When high school budgets are tight, performing arts programs like theater are often the first to be cut. Many sources provide grants to high school theater programs -- helping to ensure that the show will go on. Some funding sources include government agencies, private foundations and individual donors.
The National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1964 to support artistic excellence. Since then, it has awarded grants totaling more than $5 billion. The NEA provides grants for kindergarten through 12th-grade arts education in all disciplines including theater. The three types of projects supported by the NEA are: direct learning grants, which involve hands-on student participation; professional development grants, which are awarded to educators to enhance their own education; and collective impact grants for projects that benefit communities. Those seeking funds can start the application process by viewing the NEA's Web page: "How to Submit and Prepare an Application" for application forms and guidelines.
The National Education Association Foundation
The National Education Association Foundation is a private charity that supports public school educators. It has awarded more than 4,500 grants to educators totaling $7.1 million. The foundation encourages all public school educators to apply for the grants and does not limit the use of funds to specific subjects or projects. The grants are awarded to enhance teaching and learning and to reward innovation and excellence. Public high school theater teachers with projects that fit these broad guidelines are eligible to apply. Educators may apply online for these grants on the foundation's website.
National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards
The President's Committee on Arts and Humanities awards $10,000 each to 12 exceptional arts programs annually. Grant recipients are invited to the White House to receive the award directly from the first lady. To be eligible, programs must take place after school rather than during school hours. Public and private high school theater programs are eligible for the grant providing the instruction, rehearsals and performances take place outside of the regular school day. Grant applications and detailed instructions on how to apply are available the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards website.
Finding Grant Sources
A variety of foundations, businesses and private individuals may be eager to award grants to support high school theater. The Foundation Center provides a comprehensive donor database that is the go-to resource for professional fundraisers. The "Chronicle of Philanthropy" is also an excellent research tool with a searchable database and advice for creating successful grant applicants. You may also want to consider hitting up alumni for donations. The actress Jada Pinkett Smith gave her old high school theater program a grant of $1 million.