HUGE deal: the Wilson Foundation finances cultural events

Buffalo’s arts and culture have been widely considered “the glue” that has held this city together through thick and thin. That’s why The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation today announced a colossal $100 million commitment to arts and culture, so they can continue to be the unwavering economic engines for years to come. – and even generations – to come.

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation brings good news, with its promise to establish an endowment that will reap the rewards for crops in perpetuity.

The overall impact of these donations is significant because these unrestricted funds can be used for general operating needs.

“We build on years of substantial investment by critical public funding sources and philanthropic funders that have helped these institutions become the cultural treasures and economic engines they are today,” said David Egner, President and CEO, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “As a regionally oriented foundation with a limited lifespan, we saw a unique opportunity to make this significant contribution to impacting the quality of life and the economy of the region through jobs, tourism and more. We hope that this annual operating support will help strengthen the financial position of these institutions, allowing them to continue to develop creative, people-centered initiatives that make them more inclusive, welcoming and accessible places for all.

Over the next ten years, the Wilson Foundation will contribute nearly $60 million to establish an endowment at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. The initiative will create “funding streams” for 13 of the region’s largest arts and cultural institutions. There will also be opportunities for additional subsidies for other small crops to grow. After ten years of endowment funding, approximately $3.75 million will be generated annually, which will be allocated to nonprofit cultural organizations.

Each organization will also co-design, in partnership with the Community Foundation and national consultants, metrics and benchmarks that support their goals and strategic plans.

Additionally, the Wilson Foundation will allocate $3.75 million per year over nine years, for a total of $33.75 million. This funding will be reserved for cultural short-term, because the endowment is strengthened. Grantmaking efforts will begin in 2022, through this enhanced funding allocation, as many culturals are currently struggling with the pandemic.

Of the $3.75 million in annual funding, a total of $3 million will go to the following 13 institutions, including the Buffalo AKG Art Museum ($500,000 per year); Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park ($100,000 per year); Buffalo History Museum ($150,000 per year); Buffalo Museum of Science ($200,000 per year); Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra ($500,000 per year); Buffalo Zoo ($200,000 per year); Burchfield Penney Center for the Arts ($100,000 per year); Explore and more: The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Children’s Museum ($200,000 per year); Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House ($100,000 per year); Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor and Flagship Institutions ($100,000 per year); National Comedy Center ($250,000 per year); Shea’s Performing Art Center ($100,000 per year); and The Strong National Museum of Play ($500,000 per year).

The Wilson Foundation will also make a $5 million fundraising donation to the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, which is in the process of building a new campus.

“Ralph had a deep and personal appreciation for the arts, and we recognize that arts and cultural institutions collectively contribute to the very fabric of community identity, making them essential to retaining and attracting the best talent that fuels our business community. Through the Foundation’s focus on economic development, we are proud to invest in the long-term health of these organizations as economic engines – and in the cultural vibrancy of Western New York,” said Mary Wilson, Lifetime Trustee, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “While our goal was to have a substantial impact, we know there is still much to be done and hope that this gift will inspire more. others to continue to fund the operations and endowment of cultural organizations across the sector.”

The Wilson Foundation also dedicates $500,000 annually to support other arts and cultural nonprofits, primarily small to medium-sized, in the eight counties of western New York and Monroe County. These funds will be deployed flexibly based on organizational and community needs. Beginning in early 2022, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo will work with industry leaders to host listening and engagement sessions to shape the specifics of this opportunity. The first scholarships will be awarded by the end of 2022.

The remaining annual funding of $250,000 will support the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo’s ongoing ability to manage and operate this endowment and grantmaking program, which includes leading efforts to advance inclusion and access within the recipient’s individual operations and the sector as a whole. The Community Foundation will also be responsible for evaluation and annual reporting for all aspects of the grant program.

“This thoughtful and visionary endowment gift from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation recognizes that strengthening our region’s cultural assets with forever operational funding will help fuel a powerful economic engine to positively impact the west. of New York for generations to come,” said Clotilde Perez. -Bode Dedecker, President and CEO, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. “We are committed to deepening our community engagement with the cultural sector and ensuring that together we center inclusion and access to achieve the vision of The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.

“The pandemic has laid bare the fragile operational health of the arts and culture sector in the Foundation’s two regions of focus,” said Jim Boyle, Vice President of Programs and Communications, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “The decision of the Trustees of the Foundation to advance this broader, one-time strategic approach to supporting this essential sector of our economies should hopefully signal to many others the value that arts and cultural organizations bring to our communities. and the importance of funding day-to-day operations that contribute to their long-term sustainability.


Since its inception in 2015, the Wilson Foundation has disbursed more than $540 million in grants, including nearly $100 million in its Entrepreneurship and Economic Development focus area. In Western New York, this has included supporting major projects including Launch NY; 43 North; East Side Avenues, which supports inclusive economic growth along four corridors in Buffalo; and Open4, a partnership of community organizations and funders working together to connect entrepreneurs and small businesses to the resources, support and guidance they need to thrive.

Dino J. Dotson