Fidelity Foundation: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: The Fidelity Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Fidelity Investments, the multinational financial services corporation. Its philanthropic giving is large-scale, and focuses on two categories: Arts & Culture and Community Development & Social Services.

IP TAKE: The Fidelity Foundation makes arts and culture a primary focus of its philanthropic pursuits, including support of theater, although its the branch that is seemingly the "lowest" of the foundation's arts priorities. In line with its corporate ethos, it takes a rigorous business-model approach to the types of projects it funds, even in this realm.

PROFILE: The Fidelity Foundation was established in 1965 as the philanthropic arm of Fidelity Investments, the U.S.-based multinational financial services corporation.

The Fidelity Foundation focuses on two areas of giving: Arts & Culture and Community Development & Social Services.

It pursues both avenues of giving on a very large scale. As the foundation states, it seeks “projects from organizations of regional or national importance throughout the United States. High-impact projects with potential to inform or influence the nonprofit sector are of particular interest.”

As befits the philanthropic arm of an investment firm, the Fidelity Foundation adopts a rigorous business-model approach as its granting criteria. It doesn’t shy away from this approach just because it seeks to fund arts and culture. On the contrary, the foundation looks for “strategic, transformative projects that have the potential to substantially increase the grantee's impact, efficiency or long-term sustainability.” Within those constructs, it seeks to invest grant money in projects that are:

  • Planning Initiatives, such as funding for “project consultants to develop strategic, business, technology and other types of plans;”
  • Technology Projects “that can substantially increase an organization's efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability;”
  • Capital Improvements, “such as new construction, renovations, expansions and other initiatives that support the organization's strategic vision;”
  • Organizational Development, meaning “projects that involve the recruitment and development of senior management and operating staff.”

In other words, the Fidelity Foundation wants to support projects that are very big in scope, and expects your vision for your theater program—and your organization’s growth—to be rigorously planned.

A couple of more words to the wise: the foundation does not distribute grants for general operating support. On the other hand, it particularly likes initiatives where its giving incentives other donors (through matching gift challenges, for example). In fact, it does not want to be the sole funder of any arts and culture project, as it considers “an organization's ability to attract a broad range of support as key to its strength and sustainability.”

It all amounts to a very business-oriented approach to arts and culture giving, and that makes the Fidelity Foundation a unique funder.

Another aspect that sets the foundation apart: It accepts an online LOI from anyone, so long as your theater project is part of a 501(c)(3) operating in the U.S. or Canada.

Less unique, but still important, the Fidelity Foundation is looking to back projects that show a “commitment to excellence and innovation.” In the world of dance, this speaks to the end product and the audience /engager’s experience, but what the foundation also means by this is that it especially seeks projects that find “creative and innovative means of advancing an organization or nonprofit sector and strive to remain flexible and opportunistic through a competitive selection process.”

The Fidelity Foundation gives big money to back-up its big pursuits and ideals—it has distributed more than $300 million in the foundation’s lifetime.

Recent theater grants distributed by the Fidelity Foundation have focused on the administrative level, as well as theater-inclusive grants seeking to strengthen arts leadership and collaboration. They include include:

The Fidelity Foundation accepts LOIs on a rolling basis.


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