Ayrshire Foundation: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: The Ayrshire Foundation supports philanthropy as investment in a better world, and it spreads its wealth across a wide range of opportunities to support change: youth, the elderly and disabled, science and the environment, healthcare, and community culture.

IP TAKE: Aside from its geographic preferences, the Ayrshire Foundation has very few limitations on its grantmaking. It makes a lot of grants each year in order to invest in opportunities for a better world. The foundation sees “community culture” as a vital aspect of positive change and theater as a core element of community culture.

PROFILE: The Ayrshire Foundation was founded in 1998 by James N. Gamble (the great grandson of the founder of Procter & Gamble) and his family in order to broaden the scope of their already-established personal philanthropy. Based in Pasadena, California, the foundation invests broadly in “the possibility of change and a better world” through the creation of opportunities that improve the lives of others. The foundation designates education, health, science, culture, and general welfare as its funding areas.

Theater support falls under the Ayrshire Foundation’s Community Culture funding area, through which the foundation seeks to support "local arts and historical institutions to enhance the vibrancy of our communities.” Grant seekers should be aware of the foundation’s other four areas of focus as well as its community culture giving. Whenever possible, Ayrshire prefers to serve cross purposes, particularly when it comes to its community culture grantmaking.

The foundation gives “preference” to three locations: the Bay Area of California, the San Gabriel Valley of California, and Little Traverse, Michigan—all three are areas where James Gamble and his family have community ties. The foundation uses the word “preference,” suggestive of some flexibility beyond this geographic scope. In practice, support of anything outside of these locations is very minimal and is best reflected in programs that might be broader in scope (regional or national) but are still headquartered or linked to one of these three geographic areas.

For grant seekers who can tie their theater project to one of these locations, there is a wealth of possibility available with this foundation. That starts with the foundation’s literal wealth. The Ayrshire Foundation distributes approximately $1 million each year, and most grants fall between $10,000 to $100,000. This wide range reflects the foundation’s “strategic philanthropy,” and it seeks to tailor support to any given program’s needs—again, the goal here is investment. The foundation describes itself as “effective seeders.”

Grants from the Ayrshire Foundation may be one-shot deals or extend several years. The Ayrshire Foundation also prefers to partner with other foundations and/or serving as a matching grant incentive for other givers. Because this is a foundation looking to invest, it is not keen to allocate grants for general operating support, regardless of partnerships or incentives. As the foundation states, it instead seeks to support “other than usual operations—i.e. providing seed money for new programs or agencies designed to meet unfilled needs in the communities involved.” For this foundation, support of community culture seeks to fulfill community need, which speaks to the value it places on the arts in general, but also speaks to the type of programming it looks to support.

Past examples of Ayrshire Foundation support of theater include: $50,000 to Magic Theatre in San Francisco, CA for its New Works Initiative; $5,000 to Theatre 360 for theater equipment (also considered a Youth Opportunities grant); $40,000 to the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, CA for a solar-ray canopy (also considered a Science & Environment grant); $100,000 to Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, CA to support its capital campaign.

The Ayrshire Foundation requires potential grantees to first fill out a brief online form. Those who have piqued the foundation’s interest will be invited to submit a full proposal.

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