Macy's is a Captive Theater Audience

Macy’s Inc. makes substantial and widespread financial contributions in the area of arts and culture, with theater at the forefront of that giving.

A look at Macy's 2013 fiscal year shows that it gave to theater companies and organizations all around the country. Some of these organizations are known around the world; others are only known (though surely valued) in the communities in which they create. Some of these theater organizations revel in the classics, others are fully committed to new works.

Here's a sample of Macy's 2013 fiscal year giving in the theater realm:

Macy’s Inc. (which these days, due to corporate consolidation, includes Blooomingdales department stores) gives both through a formal foundation (the Macy’s Foundation) and through the company itself (a program called My Macy’s District Grants).

In some ways the foundation versus corporation giving is a moot point, because both sides have the same five areas of philanthropic focus: Arts and culture, education, the environment, HIV/AIDS and “women’s issues” (with primary focus on women’s health and domestic violence). Of course you’re reading this in the context of your theater program, but it’s always useful to keep these other giving priorities in mind; if your project intersects with additional areas of Macy’s focus, that can only be value-added.

The distinction between the Macy's Foundation and My Macy's District Grants (the corporate side) is the playing field. The foundation only supports national-level programming and is an invite-only granting process. The big, world reknown theaters listed above (such as the Goodman) most likely fall under the foundation category. By contrast, the My Macy’s District Grants program is focused on giving at a local level and has an open application process. So if your theater is very community-focused in its scope, there is an opportunity for you here.

Other corporate grantors speak often to their support of arts and culture in terms of audience outreach, diversity of storytelling and artists , and commitment to community; Macy’s, by contrast, doesn’t address any social contract at all, nor does it delve into what it looks for aesthetically from its arts and culture grantees.

That said, a corporation is looking to positively impact community—that’s why it grants at a community level. So if your theater project/organization promote audience development and community engagement, you’re coming out ahead.

It’s also safe to presume that Macy’s is looking to support organizations that have a track record of success in the multiple ways you could define success within the arts. And it’s a requirement that your organization is a 501(c)(3) that operates in operates or is engaged with a community in which Macy’s and/or Bloomingdales has a presence. (It’s a good thing they’re virtually everywhere in the country, except Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi and Nebraska—but even here, Macy's has made exceptions.)

One last thing to keep in mind: Macy's has a hearty Employee Matching Gifts Program. "Arts/cultural institutions" is one of six eligible areas, and the company will match employee gifts from $50 to $20,000. So let this also serve as a reminder that when it comes to audience outreach and donor development, targeting employee populations where there are good corporate matching gift programs can be an excellent strategy.

Related - Macy's Inc.: Grants for Theater