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. But keep in mind that funded 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.

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.

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 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. Applications are online.

Past theater grantees 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, 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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