One of the hardest challenges of being an arts grantmaker is deciding how to choose among so many worthy applicants. Even an organization with the Hewlett Foundation’s resources has to make some very hard choices: With more than 2500 arts organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area, our Performing Arts Program can fund only 10% of the them. (We focus on the highest performing companies with annual operating budgets greater than $100,000.)

But that leaves out a host of worthy organizations, and we recognize that very small organizations, fiscally sponsored projects, and individual artists play an important role in a healthy arts ecosystem. To help to meet their needs, we have invested consistently in a dozen regranting intermediary organizations to provide direct support to these players. We contribute to pooled funds (such as local arts councils and community foundations), commissioning funds (such as Creative Work Fund and Gerbode Commissions), and discipline specific funds (such as Theatre Bay Area’s CA$H program and San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music).

This past summer, we engaged consultants from Olive Grove and Informing Change to conduct an assessment of our strategy supporting these regrantors. Their report contains a wealth of ideas and recommendations that are beneficial to the Performing Arts Program, as well as other funders that support regranting intermediaries. Among the recommendations contained in the report are:

  1. Deepening our investment with current regrantors, particularly those reaching underserved communities;
  2. Exploring new regranting partnerships in underserved communities unmet by current regrantors; and
  3. Deepen advocacy role among peers to step up funding in the arts to reach underserved communities.

We cannot accomplish everything recommended in the report by ourselves, so we’re sharing it in hopes that together, we can continue to build a thriving arts ecosystem in the San Francisco Bay Area.