Theater funding is pretty limited, but includes various types of support, including grants for playwrights, directors, and actors, funding and financial assistance for production costs, and support for general organizational needs. A range of funders operate in this space. While the large and professionalized grantmakers in this space are often easily approached, smaller foundations tend to be more difficult for nonprofits to access. All the funder profiles below are updated regularly and we often add new ones. Only paid subscribers can access these resources (subscribe here).
3M Foundation funds theater organizations and groups with project specific and general operating grants.
AAS funds fellowships that improve the American people’s understanding of pre-twentieth century history. AAS prioritizes work for general audiences rather than academic or specialized audiences.
American Express invests in theaters and theater organizations across the United States, but prioritizes giving to six U.S. locations.
This funder makes grants to women academics and supports women and girls through activism and empowerment.
The American Theater Wing offers two grant programs—National Theatre Company grants and Jonathan Larson grants. Larson grant amounts vary and are dedicated to musical theatre.
Performing arts, including theater, are aligned with the importance the company places on “cultural enrichment.” But some geographic restrictions apply.
The Anderson Center is an artist community in rural Minnesota that provides opportunities for residencies and retreats. It supports the arts in the upper Midwest.
Angell funds theater organizations concerned with the proliferation and presentation of the performing arts.
Annenberg makes national theater grants prioritizing companies in Los Angeles County. The foundation is a risk taker, unafraid to back projects that ultimately fail. This is great for out-of-the-ordinary theater productions.
The Arizona Commission on the Arts supports arts projects and organizations within the state, but is one of the largest funders for the arts in both the state and region.
Grants primarily fund presenting organizations, and those must be in the Midwest. But funding can also benefit outside groups that present in the region. Theater is a major focus.
ArtsKC supports arts projects and organizations within a five county region that includes Missouri and Kansas.
Astraea funds grants for lesbians and queer women, trans and gender non-conforming people, intersex people, and people of color. The foundation also supports rights organizations that advance racial, economic, and gender-related justice.
AT&T Foundation doesn't have a program dedicated solely to theater but makes numerous small grants to theaters and playhouses nationwide.
The Awesome Foundation is a collection of autonomous chapters, each tasked with promoting the cause of awesome.
The foundation sees “community culture” as a vital aspect of positive change, and theater as a component of community culture. Geographic restrictions apply.
The Bogliasco Foundation, near Genoa, provides short theater residencies to scholars and creative artists from all over the world.
BNSF typically awards grants to smaller local and regional theaters and related programs.
The Brown Foundation prioritizes supports both large and small theater organizations in Texas, but conducts some work across the United States.
The Don and Maggie Buchwald Foundation primarily funds grantmaking related to the arts, education, health, and human services. The foundation’s arts grantmaking appears to focus on theater.
The Capital Groups Companies Charitable Foundation invests in an array of theaters and theater organizations across the United States.
This funder makes grants to promote and strengthen Tarrant County, Texas, which includes Fort Worth, as well as nationwide.
Robert Sterling Clark Foundation grants fund programs that cultivate and promote international arts engagement. This includes collaborations, interactive residency activities, workshops, classes and the like.
Creative Capital makes grants for theater through its Performing Arts program. Grants are limited to $50,000. However, Creative Capital does provide professional support, workshops, and other tools to its grantees.
The Doris Duke Foundation may be better known for supporting dancers, but it does throw its support behind theater artists as well. The foundation has four grantmaking criteria, and you must fulfill at least one of them to qualify for a theater grant.
This law firm funder is a steady supporter of arts organizations, including theater programs, and has an open application process. It only funds in areas where the firm operates.
Funder created upon the death of famed music publisher Max Dreyfus, who worked with American greats like George Gershwin and Cole Porter, interested in providing relatively small grants that can make a big difference.
Ecolab supports the communities in which it has a corporate presence. Its foundation sees supporting performing arts, including theater companies, as a key component of its community involvement commitment.
The Edgerton Foundation supports artistic, educational and cultural institutions in Los Angeles, and funds the development of New American Plays nationwide. Its grantmaking also supports efforts to deal with creative environmental and energy solutions, and security and international policy.
The Embrey Family Foundation invests in theater productions and organizations across the United States.
The Emerson Charitable Trust broadly supports a variety of arts and culture organizations across the United States.
This corporate funder makes arts and culture a primary focus of its philanthropic pursuits, including support of theater, although it's the branch that is seemingly the lowest of the foundation's arts priorities.
With more than $11 billion in assets, the Ford Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the United States. It prioritizes addressing inequality and fostering social change.
This funder offers unrestricted grants to individuals—rather than projects—in theater and performing arts.
Gannett supports an array of projects related to theater in areas where its corporate sister operates.
The David Geffen Foundation supports large and small theater organizations across the country.
The paper manufacturer's philanthropic arm supports theater under its large community enrichment umbrella, so competition for grants can be stiff; all grants from George Pacific fund general operating support.
One of the most prestigious awards in its field, the Guggenheim Fellowship is considered a mid-career award for those who are well established in their area of expertise.
The Hambidge Center’s residency program supports science and scholarship, architecture and design, culinary artisans, and artists of all disciplines. Grant seekers to the residency program will compete with applicants from a wide variety of disciplines from around the world.
The Yip Harburg Foundation makes grants in support of social and political activism in theater.
The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation supports both large and small theater organizations.
Hearst's focus on culture includes a substantial commitment to theater. This support is shaded toward artist development and outreach into underserved communities. Only established arts organizations are eligible.
This funder is an independent federal government agency that supports projects that highlight the cultural, educational, and intellectual exchange between the United States and Japan.
The Kentucky Foundation for Women prioritizes women and feminist artists in Kentucky.
The F.M. Kirby Foundation support a wide range of visual and performing arts organizations across the country.
Knight’s Fostering the Arts Program awards national theater production grants as well as grants that support local theater festivals.
The Kresge Foundation supports arts and culture organizations working in low-income areas of major cities across the United States.
The Leeway Foundation supports women and trans artists who create art for social change.
The Reva and David Logan Foundation awards theater grants to organizations across the United States.
Macy’s makes substantial and widespread contributions in the area of arts and culture, and theater is at the forefront of this giving. National theater programming is funded by the foundation, but the corporation gives much more locally.
MAP supports a variety of artists who challenge longstanding social and cultural heirarchies in the United States.
The Maurer Family Foundation broadly funds arts and culture, which includes dance.
Mellon’s Performing Arts Program awards grants to theater companies, orchestras and modern dance companies. Grant applications are by invitation only. The good news is that Mellon is quite generous in its Performing Arts grantmaking, awarding nearly $40 million annually on average, and awards multi-year grants.
The Michelin Corporate Foundation supports a variety of theater organizations around the world. It’s music grantmaking largely supports work that relates to one’s heritage.
The Mid-America Alliance makes grants to individual artists and arts organizations in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas.
This funder is primarily focused on bringing artistic expression into its region, but it wants that artistic work to come from all around the world, including theater works.
The Mississippi Arts Commission supports artists and arts organizations working in the state.
The Missouri Arts Council supports arts projects within the state.
NEA is an independent government organization that funds art projects that celebrate artistic American excellence in theater, among other mediums.
NEH is an independent government organization that funds projects to promote research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities.
Fifteen- to 18-year-old emerging artists in the theater arts are eligible for National Youth Arts Foundation grants. The NYAF’s goal is to cultivate and develop the next generation of artists with mentorship, scholarships and other opportunities.
Don’t let this foundation’s name fool you; New England Foundation for the Arts actively and generously backs artists and presenting arts organizations throughout the United States (and sometimes internationally, too). Theater is at the forefront of this giving.
The North Carolina Arts Council supports artists and arts organizations working in the state.
Open Meadows grants support women and girls leading and benefitting from projects that address activism and social justice in theater.
The Playwrights’ Center supports playwrights in all stages of their career.
The Princess Grace Foundation-USA supports theater directors, designers, actors and playwrights through a combination of apprenticeships, fellowships and scholarships.
The Prudential Foundation supports theater grantmaking through its arts and civic infrastructure program.
The Puffin Foundation supports a wide range of theatrical works across the United States. This includes dance, writing, video, film radio, photography, and music, among other theatrical issues.
The David Rockefeller Fund supports visual and performing arts organizations around the United States.
The Salesforce Foundation predominately funds local theaters and related organizations.
The San Francisco Foundation is one of the largest community foundations in the nation and funds a broad range of equity-focused nonprofit organizations in the Bay Area.
Shubert only funds established theater and dance companies across the United States.
Sprint's theater related grants are largely awarded to smaller and local organizations.
The South Arts Fund supports organizations that present touring artists from out of state, with an eye toward enriching the economic, social, cultural, and educational vitality of the South. The fund connects the arts to key state and national policies and advances excellence in the arts.
The Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council supports artists and arts development in the region. Its grantmaking encompasses dance, literary arts, theatre, music, and the visual arts.
The David Stone Charitable Foundation primarily funds grantmaking related to theater outfits in the Northeast, particularly New York City.
While best known for supporting independent filmmaking, the Sundance Institute also has a theater program, which supports labs and retreats.
TCG currently provides an array of support to theater professionals at all levels, with services that include educational events, advocacy, research tools, and a wide number of partnership grants available for theater professionals.
This foundation supports diverse theater companies across the United States.
Union Pacific Foundation places a consistent emphasis on the arts through its directive to “improve and enrich the general quality of life in the community.” Funding for theater is a significant manifestation of its arts support.
United States Artists supports creative artists and theater artists (particularly playwrights) with competitive grants.
USArtists International offers a unique travel grant, defraying the costs of performing artists who showcase their acts abroad. Solo and ensemble theater artists are significant beneficiaries of these grants.
This significant grantor to theater programs in 25 states—specifically performance groups—within its focus on arts and culture, viewing this support as part of a larger context of community development and uplift.
The Venturous Theater Fund supports theater artists and organizations that employ directors, designers, and actors. Grants go to playwright collectives, self-produced writers, and playwright service organizations.
Supports performance, scholarship and professional development related to the work and lives of Kurt Weill, Lotte Lenya and Marc Blitzstein.
Giving in 44 states, the foundation prioritizes arts and culture giving, and theater is a major beneficiary.
Grants primarily fund presenting organizations in the Western U.S. But the artists can come from anywhere in the world.
The Wyncote Foundation theater grants tend to support local, community-based theater organizations in the Greater Philadelphia area.
The Wyoming Arts Council supports arts projects within the state, where it is one of the largest theater funders.
Additional Regional and Local Funders
The following is a quick list of large to mid-sized foundations and endowments that award theater grants to organizations in their local and regional areas.
James Irvine Foundation: Awards around $20 million in California arts grants annually. Individual grants average between $20,000 and $425,000.
Art New York: A great resource for small to mid-sized New York theater projects. The organization offers a wealth of information to find funding ranging from hundreds of dollars to thousands.
Bloomberg Philanthropies: Bloomberg has artistic interests in other parts of the world, namely London and Sao Paulo, but his philanthropic heart belongs to New York. Bloomberg Philanthropies awards nearly $32 million to arts organizations in New York City every year.
New York Foundation for the Arts.: In partnership with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, NYFA offers funding "to selected New York City theaters with budgets between $300,000 and $3.5 million" through its New York Theater Program.
Heinz Endowment: Focuses on the Southwestern Pennsylvania area with a major focus on Pittsburgh. Heinz awards over $10 million in arts and culture grants yearly for organizations in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas.