Why Did the Shubert Foundation Give the Boise Contemporary Theater a Record-Setting Grant?

The Boise Contemporary Theater (BCT) recently received a $30,000 general operation support grant from the Shubert Foundation, the foundation's largest grant yet to the BCT.

Before we look at why the foundation presented the theater with this historic grant, let's first look at why the foundation itself is so unique. As we note in our Grant Finder profile on the foundation, Shubert is unlike many performing arts grantmakers in that their grants are given for general operational support rather than for specific projects, so the restrictions for specific performances don't apply as much as with some other foundations. In other words, this is "free money" in the truest sense. No strings attached, no caveats, no fine print. Applicants simply need to be a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and, ideally, have an annual budget of at least $150,000.

And as news out of Boise illustrates, small cities are frequently recipients of these valuable general operation dollars. (We checked a list of recent recipients on the foundation's web site and saw cities like Spring Green, Wisconsin and Glen Echo, Maryland.)

This brings us to the Boise Contemporary Theater. Whenever we find organizations that receive foundation dollars, we generally assume they meet three high-level criteria: artistic quality, administrative acumen, and fiscal responsibility.

So let's start with the first criteria. A look at the theater's website shows an impressive 2014-15 programming schedule, featuring "Venus in Fur" and four world premieres. But it doesn't end there. The theater also offers a Children's Reading Series, a theater lab, post-show discussions, a BCT Block Party, and much, much more. Clearly, the theater is more than just, well, theater.

And while we can't definitively comment on the BCT's administrative efficacy or balance sheet, we can certainly make anecdotal inferences. After all, the theater — now entering it's 19th year — inevitably opened their books for the foundation, who clearly were impressed by what they saw. As a result, they awarded a grant that represented their largest gift ever to the BCT. 

$30,000 can go a long way in Boise, and to quote Matthew Cameron Clark, BCT's Artistic Director, "This funding will have a direct impact on that work going forward, including premiering new plays and training young theater artists."