In any given year, roughly 85 percent of our grants are renewal funding to existing grantees. Our letter of inquiry process allows organizations to enter our grantmaking portfolio by applying for support under our continuity and engagement and arts education strategies.

Funding through the letter of inquiry process is extremely competitive. We expect to make only a few grants through the letter of inquiry process in 2018, and we will receive many more letters of inquiry than we will be able to fund.

Submission deadlines for 2018 are March 1, June 1, September 1, and December 1.

Please review this page carefully before submitting a letter of inquiry:

1.  Review our guidelines

The Performing Arts Program accepts unsolicited letters of inquiry for our continuity and engagement and arts education grantmaking. We will consider support for organizations or programs that ensure continuity and engagement in the performing arts by creating opportunities for individuals and communities throughout the Bay Area to participate in the arts and from organizations that provide arts education to students in grades K-12.

2. Review the selection criteria

These are the criteria we use and the questions we ask when making our funding decisions:

Strategic alignment with portfolio

What unique position does the organization hold within the Bay Area performing arts community? Is there a clear alignment with the Performing Arts Program’s strategies? Each grantee is asked to complete a strategic plan, as well as a proposal narrative and a chart that identifies how the organization measures success. Are these three documents closely aligned with each other? How does this organization complement our current grants portfolio? Does it diversify the portfolio by aesthetic/discipline, audiences served, or geography?

Quality artistic product

What programs and services does the organization offer, and how meaningful and relevant is its work to its target population(s)? Does the organization display high artistic quality? We determine this by attending performances, reading reviews, consulting with experts, and by reviewing DataArts Cultural Data Profile materials and the organization’s website. Do the organization and its artists occupy a distinctive niche relative to its peers? Can it present evidence of technical mastery, originality, innovation, and inspiration? If applicable, what is the quality of its arts education, community outreach, and lifelong learning programs?

Participation and engagement

What are the organization’s historic and current audience demographics and participation trends? Who are its target audiences, and how does it reach them? How are audiences engaged, and does the community understand and support the organization? What factors contribute to accessibility (for example, location, pricing, online presence, or family programming)? Does the organization engage in partnerships that benefit the community?


Does the organization have an ambitious yet viable strategic plan with a clear mission, artistic vision, and goals? What are the roles, experience, and reputation of its leadership, including the board, administrative staff, artistic staff, and volunteers? Are these leaders reflective of the organization’s diverse community and target audiences? How does the organization evaluate its programs and assess its leadership? Does it invest in learning and the professional development of its staff?

Fiscal responsibility

What is the historic and current financial health of the organization as reflected in its balance sheet (including unrestricted net assets, liabilities and debt, cash reserves, and endowment) and income statement (including earned and contributed revenues, artistic and administrative expenses, and operating surpluses)? Are financial projections realistic given a fluctuating economy? Does the organization have a history of running deficits?

3. Review the eligibility requirements

We accept letters of inquiry from organizations or programs that meet all of the following criteria:

  • Nonprofit arts organizations with a mission dedicated to the performing arts or other types of nonprofit organizations with a professionally managed performing arts program. (Note: For organizations that do not have 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, we accept Letters of Inquiry from groups that have an established relationship with a fiscal sponsor.)
  • Organizations or programs with three years of producing or programming history.
  • Organizations or programs with annual budget income and expenses of $100,000 or more (average over the past three years).
  • Organizations or programs located in and serving any of the following eleven California counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, or Sonoma.

4. Review our preferences and priorities

To help us support the diverse region we serve, we are particularly interested in receiving letters of inquiry from:

  • Organizations serving historically underserved communities such as rural communities, people with disabilities, LGBTQ communities, low-income people, or communities of color.
  • Community-based organizations that are deeply rooted in, reflective of, and governed by a specific and self-determining community. These communities may be defined by a shared identity, culture, and/or geography. Community-based organizations create and support artistic programs that emerge from their communities and contribute to larger social and civic goals.
  • Community-based organizations with a mission that includes the arts or a professionally managed multidisciplinary arts programs with a budget over $100,000 are eligible to apply.
  • Organizations or programs that are located in and serving central and eastern Alameda and Contra Costa counties, inland Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, and San Mateo and Solano counties.

Organizations or programs that meet one or more of our stated preferences and priorities will be the most competitive applicants.

5. Submit a letter of inquiry

We have an online form that you can use.

  • If available, submit your organization’s DataArts Cultural Data Profile Funder Report for the Hewlett Foundation at the time you submit the letter of inquiry.
  • If your organization is invited to submit a full proposal, you will have to submit a Cultural Data Profile Funder Report for the Hewlett Foundation with two years of information to be eligible for consideration. Learn more about DataArts and the Cultural Data Profile.

6. Receive our response

An automated email acknowledging receipt of the letter of inquiry will be sent within 48 hours. If you do not receive this, please email Aleina Hammonds.

Following each submission deadline, staff members from the Performing Arts Program carefully review each letter of inquiry received during the prior three months.

After this review, all applicants receive an email with notification of the foundation’s decision. Competitive applicants are asked to submit additional information. Applicants that are not recommended for further review may be eligible to submit a letter of inquiry again in twelve months.

Applicants typically receive this notification within six weeks of their submission deadline (March 1, June 1, September 1 or December 1).


Due to the volume of submissions we receive, we cannot respond to phone calls or emails regarding letters of inquiry.

Organizations are eligible to submit one letter of inquiry within a twelve-month period.

Organizations or programs that are currently receiving a grant through the Performing Arts Program should not submit a letter of inquiry.

Please do not send additional information or submit a full proposal unless your organization is expressly invited to do so, as it will be neither reviewed nor considered.

We do not accept letters of inquiry for the following:

  • Arts education projects from schools, districts, county departments of education, education foundations, and parent-teacher associations.
  • Building construction, capital campaigns, or endowments.
  • Expenses or debt that has already been incurred.
  • Government agencies or departments.
  • Individuals, including individual artists.
  • Humanities, literary/poetry, or history programs.
  • One-time or intermittent events such as conferences, festivals, field-trips, parades, or school assemblies.
  • Scholarships or staff training.
  • Technology projects.
  • Touring or travel expenses.