Macy's Inc.: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: Philanthropy at Macy’s Inc. is directed toward arts and culture, education, the environment, HIV/AIDS, women’s health, and domestic violence. Giving flows through the Macy’s Foundation for programs operating on a national scale, and through the corporation for local-level programming.

IP TAKE: Macy’s makes substantial and widespread contributions in the area of arts and culture, with theater at the forefront of this giving. Some of this happens through the foundation for national theater programming, but much more of it occurs through the corporation for local theater organizations—and this is a very good thing, because only the latter that has an open application process.

PROFILE: Macy’s Inc. (which these days, due to corporate consolidation, includes Blooomingdales department stores) is a big player in the world of corporate philanthropy, both through a formal foundation (the Macy’s Foundation) and through its own corporate giving.

In some ways the foundation versus corporation giving is a moot point, because both sides have the same five areas of philanthropic focus: Arts and culture, education, the environment, HIV/AIDS and “women’s issues” (with primary focus on women’s health and domestic violence).

It’s always useful to keep these other giving priorities in mind; if your theater project intersects with additional areas of Macy’s focus, that can only be value-added.

And since you’re reading this to find money for your theater program, let’s also make clear that you’re more likely to garner support from the corporate side of Macy’s. Why? Because the corporate side, through the My Macy’s District Grants program, is focused on giving at a local level (which is where most theater happens). By contrast, the Macy’s Foundation only supports national-level programming and does not accept unsolicited requests; it’s invite-only.

The My Macy’s District Grants program was established in 2010. In 2011, it gave out $3.5 million to more than 1,200 organizations across its five areas of focus.

The My Macy’s District Grants not only give a lot, they give flexibly. Organizations can apply via either an “Event” application or a “Program” application. Both are useful for theater organizations. Macy’s defines the Event category to include performances; the Program category is for “ongoing program or general operations support.”

Other corporate grantors speak often to their support of arts and culture in terms of audience outreach, diversity of storytelling and performers, and commitment to community; Macy’s, by contrast, doesn’t address any social contract at all, nor does it delve into what it looks for aesthetically from its arts and culture grantees.

That said, a corporation is looking to positively impact community—that’s why it grants at a community level. So if your theater project promotes audience development and community engagement, you’re coming out ahead. It’s also safe to presume that Macy’s is looking to support theater organizations that have a track record of success in the multiple ways you could define success within the performing arts. And it’s a requirement that your theater organization is a 501(c)(3) that operates in operates or is engaged with a community in which Macy’s and/or Bloomingdales has a presence. (It’s a good thing they’re virtually everywhere in the country, except Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi and Nebraska.)

For the 2013 Fiscal Year, Macy’s Inc. support of theater programs and theater-related organizations spanned $250 to $290,000 in giving. In other words, there is a range of possibility here. Here is a sampling of that giving, through both My Macy’s District Grants and the Macy’s Foundation:

Grant applications for My Macy’s District Grants are accepted year round, and are addressed on a rolling basis; granting made by the Macy’s Foundation is by invitation only.


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