Georgia-Pacific Foundation: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: The Georgia-Pacific Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the U.S.-based papermaking company, seeks to “improve life in the communities” where the company has a presence. It seeks this improvement by giving in four areas: education, the environment, community enrichment, and entrepreneurship.

IP TAKE: While theater funding—and the arts in general—is not a priority for this foundation, it does support theater under the umbrella of its commitment to community enrichment. Theater programs framed as an integrated part of their community's identity and betterment will stand a better chance of securing funding.

PROFILE: The Georgia-Pacific Foundation was established in 1958 by the papermaking and manufacturing company now headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. It seeks to create “value in its communities by addressing mutual issues of importance which improve the quality of life in the communities where [its] employees live and work.” The foundation prioritizes four areas of “investment”: Education, Environment, Enrichment, and Entrepreneurship.

Not surprisingly, the foundation's theater support flows through its Enrichment program. The catch is that it is a large program: it includes affordable housing, public safety, and youth development in addition to "arts and culture." Competition for these grants might be broader than it is for other theater funders.

However, the Georgia-Pacific Foundation's funding always comes as general operating support, which is rare. But even though it generalizes its funding, this foundation has rigorous expectations for performing arts programs it supports: the application asks grant seekers to discuss how they will be able to tangibly measure improvement in the community they serve as a result of the funding. Remember, the foundation has a lofty vision of purpose too and uses the word “potential.” Grant seekers should not be deterred from pitching projects that aspire as much as they provide measurable, results-oriented outcomes—just be sure not to forsake the latter.

In terms of those communities the Georgia-Pacific Foundation seeks to enrich: theater and performing arts programs must be located within 30 miles of one of Georgia-Pacific’s facilities. The company has a presence in 32 states, with multiple locations in many (10 in Texas, nine in Oregon, seven in California, four in Virginia, and four in Michigan, for example) so this geographic restriction still allows for a lot of eligibility for a foundation grant.

The Georgia-Pacific Foundation places no strict parameters on grant amounts and instead states "when deciding what or if we will contribute, we consider the value of the program to our communities and the amount we have available to donate." But grant seekers are required to put a specific ask amount into their application. For arts and culture giving, the basic range is $1,000 to $10,000 (with outliers on both sides).

Past theater and performing arts grantees include: $25,000 to the Muskogee Little Theater (Muskogee, OK); $10,000 to the Alliance Theatre Company (Atlanta, GA); $2,500 to the Center for Puppetry Arts (Atlanta, GA).

The Georgia-Pacific Foundation has an open application process. It is a rolling application, and the foundation states grant seekers will receive notification within 60 days.

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