The Shubert Foundation announced its 2013-2014 grant guidelines for support of theater and dance — and non-profit arts organizations should pay attention. That's because Shubert is the nation's largest private foundation dedicated to "unrestricted funding" for not-for-profit performing arts companies. The foundation allocated a record $20,515,000 in general operating support to 448 organizations across the United States in 2012 alone. Now its setting its sights on the next round of funding.
Let's look at why this "unrestricted funding" is so important. Simply put, the foundation's grants can be used for general operating support rather than for specific projects. This approach solves two problems for struggling arts organizations. One, most obviously, is that a Shubert grant provides a much-needed infusion of cash with minimal restrictions. Organizations can make maintenance repairs, hire new staff, or improve their technology infrastructure.
Two, it frees organizations from the task of "applying toward the grant." It's an all-too-familiar process. Grant writers assiduously research the types of programs philanthropists fund, and as a result, program directors — consciously or otherwise — develop programs they feel philanthropists will fund. Obviously, this approach significantly hamstrings program directors; after all, in a perfect world they'd develop programs without any commercial or financial considerations. Sadly (spoiler alert!), we don't live in a perfect world.
Of course, the value of unrestricted funding isn't news to most non-profit organizations or anyone who has read IP's guide on the Shubert Foundation. However, it's worth repeating that the Shubert Foundation focuses exclusively on this type of funding. And it's precisely this kind of funding flexibility that can dictate how nonprofits allocate finite grant-writing resources. In other words, nonprofits can't apply for every grant, but they can strategically go for ones that provide this important unrestricted funding.
Non-profit professional resident theater and dance companies "with an emphasis on producing, rather than presenting, organizations," stand the best chance, as they are the primary recipients of Shubert Foundation funding. In fact, a review of the foundation's recent annual report found that about $14 million of its total funding — approximately 68% — went to theater. Dance was a distant second at approximately $3 million.