Bonnaroo Works Fund

OVERVIEW: This fund was created as the charitable arm of one of the biggest music festivals in the Southeast. Funding priorities include the arts, education and educational sustainability, especially in the Manchester, Tennessee, area.

FUNDING AREAS: The arts, education, environmental sustainability.

IP TAKE: Middle Tennessee nonprofits should get familiar with the festival and its grantmaking funds. Grants are not large, but there has been an increased focus on local organizations in recent years.

PROFILE: Every summer, the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival takes over Manchester, Tennessee. Music lovers camp in hundreds of acres of Tennessee nature to watch over 100 performances on more than 10 stages, including bands, comedy acts and even a silent disco. As a charitable arm of all this, festival organizers put together the Bonnaroo Works Fund (BWF) in 2009. The fund seeks to make “communities healthy in areas of the arts, education, and environmental sustainability.” Grantmaking is administered by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, and supports local, regional and national groups.

BWF’s funding priorities include the arts, education, and environmental sustainability. Many grants support the Manchester and Nashville areas, particularly Coffee County. However, the fund is open to any community where the Bonnaroo team lives, works, and plays.

BWF has supported over 100 organizations thus far: see a list of grantees here. Local groups include Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, the Coffee County School District, Hands on Nashville, Junior Achievement of Middle Tennessee, and Manchester Parks and Recreation. BWF occasionally supports national groups as well, especially ones that address music education and access. National grantees include MusiCares, Rock the Earth and Music for Relief.

BWF is funded by ticket sales, ticket add-ons, a silent auction, and other fundraising efforts. Local community groups send volunteers to the popular concession booths to raise funds. A portion of the sales of these concessions is donated back to the organizations that staff these booths. In this way, it has given over $2 million to help groups like the Manchester Arts Center and Keep Coffee County Beautiful. Proceeds for Root for Roo, the Bonnaroo 5K Run, the Les Paul Spirit Awards and the pre-Bonnaroo event at Peter Nappi in Nashville all facilitate grant funding as well.

In a past year, the fund made nearly 50 grants to groups that share its mission. Regional and national groups shared a total of $225,000 in funding, and the emphasis is on Tennessee-based nonprofits. In total, the fund has given out over $7 million in grants to organizations. Recently, it has supported art installations at the Nashville airport and installing refillable water stations at local schools.

As a rule, only nonprofits in Middle Tennessee can apply for BWF grants. New grant cycles begin in the first quarter of each year. Grant applications are typically due by April 15, and recipients are announced in June. The Bonnaroo Works Fund Screening Committee acknowledges all submitted proposals.

Grant recipients are allowed to apply every year for new funding. However, BWF has been looking for new applications that promise innovative approaches that align with its core mission. Most grants are between $1,000 and $10,000.


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