Union Pacific Foundation: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: Union Pacific Foundation is the philanthropic offshoot of Union Pacific Corporation and Union Pacific Railroad. It prioritizes improving and enriching health, human services, and the overall quality of life for the 23 states on the Union Pacific railway line.

IP TAKE: Union Pacific Foundation emphasizes the arts through its directive to “improve and enrich the general quality of life in the community.” Theater makes up a significant portion of the foundation's arts support. However, grant seekers must be in a community that is “reasonably close” to its railroad line.

PROFILE: Originally established in 1959, Union Pacific Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Union Pacific Corporation and Union Pacific Railroad. The foundation seeks “build safe, prosperous, and vibrant communities by investing in high-quality nonprofits ad programs in the cities and towns” where it has a presence. It supports theater funding through its Community-Based Grant Program.

Geographically, Union Pacific serves a lot of “communities,” more than 50 cities/regions across the U.S. Grant seekers located in or west of the vertical geographic line of Milwaukee-Little Rock-New Orleans are likely to be on Union Pacific’s radar. Its system map is useful here.

The foundation’s Community-Based Grant Program subdivides its focus into “Community and Civic” and “Health and Human Services.” The foundation’s support of theater and the arts falls under the former.

Union Pacific Foundation seeks to promote “program effectiveness,” and therefore prefers to fund capacity building, which it describes as “helping new or existing programs reach more people or reach them effectively.” This definition and prioritization open up a lot of opportunity for a theater organization or program seeking support.

By Union Pacific Foundation’s own assessment, the average grant amount for recipients in the past is “less than $10,000.” While this is true, there is also the possibility for far more significant amounts if the partnership is right.

Past giving in theater and the theater-inclusive realm reflects this range in dollar amount, as well as a range of distribution across its geographic areas of focus (though there is most certainly a dollar-focus in Nebraska, which is Union Pacific's corporate headquarters). Past theater grantees include: $20,000 to the Gothenburg Community Playhouse (Gothenburg, NE); $15,000 to Shakespeare by the Sea (San Pedro, CA); $15,000 to the North Platte Community Playhouse (North Platte, NE); $10,000 to the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts (Oakland, CA); $10,000 to the Muskogee Little Theatre (Muskogee, OK); $10,000 to the Omaha Community Playhouse (Omaha, NE); $5,000 to East West Players (Los Angeles, CA); $5,000 to the West Valley Arts Council (Surprise, AZ); $5,000 to Images Theatre Company (Sacramento, CA); $5,000 to the Nebraska Shakespeare Festival (Omaha, NE); $5,000 to International City Theatre (Long Bach, CA); $3,500 to Theatre Arlington (Arlington, TX); $3,000 to the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation (Little Rock, AR); $2,500 to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival (Boise, ID); $2,500 to the Hays Arts Council (Hays, KS); $2,000 to Oregon Children's Theatre Company (Portland, OR). To see a full list of grantees, click here.

Applications are an open, online process with a mid-August deadline. Union Pacific Foundation points out that it funds its grants with operating profits from its corporate side, not through an endowment, so this might also be a reminder for grant seekers to consider using a train for their next travel adventure.

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