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Home / Communities / Festivals / Application Process


Application Process

The Festivals Program provides funding and resources designed to help festival programmers meet the needs of producing, promoting, and developing festival audiences.

The goals of the Festivals Program are to:

  • Celebrate the arts, humanities, and sciences through public programming
  • Create a sense of place
  • Offer diverse arts and cultural experiences
  • Support Massachusetts artists and those working in the humanities and interpretive sciences
  • Showcase the Commonwealth’s geographic, artistic, and cultural diversity

In FY21, festival producers may apply for a grant for producing an Online or In-Person Festival OR for Audience Development and Engagement.

How to Apply

While the Festivals Program typically makes funding available through two grant cycles annually, due to the delayed passage of the FY21 state budget, festival grants are available for Spring/Summer Festivals (March 1 – August 31, 2021).

  1. Read the program guidelines below and the FAQs.


  2. Watch the recorded information session. Review the slide deck (PDF).


  3. Create an organizational profile to access the online application.
    (Please note: Usernames/Passwords created for previously-submitted Projects, Gateway, Cultural Districts, SerHacer, YouthReach, and/or Cultural Facilities Fund applications can all be used.)

  4. Complete and submit the online application by March 15, 2021 at 5pm (ET).


Questions? Contact Lisa Simmons, Program Manager, at 617-858-2707.

FY21 Program Guidelines

In light of the challenges that festivals currently face, Mass Cultural Council has modified the program in FY21 to help festivals rebuild and recover from the impacts of COVID-19. This year festival applicants can apply for funding to:

  1. Hold an Online or In-Person Festival

We recognize the additional costs, training, and work that go into moving an in-person festival to an online platform.

We recognize that in-person festivals must adhere to state COVID-19 safety regulations and requirements, which means additional costs for festival programmers. We are also excited to support new and unique approaches to in-person gatherings that creatively address physical distancing.

  1. Support Festival Audience Development and Engagement

We recognize that it is more important than ever for festivals to market and further engage audiences beyond their festival programming to sustain their community presence and strengthen their ability to deliver future festivals.

Eligibility Requirements

The following entities are eligible to apply for Festival funding:

  • A Massachusetts-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in good standing with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  • Massachusetts municipal entities such as Local Cultural Councils, public libraries, recreational departments, etc.
  • Applicants using a fiscal agent: Massachusetts based unincorporated group/association with a non-profit objective, or a Massachusetts based corporation in the process of obtaining a 501(c)3 designation. Fiscal agents can either be municipal entities or non-profit entities incorporated in Massachusetts or registered as a foreign corporation doing business in Massachusetts.

Applicants must be in good standing with all Mass Cultural Council grant programs at the time of application.

Festival Requirements


In order to be eligible, all festival applications must meet the following criteria:

  • The festival is managed by a Massachusetts-based entity.
  • The festival has identifiable arts, humanities, or science theme.
  • The festival employs or showcases Massachusetts artists, humanists, or scientists.
  • The festival is open to the public and includes some aspect of free programming.

Festival producers may apply for a grant for producing an Online or In-Person Festival OR for Festival Audience Development and Engagement.


  • If in-person, the festival is held within Massachusetts.
  • The festival is
    • A one-day event, open to the public


    • A consecutive sequence of thematically-curated events that takes place for no more than 28 calendar days.
  • If your Festival is in-person, you must have a plan for it to be delivered online if state guidelines do not permit in-person gatherings.
  • First-time festivals can apply for funding for online and in-person festivals.


  • The proposed activities help the festival programmer sustain the festival’s community presence and strengthen their ability to deliver future festivals.
  • Festivals seeking audience development and engagement funds may seek funding for the following activities:
    • Develop/strengthen social media presence.
    • Developing/strengthen websites to help reach new audiences.
    • Audience engagement activities undertaken if the applicant is unable to produce a festival during Covid-19.
  • First-time festivals cannot apply for funding for Festival Audience Development and Engagement.

For all applications, ineligible activities include but are not limited to:

  • Parties, private celebrations, or events not open to the public
  • Festivals organized for or by political parties
  • Trade fairs, events of a commercial nature, and consumer shows
  • Events that are produced solely as fundraisers, or that contribute to endowments
  • Organization’s season or a seasonal series of presented or produced programs
  • Competitions and award ceremonies
  • Sports and recreation activities and related events
  • Scholarship programs, pageants, conferences, symposiums, or seminars
  • Showcases or recitals for individual schools, including fairs, bazaars, fetes, or open house events
  • Requests for general operating support unrelated to a Festival or Audience Development and Engagement activities

Award Amount and Funding Period

The anticipated grant award amount for the FY21 is $500 per festival.

  • Spring/Summer Festivals (March 1 – August 31)

All grant funding is subject to the annual State budget appropriation, recommendations of Mass Cultural Council Grants Committee, and Mass Cultural Council’s Final Approval.

Eligible Expenses

Festival grant funding must be used for costs specific to the implementation of the proposed festival and incurred during the funding period.

Eligible festival expenses include, but are not limited to:

  • Social media engagement and marketing costs, such as ads, influencers, and other promotional costs
  • Costs associated with developing/strengthen festival website or making it more accessible
  • Other audience engagement tools, such as cable access, radio, TV, print, e-newsletter, and audience survey tools
  • Fees paid to artists, musicians, performers, celebrities, special guests, and speakers
  • Festival programming and production costs
  • Production costs for equipment rentals; such as but not limited to sound, visual, stage, and rigging
  • Accessibility services such as visual enhancements, Interpreters, listening guides
  • Translation costs, such as promotional or programming materials for multi-cultural audiences
  • Marketing and promotional materials using proper acknowledgment of funding and credits
  • Audience surveys, research, or economic impact studies related to festival activities

Ineligible Expenses

Festivals grant funding must not be used to purchase or pay for the following:

  • Food and beverages, including alcohol.
  • Non-arts and cultural festival components (such as rides, games, booths, fireworks)

Review Process and Criteria

  • Applications are reviewed by Mass Cultural Council staff and granted on a “first-received, first-reviewed” basis.
  • Organizations currently receiving CIP Portfolio or Gateway funding are eligible to apply for a Festivals grant, however if requests exceed available funds those organizations will only be awarded grants to the extent there are funds available. Priority will be given to applicants that are not current CIP Portfolio or Gateway grantees.

Grant Timelines

Grant Requirements and Grant Cancellation

Festival Promotion and Publicity

Grantees must follow the guidelines provided within the Credit & Publicity Agreement, and use the Mass Cultural Council credit logo in festival publicity, marketing, and communications materials.

Data Collection and Reporting

Grantees are required to gather information about the festival participants. This may include contact information like a name and email address or a name and mailing address attendee data – typically name and email address and mailing address. The Mass Cultural Council provides resources about collecting and making use of audience data.  Grantees will report on their data collection activities in their Final Report.

  • FY21 Spring/Summer Festival grant recipients must complete and submit a final report in the online application system for each festival grant received within 30 days of the festival end date and no later than September 30, 2021.

Failure to complete the Final Report will result in loss of eligibility for the Festivals Program and all other direct Mass Cultural Council grant programs until the Final Report has been received.

Holds and Cancellations

Mass Cultural Council has the right to withhold, reduce, or cancel grants if a festival:

  • Fails to comply with the terms of the grant contract
  • Does not properly credit Mass Cultural Council support
  • Misses deadlines for grant reports

Accessibility and Non-Discrimination Policies

Mass Cultural Council is committed to ensure that all personnel and service programs, policies, and practices will be formulated and conducted in a manner which will ensure equal access for all people and prevent discrimination not only as a matter of law, but also as a policy designed to encourage the participation of all segments of the Commonwealth’s population in Mass Cultural Council programs and services.

Mass Cultural Council is happy to offer applicants/grantees alternative formats, auxiliary aids, and services necessary so that any individual can participate in the Mass Cultural Council’s programs and services. Contact our staff for help.

Mass Cultural Council is dedicated to creating a workplace, programs, and services that welcome, respect, and value people of all races, color, age, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religions, creeds, ancestry, national origin, disability, and veteran status. Mass Cultural Council will not fund any organization or program that discriminates on the basis of these attributes. We strive to reflect diversity in all activities, programs, and services removing any barriers to accessibility. Mass Cultural Council and its grantees are expected to be in compliance with:

Mass Cultural Council’s grantees sign a contract (see contract requirements) certifying that they will comply with ADA and Section 504. Mass Cultural Council aims to help grantees understand their obligations and recognize the opportunities that increasing access can support both the public and the grantee. Additional information about Mass Cultural Council’s Accessibility Requirements and Compliance Tools for Grantees are located in our Access Policy.

Reconsideration Policy

An applicant may request reconsideration of a Mass Cultural Council decision on their application if the applicant can demonstrate that the Mass Cultural Council failed to follow published application and review procedures. Dissatisfaction with the results of a review does not constitute grounds for reconsideration.

The first step in the reconsideration process is to consult with the appropriate Program Staff to discuss the review process that concluded in the Mass Cultural Council’s decision. If the applicant wishes to pursue a reconsideration, a request must be sent to the Mass Cultural Council’s Executive Director, in writing, within 30 days of the Mass Cultural Council’s notification to the applicant of its decision.

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