U.S. Bancorp Foundation: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: The U.S. Bancorp Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the financial services company, and provides grants in the areas of education, workforce development, economic development, affordable housing, and arts and culture in the areas where its bank has a presence.

IP TAKE: The U.S Bancorp Foundation is a significant grantor of theater programs—specifically performance groups—within its focus on arts and culture, viewing this support as part of a larger context of community development and uplift. This funding includes the potential for general operating costs, and it’s an open application process. But keep in mind that your theater project must take place in one of the 25 states where its corporate side does its banking. 

PROFILE: The U.S. Bancorp Foundation is the philanthropic arm of U.S. Bancorp, the financial services company based in Minneapolis. A word here about corporate nomenclature: The company U.S. Bancorp is often referred to as U.S. Bank, which is the signage their bank storefronts (and commercial website) use. By extension, U.S. Bancorp Foundation is often referred to as U.S. Bank Foundation—on its own website, the two names are used somewhat interchangeably. But be aware that formally speaking (including by IRS designation) the foundation we’re about to discuss is the U.C. Bancorp Foundation.

No matter what you call it, this foundation is committed to giving grants to arts organizations. In 2015, the foundation gave more then $27.5 million, and 17 percent of that went to its focus on Cultural and Artistic Enrichment, with directives to develop audience (particularly in underserved populations), bring “select and limited civic amenities” to rural community, and to promote arts education.

Theater is a major aspect of this granting area, viewed by the foundation as a key to its larger granting mandate is to support uplift and development for communities in need—within the 25 states where its banking occurs: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Unlike many of its corporate granting peers who give to arts organizations, U.S. Bancorp Foundation earmarks grants for general operating support as well as program support (and capital projects too, under stricter circumstances).

In the world of theater, U.S. Bancorp Foundation is primarily focused on theater companies working and producing within communities, but the foundation is refreshingly diverse in terms of the types of communities (big, small, urban, rural) it gives to, as well as supporting a range of types of theater creation (classical, contemporary, avant garde, LORT, Equity, community productions).

Across all types and focus areas of giving, the foundation’s watchwords are “innovative” and “effectiveness.” It doesn’t define either adjective further, but they are certainly descriptors to be mindful of when you approach U.S. Bancorp Foundation for a grant.

Functionally speaking, applying for those grants are a state-by-state endeavor, and for larger states, by region within those states. Each state/region has its own grant, managers, contact information and deadline. Application for each state/region are also online.

A sliver of recent theater grants dispensed by U.S. Bancorp Foundation include:

  • $50,000 to the Guthrie Theatre (Minneapolis, MN)
  • $25,000 to the Old Globe Theatre (San Diego, CA)
  • $20,000 to the Cleveland Playhouse (Cleveland, OH)
  • $15,000 to Ebony Repertory Theatre (Los Angeles, CA)
  • $10,000 to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival (Boise, ID)
  • $10,000 to Village Theatre (Issaquah, WA)
  • $10,000 to Cornerstone Theater Company (Los Angeles, CA)
  • $10,000 to the Capital Stage Company (Sacramento, CA)
  • $5,000 to La Crosse Community Theatre (La Crosse, WI)
  • $5,000 to the Capitol Theater (Burlington, IA)
  • $5,000 to Steeple Players Theatre (Hendersonville, TN)
  • $5,000 to the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival (Cincinnati, OH)
  • $3,000 to the Boise Contemporary Theater (Boise, ID)
  • $2,000 to Cottage Theatre (Cottage Grove, OR)
  • $1,500 to the Playwrights Project (San Diego, CA)
  • $1,000 to Stage One Family Theatre (Louisville, KY)

On the corporate side of the equation, U.S. Bancorp has a Corporate Sponsorship program that supports a small and select group of “leading arts and cultural organizations.” Within this short list, theater is prevalent, but you must be a very big player.


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