Valley, and a few places in between. The Knight Foundation does focus the majority of its grantmaking in and around those 26 cities, but not exclusively. Of the four Knight Foundation initiatives, music falls under Arts (the foundation does not have a grantmaking program exclusively dedicated to music). In the last few years, the Foundation has consistently increased their giving in this initiative, so that's good news for grant seekers in all areas of the arts.
The Knight Foundation has an emphatically eclectic mix of musical tastes that include opera, hip hop, symphony, and jazz, so unlike some of their peers, the field of genres they support is decidedly more open. A few examples of recent Knight Foundation grants include $500,000 to the Akron Symphony, $135,000 to the Curtis Institute ArtistYear Fellowship, and $75,000 to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
The Knight Foundation harbors a strong belief that the arts are "a catalyst for public dialogue, and that shared cultural experiences contribute to a sense of place and communal identity." Given that, they place a strong focus on projects that have a community aspect and bring people together around arts based events. Some of their main strategies in this area of their grantmaking revolve around "creative placemaking," making projects general and available to everyone, and spurring innovation. If your project is trying something new and attempting to bring a diverse set of people and cultures together around a music based project, you have a very good chance at attracting the attention of Knight.
Letters of inquiry can be submitted online and you have about two pages to describe your project. The Foundation will review your inquiry and notify you of their decision via email. If they like what they read, a Foundation representative will request that you to submit a full proposal. There are no exact deadlines for LOIs, however, you are required to submit a full proposal within four weeks of submitting your idea.