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Safe Harbors Program Helps Secure $21M in Federal COVID Assistance for MA Cultural Nonprofits

Michael Ibrahim, Program Manager

100% of Safe Harbors participants were approved to receive federal funds

Dancers leap in the air during an Origination performance.

In March, as cultural nonprofits began suspending programs and closing facilities, Mass Cultural Council quickly put in motion a brand-new crisis support program, Safe Harbors, to help organizations understand and access federal assistance through the CARES Act, and provide broad and high-touch capacity building services to help organizations understand their current financial challenges and craft a strategy forward. The Safe Harbors Program is comprised of unrestricted operating grant supplements to existing Cultural Investment Portfolio organizations, and an instructional series consisting of curated small group strategy sessions, and one-on-one consulting services with the Nonprofit Finance Fund.

The instructional series, itself an expansion of the Capacity Accelerator Network, is made up of four webinar modules that provide organizations technical training on understanding and applying to CARES Act programs, conducting emergency cash flow projections, testing scenarios, building budgets, and finally, managing during a crisis. Recorded webinars, tools, and templates are available online.

Our first goal in quickly launching the Safe Harbors instructional series was to help position Massachusetts nonprofit cultural organizations to get in the front of the line for federal assistance via the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), Emergency Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL), and other local emergency grant and loan programs. Now that organizations have largely completed the application process of these programs, we are excited to share the results of this work. Of organizations that attended our CARES Act Safe Harbor webinar and applied for CARES ACT funding:

  • 100% of organizations that applied for PPP were ultimately approved and received funds.
  • Over $14 million in PPP funds were received, with an average of $160,000 per organization.
  • 90% of organizations that applied for EIDL were ultimately approved and received funds.
  • $3.2 million in EIDL funds were received, with an average of $51,000 per organization.
  • The Safe Harbor webinar series prepared organizations to apply for other non-federal grants and loans, resulting in an additional $4.1 million in other relief packages from local banks and funders.
  • Additionally, many organizations with no payroll costs discovered that they were not eligible for the PPP, and therefore quickly focused their energies on other fundraising strategies.

Mass Cultural Council is proud to help bring in almost $21 million in fast emergency funding to nonprofits in Massachusetts through the Safe Harbors Program. Most Mass Cultural Council services, such as the Safe Harbors instructional series, are available to any cultural nonprofit in Massachusetts, regardless of funding relationship with the Council. In fact, with over 1,600 participants, 1 out of every 4 organizations who received support via Safe Harbors was not a current grantee of the Mass Cultural Council.

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