Wells Fargo Foundation: Grants for Music

OVERVIEW: Wells Fargo Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the banking and financial services company. The foundation supports a wide range of needs, including education, housing, community development, the environment, and arts and culture. Specific focuses and agendas vary by state and region.

IP TAKE: Functionally speaking, Wells Fargo Foundation’s grantmaking—and the agendas therein—is subdivided by state, and sometimes also by regions within those states. Of the 44 states where the foundation gives, the vast majority of them place arts and culture giving squarely on the agenda, and music is a big player within this realm.

PROFILE: Wells Fargo Foundation, the philanthropic offshoot of the banking and financial services institution seeks to create “long-term, strategic, relationships with nonprofits and other organizations to create innovative, sustainable solutions to meet local needs.” By its own accounting in recent years granted $281 million to 16,300 nonprofits and schools nationwide through its Community Investment program.  

The Community Investment program is a combination of the Wells Fargo Foundation’s grantmaking across 44 states (plus the District of Columbia); thirty-eight of those states give grants in the arts and culture realm. The program’s website provides a helpful map, but in short, the places that do not support arts-giving are Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. And the states where Wells Fargo gives nothing at all: Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

The Well Fargo Foundation website gives each state and region the opportunity to articulate the focus of their arts and culture giving. The most popular directive is that arts organizations work to enhance “community diversity” by creating work that reflects its specific community’s diversity, and by providing access and participation for “low- and moderate-income individuals.” Another popular directive is to support arts and culture initiatives that “enhance a community's quality of life” and those that make “communities strong, diverse, and vibrant.”

Community is important here. Unlike many other corporate-based funders, Wells Fargo Foundation is far more likely to support a city or town’s community music program than one that is in the national spotlight. Past grantees include local-serving symphonies, chamber orchestras, philharmonics, such as: $100,000 to the Pacific Symphony (Santa Ana, CA); $50,000 to the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (Los Angeles, CA); $50,000 to the Minnesota Orchestra (Minneapolis, MN); $25,000 to the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra (Charlotte, NC); $15,000 to the Las Vegas Philharmonic (Las Vegas, NV); $5,000 to the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra (Pittsburgh, PA); $3,000 to the Symphony Orchestra Augusta (Augusta, GA).

Wells Fargo Foundation also supports opera and other vocal enterprises, including: $25,000 to Opera Philadelphia (Philadelpha, PA); $15,000 to Pacific Chorale (Santa Ana, CA); $10,000 to San Francisco Opera (San Francisco, CA); $5,000 to Opera Colorado (Denver, CO); $2,500 to Asheville Lyric Opera (Asheville, NC); $1,500 to The All-American Boys Chorus (Costa Mesa, CA).

The majority of Wells Fargo Foundation’s music grantmaking supports classical music performance groups, but other types of organizations and music styles have an opportunity here too. Past grantees include: $250,000 to the Spoleto Festival USA (Charleston, SC), which presents 17 days of range of arts performances (including many music groups and genres) throughout the city; $5,000 to the Aiken Music Festival (Aiken, SC) for bluegrass music; $5,000 to the Country Music Foundation (Nashville, TN).

Well Fargo Foundation also gives to city and community arts centers and councils, many of which incorporate music into venues and agendas. Past grantees here include $100,000 to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (Newark, NJ), $20,000 to Washington Performing Arts (Washington, DC), $20,000 to the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts (St. Paul, MN), $5,000 to Bass Performance Hall (Fort Worth, TX), and $2,500 to the Snohomish County Arts Commission (Everett, WA).

Again, grantseekers should remember that this is a portion of the foundation's aggregate music grantmaking. Each state/region makes its own grant selections.

Just as grant selections are determined by state and the regions within, so too is the application process. Most are executed online, but some states require that a paper proposal be submitted to grantseekers’ nearest Wells Fargo location. Each state, and sometimes each region within, has its own program officers. They all also do a good job answering FAQs, dispensing contact information, and sharing their deadlines.

Needless to say, it is important for grantseekers to check out the foundation’s Community Investment search engine for their state. There is certainly grant money to be had here for music; just be sure the application is tailored to the structure articulated by the state/region.


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