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Card to Culture Launches New Program Guidelines

Greg Torrales, Program Officer

photo from a theater performance of Hamlet. A man and woman embrace. He's looking worried, his eyes cast down. She looks worried, too. Has her string of pearls in her mouth while looking off stage right.
Actors’ Shakespeare Project production of Hamlet.

In Mass Cultural Council’s strategic plan, one of our goals is to, “build and support programmatic practices that advance equity, diversity, and inclusion through our services to the sector.” As such, we are evaluating all of the Agency’s programs to investigate where and how we can make improvements.

When launching Card to Culture in 2017, the goal was to recruit 100 cultural organizations to participate by offering steep discounts to EBT cardholders. Three agency partnerships, 400 participating organizations, and six years later, we are now reviewing the program from a perspective of quality over quantity.

Card to Culture’s program guidelines have been updated so that:

  1. Organizations that apply should have some cultural connection to the arts, humanities, or interpretive sciences within their programs.

We use the terms “arts, humanities, or interpretive sciences” broadly and welcome all applicants to apply if their access goals align with the program.

  1. The discount(s) that organizations propose must provide free or steeply discounted access to active and consistent programs in their entirety using accessible and equitable practices.

Steep Discounts provide free access or at least a 50% discount to an organization’s active/consistent programs.

    • Organizations that run free programs can participate only if all their public-facing programming is entirely free. Otherwise, they would need to offer a discount.
    • Having scholarships available is not the same as offering EBT, WIC, and ConnectorCare cardholders a steep discount. Therefore, we’ll be taking a closer look at discounts that are based on offering financial aid, tuition assistance, scholarships, etc.
    • For ticket-based engagement programs such as single events that span over a few hours, the most accessible price point for these events would be between free admission and $5 tickets. $5-$10 would be second best. $10-$15 starts becoming inaccessible for some families. Anything over $20 would work against the program’s objective and so would be considered ineligible.

Active and Consistent Programs incorporate some level of activity and have set or planned scheduling (e.g., weekly, monthly, annually, etc.), or other continuity.

    • For example, an outdoor mural/statue in a public space void of an engagement component (e.g., Artist Talk, etc.) would be considered inactive (ineligible) since it is passive and static on its own.
    • Ad hoc programs (i.e., programs that will run “if funding allows”) are ineligible.

Entirety means every performance or event within an organization’s own series or seasonal program or every class or workshop within its curriculum or semester.

    • Exceptions can include an organization’s fundraisers, non-self-presented works, and events put on by performing groups that rent their venue.
    • Organizations that rent their space to other cultural groups should encourage them to honor their participation in the program by mentioning it in their rental agreement form, Reverse Rider, etc. In these cases, organizations should clearly specify if these events fall under their discount offer (I.e., Patrons should not be required to contact an organization to see which events are eligible).

Accessible and Equitable Practices include processes, policies, and protocols for how an organization administers its Card to Culture discount. Examples include:

    • Discount Availability: If organizations allow other discounted patrons to buy tickets once they are available for purchase, they cannot limit Card to Culture patrons to buying tickets at the door on the day of an event.
    • Cardholder Present: Organizations cannot require that the person named on the accepted card be present.
    • Photo ID: Organizations cannot ask Card to Culture patrons to see a photo ID in addition to their EBT, WIC, or ConnectorCare card.
    • Payment Methods: If organizations allow other discounted patrons to purchase tickets via cash or credit card, they cannot require Card to Culture patrons to pay by cash only.
    • Online Discount Codes: If other discounted patrons (e.g., students, seniors, etc.) can purchase tickets using online discount codes, Card to Culture patrons should also be able to purchase their discounted tickets online.
    • Discount Clarity: Any instructions patrons must follow to receive an organization’s Card to Culture discount must be clearly stated on their website, including any limitations or restrictions (e.g., a capacity on the # of tickets that can be purchased, first-come/first-served, etc.).

Moving Forward

New organizations applying to participate in Card to Culture will need to abide by these updated guidelines.

All current participating organizations will undergo a participation audit to assess their adherence to the new guidelines. Any that do not meet the new criteria will have their Card to Culture application moved to “request revisions” status to be notified of the flagged issue.

Mass Cultural Council’s Festivals & Projects and new Operating Grants for Organizations programs launching next spring will prioritize organizations that participate in Card to Culture. Therefore, organizations with unresolved flags won’t be prioritized during these other grant processes, so it’s imperative that they address these issues before submitting applications to those programs.

Interested in participating in Card to Culture? Learn more. A complete list of participating organizations offering EBT, WIC, and ConnectorCare cardholder discounts are listed on our agency partners’ websites.

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