Dorsey & Whitney Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education

OVERVIEW: The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Dorsey & Whitney, a U.S.-based corporate law firm. Its foundation is built on a “tradition to aid those with limited resources,” which includes its take on funding K-12 education programs. Grants focus on “organizations, programs and projects that contribute to the cultural, civic, educational, and general welfare of each community as a whole, as well as nonprofits that provide legal services for people who cannot otherwise afford representation.”

IP TAKE: The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation's open application process and its commitment to offering general operating support are compelling reasons to introduce yourself to them—so long as your organization is based in one of the communities in which the law firm has a presence.

PROFILE: The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the corporate law firm Dorsey & Whitney, which is based in Minneapolis, MN, with offices throughout the U.S. and beyond.

For this foundation, location matters. The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation only gives to non-profit organizations—including those in the realm of K-12 education—that are embedded in communities where the law firm is located. In the U.S. this includes Anchorage (AK), Denver (CO), Des Moines (IA), Fargo (ND), Minneapolis (MN), Missoula (MT), New York City, Palo Alto (CA), Salt Lake City (UT), Seattle (WA), Southern California, Washington, D.C., and Wilmington (DE).

Since the foundation was formed in 1982, it has created a “strong and enduring tradition to aid those with limited resources,” and this is the thrust of its K-12 education giving. The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation has no sub-programs through which its grants are filtered; rather, it speaks to its funding areas more generally as supporting “organizations, programs and projects that contribute to the cultural, civic, educational and general welfare of each community as a whole.” (And, apropos of its corporate side, it also makes special efforts to provide legal access to underserved communities.)

This leaves open a wide range of opportunity for support of your K-12 program, so long as you’re a 501(c)(3). And with an ongoing, open application process, you have every opportunity to introduce yourself to the foundation.

Do keep in mind, however, that the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation prioritizes organizations in which its attorneys are actively involved. So while the application process is open-ended, it would still suit you to do some preliminary networking. The good news is that Dorsey & Whitney has more than 500 attorneys (it’s one of the 100 biggest U.S. law firms), so there are many opportunities to make a meaningful connection.

Though the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation unquestionably gives a lot—nearly $1.8 million in 2012, for example—it is conspicuously publicly mum about the recipients of its charitable work. There are no press releases stemming from the foundation or law firm to be found, and press releases from the receiving organizations are few and far between. This is even more notable given that the final question on the foundation’s grant application is, “What type of recognition will the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation receive?”

Nevertheless, the foundation’s tax returns shed light on its grant recipients, all of them receiving $5,000 or more from the foundation and all for general operating support. In this way the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation distinguishes itself, as general support is more challenging to find in the granting world.

K-12 education recipients trend toward community organizations that work in congress with schools, districts, and cities (rather than funding the schools, districts, or cities themselves). Recent grants include:

Many of the above grantees are also recipients of additional matching gifts funds from the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation. The foundation matches individual charitable contributions made the firm’s lawyers—yet another recent to reach out and network.

Guidelines and grant applications can be found at the bottom of the foundation's home page. The foundation reports that decisions are made two times a year, "usually in May and November."

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