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RFP Issued to Support Cultural Nonprofits

Michael Ibrahim, Program Manager

Male dancer leaping in the air
Performance by Earthdance.

In the last few months, the Cultural Investment Portfolio (CIP) team has conducted approximately 300 conversations with operating support grantees to better understand their current strategies, exciting innovations, and sometimes, extremely difficult decisions in operating during COVID-19. The CIP’s 13-year-old approach to trust-based philanthropy makes this possible; our grantees are open and honest about their challenges and the candid conversations we have result in real programmatic improvements. In an environment where roughly 90% of our organizations conduct programming in-person and indoors, there is a tremendous need for technical assistance and services to help organizations craft their own recovery strategies.

In these calls, we’ve asked organizations what critical services they need this year in order to continue operating and serving mission. It has become clear that these requested services are a support system only Mass Cultural Council can deliver:

  1. High quality, on-the-ground content that has been designed to the specific needs of the cultural community by first asking the community what it needs
  2. Services that are available to all organizations, in every corner of the Commonwealth, regardless of funding relationship with Mass Cultural Council
  3. Services that are provided at no cost to the participant
  4. Wide ranging formats, including large multi-phase webinars, meetings, small group conversations, and on-on-one coaching
  5. The opportunity to connect with other cultural organizations who have addressed similar challenges and can speak to their own experiences
  6. Conversations are conducted in a non-evaluative, judgment-free zone

Based on our conversations, the Cultural Investment Portfolio team has put together a comprehensive services strategy that focuses on content areas identified by cultural organizations as being essential to their business model and mission effectiveness. Mass Cultural Council has issued an RFP for several nonprofit organization content experts to deliver services in these content areas. Please note that retention of any expert pursuant to the RFP will be subject to approval by the Council at its next Council meeting.

Services Content Areas

It is to be noted that additional services in support of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access, virtual programming, public health, and trauma-informed care are being completed at the agency level, and thus, this list is not inclusive of all the topics critical to organizations.

Financial Management

Treatment of liabilities particularly important during COVID-19, including deferred revenue, lines of credit, and the PPP; financial scenario planning, benchmarking, and communication necessary to rebuild staff, benefits, and pay that may have been cut or eliminated due to closure or programmatic interruptions; understanding program economics.

Additional Multi-Session Work with the Nonprofit Finance Fund

Understanding your business model, reading financial statements, financial management for board members, budgeting basics, strategic budgeting, cash flow planning, dashboard development, telling your financial story, program economics, multiple views of cost, scenario planning, planning for growth, building long-term financial health to manage risk and leverage opportunity, and the economics of partnerships and collaborations.

Additional Multi-Session Work with SMU DataArts

Building blocks of financial health, financial management for board members, and financial case making.

Human Resources

Work from home best practices; employee self-care in support of mental health during times of stress; support and executive coaching for executive directors and similar leaders in balancing multiple stressors; basics of employment law, legal requirements of hiring, layoffs, furloughs; unemployment obligations.


The role of an effective board during times of stress; how to motivate and support board members remotely; successful board recruitment/retainment process in times of stress; the basics of risk assessment critical to board members.


Effectively motivating teams, including staff and volunteers, remotely; best practices in collaborative technology tools; overview of nonprofit closure and mergers; state and federal arts advocacy basics; how to conduct strategic planning during COVID-19; essential ingredients and process of effective collaborations and partnerships; how to effectively transition a business model; best practices of leadership transitions during COVID-19.

Digital Programming

Navigating royalties, rights, subsequent use, and unions in a digital programming environment; strategies on how to monetize digital programming; best practices in audience engagement and retention; how to compete in a new digital programmatic landscape; digital program evaluation methods.


How to market digital programming to wide audiences; best practices in digital fundraisers; how to steward donors when programming is suspended or not delivered in ‘traditional’ ways; how to make the fundraising case for arts and culture during COVID-19; conducting a successful capital campaign during times of stress.

No matter an organization’s budget size, discipline, life cycle stage, or geographic location, we believe there is a content area that all nonprofits will find critical to their recovery planning. At the conclusion of the RFP process, Mass Cultural will announce the schedule and format of all services. These services will be available to any Massachusetts-based cultural nonprofit organization. This work is another example of how Mass Cultural Council is at your service.

RFP responses must be submitted by November 9, 2020.

Questions or other content ideas? Contact Michael Ibrahim, Program Manager.

Read the RFP

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