Awarding grants to arts organizations and individual artists can be at the center of a local arts agency's service. In this effort, grant applicants can be considered partners, bringing arts experiences directly to the community. To help carry out this mutual goal, local arts agencies (LAAs) provide a variety of funding opportunities that enable schools, organizations, and community groups to carry out projects, and through general operating support, to maintain ongoing, high-quality public arts programming.
Traditionally, LAAs often limit their giving to specific geographic areas, programmatic guidelines, funding priorities, and in some cases, only grant to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. If a company, artist collective, or organization is not a legally recognized nonprofit, then an LAA can accept applications from a fiscal sponsor who has nonprofit status.
Some grants require that organizations raise matching funds in order to qualify for support. Grants to organizations include general operating support, project grants, planning and technical assistance programs, and sometimes can include discretionary programs.
Funding to individual artists may include fellowships, public art commissions, and support for artists who work in community settings. However, many public LAAs are limited in funding to individuals as it can be against city or county laws, codes, or statutes to “gift” to individuals.
With most funders, each grant program has particular guidelines for determining eligible fees and matching requirements. Applicants are encouraged to refer to guidelines to determine funding eligibility. Like any good grant seeker, applicants should feel confident to contact the grantmaking organization at any time during the application process.
Most LAAs will use review panels to adjudicate applications. Panels can be comprised of volunteer panelists who are experts to contracted experienced reviewers who will assess the applications' strengths and weaknesses according to published evaluation criteria. Many LAAs who use volunteer panelists will often select reviewers from their community and have an open process of allowing community members to self-nominate to serve on a grants panel.
Nationally, two thirds of LAAs are grantmakers.
- 67 percent of the responding LAAs reported that they provide financial support in the form of grants or contracts:
- 53 percent provide financial support to arts organizations in their community.
- 46 percent provide financial support to individual artists.
- 33 percent support both arts organizations and artists.
- 33 percent do not provide financial support in the form of grants or contracts.
From the December 2010 Monograph Local Arts Agencies 2010. [PDF, 578KB]
Common Grant Types
General Operating Support (GOS) Grants assist arts organizations with administrative and/or artistic expenses and are frequently the most difficult type of grant to obtain. Organizations may use GOS funds for general operating expenses as well as leverage for other public and private funding. GOS grants are most commonly given specifically to arts organizations within the community and are based on organizational operating budgets. In most cases, GOS funds need to be matched with cash (at least 1:1) by the organization.
Project Grants assist organizations in their efforts to provide quality arts programming to communities. Project Grants are awarded to assist with the costs of connecting artists (or their artistic work) with communities. In most communities, project grants can be given to non-arts organizations like schools and social service organizations. Most commonly, organizations are required to match eligible project costs at least dollar for dollar.
Discretionary Grants may have a limited lifespan. These grants can range from arts education programs to audience development support to a one-time grant to organizations for special opportunities that are not part of the applicant's annual budget, regular programming or annual event.
Artist Grants/Fellowships are made to help artists move their work and career forward. Just like LAAs being diverse, artist grants/fellowships are also diverse in their nature to support individual artists in a community.
Examples of LAA Grant Programs
Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County (MD)
The Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County (AHCMC) administers a comprehensive grants program that funds local arts and humanities organizations, as well as individual artists and scholars. AHCMC annually distributes more than $4 million in grants to organizations and individuals to help fund enriching cultural activities in the county. Funding is provided by the Montgomery County Government, the Maryland State Arts Council, corporations, organizations, and individuals.
Boise City Department of Arts and History
The City of Boise is committed to supporting local cultural organizations and individuals, as illustrated in one of the city's key strategic goals: To "foster an environment where learning, the arts, culture, and recreation thrive." The grant programs of the Department of Arts & History support this goal by promoting the growth and development of the city's artists and historians and artistic, cultural, and historical organizations. The funds awarded expand cultural opportunities for individuals and organizations, developing audiences, and increasing awareness of art and history in everyday life.
Cambridge Arts Council (MA)
Cambridge Arts Council's Grant Program awards funding to high-quality artistic projects to benefit people living, working, and visiting Cambridge.
Houston Arts Alliance (TX)
The Houston Arts Alliance provides grants annually to over 220 arts and cultural organizations and artists through a competitive grant allocation process. As most of our funding comes from the City of Houston Hotel Occupancy Tax, grants are awarded for the encouragement, promotion, improvement and application of the arts to promote tourism and the convention and hotel industry.
Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MN)
Funding for Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) programs and services is provided primarily through an appropriation from the Minnesota State Legislature and the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund of the MN Land and Legacy Amendment. MRAC also receives a generous grant from The McKnight Foundation. Grant opportunities available through the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council include support for organizations and individual artists.
Tucson Pima Arts Council (AZ)
Tucson Pima Arts Council's grants program provides financial support for artists, projects, and arts organizations operating throughout Pima County. In 2011–2012, nearly $400,000 will be awarded to arts organizations, individual artists, and other community-based projects throughout the region.
Grantmakers in the Arts
The mission of Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) is to provide leadership and service to advance the use of philanthropic resources on behalf of arts and culture. GIA is the only national association of private and public funders making grants to artists and arts organizations in America. GIA's strength is in its diversity of members: private, family, community and corporate foundations; national, state, and local governmental agencies; and nonprofit national, regional, and local service organizations. What they all have in common is a belief that America is a better place to live and our communities are stronger when the creativity of artists is prevalent in all aspects of society.
Council on Foundations
The Council on Foundations is a national nonprofit association of more than 1,700 grantmaking foundations and corporations. As the leading advocate for philanthropy, it strives to increase the effectiveness, stewardship, and accountability of our sector while providing our members with the services and support they need to advance the common good.
National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy
NCRP promotes philanthropy that serves the public good, is responsive to people and communities with the least wealth and opportunity, and is held accountable to the highest standards of integrity and openness.