U.S. Bancorp Foundation: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: The U.S. Bancorp Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the financial services company. It provides grants in arts and culture in areas where its bank has a presence.

IP TAKE: The U.S Bancorp Foundation is a significant supporter of theater organizations—particularly performance groups—within its focus on arts and culture. The foundation views this support as part of a larger context of community development and uplift. This funding is an open application process and includes the potential for general operating costs. Theater projects must take place in one of the 28 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 discussed here is the U.S. Bancorp Foundation.

Regardless of the flexibility in its naming, this foundation supports grantmaking to arts organizations. In past years, the foundation provided $26.2 million in grant funding, and more than 15 percent of that went to its focus on Cultural and Artistic Enrichment, with directives to develop audiences (particularly in underserved populations), bring “select and limited civic amenities” to rural communities, and to promote arts education. 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). Applications are online.

In the world of theater, U.S. Bancorp Foundation prioritizes 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 supports and the types of theater it funds (classical, contemporary, avant garde, LORT, Equity, community productions). Across all funding areas, the foundation’s watchwords are “innovative” and “effectiveness.” It does not define either adjective further, but they are certainly descriptors for grant seekers to be mindful of when approaching U.S. Bancorp Foundation for a grant. Theater is a primary aspect of this granting area. The foundation views support, uplift, and development for communities in need—within the 25 states where its banking occurs—as key to its granting mandate: 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.

Past theater grantees include the Guthrie Theatre, the Old Globe Theatre, the Cleveland Playhouse, and the Cornerstone Theater Company, among many others.

On the corporate side, 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 grant seekers must be a very big player.

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