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 giving—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 big banking and financial services institution, by its own accounting in recent years granted $281 million to 16,300 nonprofits and schools nationwide.

When Wells Fargo Foundation is giving you that number, what it’s really doing is adding up the giving across the 44 states (plus the District of Columbia) included in its Community Investment program. Thirty-eight of those states give grants in the arts and culture realm.

This is the point where you’ll want to know if your state is one of those 38. There’s a map on the program’s website that will help you find out, but in short, here are the places that don’t make the arts-giving cut: 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.

On the Well Fargo Foundation website, each state and region is given 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.”

The other popular directives amongst the states is to support arts and culture initiatives that “enhance a community's quality of life” and those that make “communities strong, diverse, and vibrant.”

If the key word isn’t obvious to you yet, it’s community. Create to reflect it and create for it. 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’s in the national spotlight, with local-serving symphonies, chamber orchestras, philharmonics leading the pack, such as:

Wells Fargo Foundation also has a healthy track record of supporting opera and other vocal enterprises, including:

The majority of Wells Fargo Foundation’s music giving goes directly to classical music performance groups, but other types of organizations and music styles have an opportunity here too. The foundation has recently granted:

  • $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;
  • $10,000 to Grand Performances (Los Angeles, CA), an eclectic music, dance, film, and spoken-word festival;
  • $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 likes giving to city and community arts centers and councils, many of which incorporate music into venues and agendas. Recent giving examples 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, remember that this is a sliver of the foundation's aggregate music giving. 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 a paper proposal and that you bring it over to your 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, checking out the foundation’s Community Investment search engine for your state is a necessity. There is certainly grant money to be had here for music; just be sure to tailor you application to the structure articulated by your state/region.

PEOPLE: