Researching grants for choruses can be a nightmare if you don't know what you're searching for. Trust me, I know. I just spent the past few months scouring the web to create this database of grants for community choruses! Along the way, I picked up a few tricks for finding arts-specific grants online.
It turns out most grant opportunities for community choruses fit within three types of funding institutions: arts/humanities councils, community foundations, and private foundations for the arts. Once you know this information, searching for grants becomes a much more attainable objective.
It's important to understand the purpose of these institutions so that you can help identify the most critical funding opportunities for your chorus. This article should help you understand these organizations and determine which are a suitable fit for your chorus.
Arts and Humanities Councils
Birds of a feather flock together and arts organizations are no different. Collectively, nonprofit choruses and other arts organizations across the country have helped develop a pretty substantial hierarchy of umbrella arts organizations in which their purpose is to support arts in their communities.
It starts at the top with national arts organizations such as Americans for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts (a government entity) which support nonprofit arts organizations across the country. Then there are umbrella organizations that serve a specific region of the country such as New England Foundation for the Arts, South Arts, and Arts MidWest.
And then expands into every state. Every state has their own arts agency, state arts council, or arts commission. Their purpose is sometimes solely advocacy, but many also offer funding opportunities. Here's a directory of them.
If you keep going down the ladder, you'll find that some cities and towns have their very own arts council. City arts councils can often be found on their corresponding state arts council website and many even have their own websites (which you can also find in my chorus grants database).
Apart from arts councils, there are also "humanities councils." It is important to know that humanities councils typically don't fund performing arts unless there is some element of history, criticism, and theory of the arts included. So if your concert includes a pre-concert talk, lecture, or workshop, you may look to humanities councils as an option for funding. But if your performance does not include a humanities element, applying for a grant may not be worth your time. For your reference, here is a directory of every state's humanities council and here is the National Endowment for the Humanities grants page.
As you can see, there really is a strong existing support structure for the arts which we hope will continue to grow and flourish.
Community foundations are private charities in which their purpose is to provide grants to the communities they serve. These foundations assess the community to determine it's most critical needs. Then, they work to gather funding from companies, individuals, and families within the community and designate those contributions to various types of funds based on the requests of the donor. The foundation then decides how they want to allocate the funds to help support the various nonprofits in their community - usually with the focus to address the community's most critical needs.
Not every community foundation will determine that "the arts" are a critical need for their community, however many do! I've performed my own analysis of all the community foundations that I could find, pulled out the ones that specifically say they fund "the arts" or have an arts-designated fund, and placed them in my grants database for choruses. (My hope is that this helps you avoid sifting through hundreds of community foundation websites to find the grants that will work for your chorus!)
If you prefer to broaden your scope outside of community foundations that specifically support "the arts," here you can also find a full list of all community foundations in the U.S. (and if you prefer only the "accredited" ones - here's that directory).
Private Foundations for the Arts
Private foundations are nonprofit institutions that are funded primarily by an individual, a family, or a corporation. Their purpose is to provide funding to other nonprofit organizations which fit within the foundation's mission and scope.
There are many private foundations that focus on funding the arts. If a foundation lists "arts" or "music" as part of their mission, this is a clear indicator to choruses that this foundation could be the right fit for a grant application.
Note that private foundations can choose their geographic focus - some fund nationally while others serve smaller regions or their local communities.
There are a variety of other institutions that provide funding for the arts. Check out your umbrella choral organizations such as Chorus America, Barbershop Harmony Society, Sweet Adelines International, Harmony, Inc., GALA Choruses, or your local choral consortium to see if they have funds available. If you are a community-specific chorus, such as an LGBTQ+ chorus, a women's chorus, or a latino chorus, check out grants that prioritize funding in these communities, such as the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, your local Women's Foundation, and the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures.
I hope that this information helps you understand how the grants are organized in my grants database for choruses. And I hope it helps you on your own quest to find the right grant opportunities for your own chorus!
Tori Cook is the former Director of Sales & Marketing at Chorus Connection. She sings with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and is a board member of the Greater Boston Choral Consortium. In a past life, she was the Music Director of the Harborlight Show Chorus and President of Chorus pro Musica in Boston. When not making music, she daydreams about adopting a golden retriever puppy and scuba diving to exotic locations around the world.