Hearst Foundations: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: The Hearst Foundations have an overarching mission to “build healthy, productive and inspiring lives.” They seek to achieve this by supporting well-established non-profit organizations that operate in the realms of culture, education, health, and social service.

IP TAKE: Grants from the Hearst Foundations are for already high-achieving organizations; you’re not eligible if your operating budget is less than $1 million. Their focus on culture includes a substantial commitment to theater. Like all of their arts funding, this support is shaded towards artist development and outreach into underserved communities.

PROFILE: The goal of the Hearst Foundations, inspired by its founder William Randolph Hearst, is to “ensure that people of all backgrounds have the opportunity to build healthy, productive and inspiring lives.” To this end, the foundations give 25 percent of their coffers to cultural institutions throughout the United States.

First, to clear up why they are the Hearst Foundations, plural: Technically speaking, William Randolph Hearst established an east coast foundation in 1945 and a west coast foundation in 1948. Their missions were (and remain) the same, as are the granting stipulations. Whether your organization resides east or west of the Mississippi River is the only difference.

These foundations are staunchly committed to supporting culture, including the arts, specifically as it relates to developing artists and exposing underserved communities to both artistic output and artistic training. Support of theater is at the top of this list.

And speaking of large frameworks: It’s all a moot point if your theater organization’s annual operating budget is less than $1 million, the bottom cut-off for grant eligibility. Your position is most advantageous if you’re annual operating budget is over $10 million; the foundations report that in recent years, 60 percent of the culture organizations it has funded are operating in that rarefied range.

The Hearst Foundations are looking for theater organizations that engage with underserved populations and that differentiate themselves from their peers—not just in an approach to programming, but also in terms of results. The foundations also place importance on results by expecting “evidence of sustainability” for your program beyond their own support of it.

Enough of the theoretical. Here is a snapshot of theater organizations that recently received support from the Hearst Foundations:

Remarkably for a funder working on such a large playing field, the Hearst Foundations has an open online application process. In terms of culture giving, they do, however, alert potential new applicants that 80 percent of their culture funding goes to previous recipients. On the flipside, if you do make the cut for initial theater funding through the Hearst Foundations, the odds are in your favor that you’ll continue receiving it. 


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