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.
American Express invests in theaters and theater organizations across the United States, but prioritizes giving to six U.S. locations.
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. National Theatre Company grants are limited to $10,000 and fund regional nonprofit theatres.
Performing arts, including theater, are aligned with the importance the company places on “cultural enrichment.” But some geographic restrictions apply.
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.
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.
AT&T Foundation doesn't have a program dedicated solely to theater but makes numerous small grants to theaters and playhouses nationwide.
The foundation sees “community culture” as a vital aspect of positive change, and theater as a component of community culture. Geographic restrictions apply.
BNSF typically awards grants to smaller local and regional theaters and related programs.
The Capital Groups Companies Charitable Foundation invests in an array of theaters and theater organizations across the United States.
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 Embrey Family Foundation invests in theater productions and 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.
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.
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.
Knight’s Fostering the Arts Program awards national theater production grants as well as grants that support local theater festivals.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 Salesforce Foundation predominately funds local theaters and related organizations.
Shubert only funds established theater and dance companies.
Sprint's theater related grants are largely awarded to smaller and local organizations.
While best known for supporting independent filmmaking, the Sundance Institute also has a theater program, which supports labs and retreats.
TCG currently spends an average of $8.5 million on its program services annually, and grants range from $5,000 to $75,000. It 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 gives out as many as 50 unrestricted $50,000 grants directly to creative artists each year. Support for theater artists (particularly playwrights) is a significant part of this giving. Needless to say, this is a competitive grant.
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.
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.
San Francisco Foundation: Awards $10 million per year to Bay Area arts programs. The Foundation's Arts and Culture Program focuses on small and mid-sized organizations with annual operating budgets of between $100,000 and $2 million located in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco or San Mateo Counties. Grants from the San Francisco Foundation are usually between $5,000 and $25,000.
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.
William Penn Foundation: Awards over $30 million in arts and culture grants every year to Philadelphia based organizations. William Penn is one of the top 10 foundations for arts and culture grants in the United States.
Kresge Foundation: Companies large and small have been the beneficiaries of Kresge’s grantmaking largesse. Grantmaking ranges from $35,000 to around $1 million.
Playwrights' Center: The Minneapolis-based organization provides over a dozen fellowships and grants each year to local and national playwrights at various stages of their careers, totaling around $200,000 annually.
Pew Center for Arts and Heritage: Supports artists and organizations mounting ambitious imaginative projects. Grants go to theater, dance, visual art exhibitions, heritage, cultural management, music, and individual artist's fellowships.
Amon G. Carter Foundation: Awarding over $10 million in arts and humanities grants yearly, the Amon G. Carter Foundation focuses on organizations in Texas, with a few interests in Michigan and South Carolina.
Brown Foundation: Another big funder for Houston-area arts, the Brown Foundation awards between $13 million and $17 million in arts and culture grants each year.