Local Cultural Council Program
Mass Cultural Council funds and manages a network of 329 Local Cultural Councils (LCCs) across the state, representing every city and town in the Commonwealth. Each council awards money based on individual community cultural needs, assessed and set by council members. Applicants apply directly to local councils.
How to Apply
Please note: grants from most LCCs are reimbursement-based. (The applicant expends their own money, and if approved for a grant, then submits paperwork for reimbursement.)
Already received a grant?
- Here’s what you should know
- Guidance for Local Cultural Councils and their Grantees in Response to COVID-19
About the LCC Program
Mass Cultural Council distributes funds to local and regional cultural councils, who then regrant funds to arts, humanities, and interpretive science projects in their own communities. Currently, there are 329 local and regional councils that represent all 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth. The program is administered by 2,400 municipally appointed volunteers serving statewide.
A hallmark of the LCC Program is the emphasis on local autonomy and decision making. Councils are free to make funding decisions that best meet the particular needs and priorities of their community within the parameters of the broad state guidelines. Each LCC determines its own local eligibility requirements based on a community input process and these are incorporated into their council priorities and published to the Council’s Profile.
The LCC application process can be quite competitive. Because of the large number of requests and the limited funds available for regranting, many LCCs receive far more applications than they can fully, or even partially, fund. Average grants tend to be modest ($500-$750) and are either reimbursement-based, meaning the applicant expends their own money, and if approved for a grant, then submits paperwork for reimbursement or directly-granted, meaning funding is provided up front to approved applicants and requires the applicant submit a W-9, grant agreement, and final report. A list of LCCs providing Direct Grants is online.
Applicants complete their applications online and submit them directly to the LCC to whom they are applying through the online system by the October 15 deadline. While all LCCs use the same basic application form, some may require supplemental materials from their applicants. These can be uploaded and attached to your online application. Before submitting an application, applicants should read the council’s priorities for additional instructions.
Unless a Local Cultural Council prohibits the practice, it may be possible to submit more than one application to an LCC. However, because the demand for LCC funds far exceeds the supply, applicants should first contact their LCC to discuss whether or not it makes sense to submit more than one application or to prioritize the applications.
If an applicant feels that a program will provide public benefit to more than one community, they may submit an application to more than one LCC.
In order to apply for an LCC grant, applicants must meet all eligibility and criteria requirements of the LCC Program. Councils make funding decisions that best meet the particular needs and priorities of their community within the parameters of the state guidelines and council priorities. Key aspects of the eligibility requirements for LCC grants and criteria for funding are discussed below, as well as the few restrictions that Mass Cultural Council imposes on state funds. For more detailed information, please refer to the full LCC Program Guidelines (PDF).
Application deadline: All applicants must submit completed applications by the statewide deadline. This year the deadline is October 15, 2021. Late applications cannot be accepted.
Types of grants: Applicants may apply to the LCC Program for projects, operating support, ticket subsidy programs, field trips, artist residencies, fellowships or other activities, based on local priorities and needs. Local councils may also choose to fund cultural field trips for children, grades pre-K through 12, by subsidizing the cost for children to attend programs in the arts, humanities and sciences (including performances, educational tours and exhibits).
Program eligibility: Applicants may apply for grants for programs that take place during an 18 month window of eligibility between July 1, preceding the application deadline in October, through December 31 of the following year. This means that applicants may apply for projects that have already happened or which happen prior to LCCs’ grant announcements, with the knowledge that funding is not guaranteed. LCCs are authorized to establish a smaller window of eligibility; if they chose to do so, the date range will be posted in their council priorities.
Applicant eligibility: Applicants must be located or reside in Massachusetts. Anyone included in the list below may apply:
- Individuals. Individual applicants must show that a public benefit results from the project for which they are applying.
- Incorporated private nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit preschools, elementary schools, middle schools and high schools are subject to the same criteria and restrictions as public schools.
- Unincorporated associations that can establish a nonprofit objective. A group of individuals coming together with a common purpose (e.g., local community band, theater group) that do not have nonprofit status.
- Public schools, libraries, other municipal agencies and the local cultural council itself. Municipal agencies are eligible to apply for funding.
- Religious organizations. Religious organizations or groups with a religious affiliation are eligible to apply for funding of cultural programming that is available to the general public. LCCs can only approve applications that are primarily cultural in their intent and do not have the effect of advancing religion.
Local cultural councils use the first three rules listed below in the review of all funding decisions. All three rules are equally important. Additionally, councils have the option of developing local review criteria and may decide how to weigh their importance:
- Arts, Humanities, and Sciences
- Public Benefit
- Local Criteria
Arts, Humanities, and Sciences
LCC funds may only be used to support programs in the arts, humanities, and sciences in Massachusetts. This definition includes the study, pursuit, performance, exhibition, and appreciation of cultural activities in the broadest sense.
How does Mass Cultural Council define the arts, humanities, and/or sciences?
- Arts refer to the creation of work in the crafts and performing, visual, media, folk, design, literary, and inter-disciplinary arts. In addition, they also include the presentation and preservation of, and education about works in these disciplines.
- Humanities are types of learning that deal with human values and aspirations, human thought and culture, language, and creativity. Examples include, but are not limited to, history, social studies, philosophy, criticism, and literature.
- Sciences are types of learning that deal with nature, science, and technology in ways that explain how they relate to people’s lives. Some organizations that conduct this type of activity include aquariums, botanical gardens, nature centers, natural history museums, planetariums, and science centers.
LCC funds must be used to support activities that contribute to the cultural vitality of the community as a whole, rather than benefiting any private individual or group. However, this does not mean that a large crowd of people needs to participate in order to satisfy the public benefit requirement. Whenever possible, activities funded by LCCs should be available to the general public by exhibit, performance, demonstration, reading, or other means. Programs do not need to be in-person to provide public benefit. Virtual and remote programming are also effective ways to make programming available to the public while supporting efforts to maintain and promote public health.
In looking at the requirement of applicants to offer public benefit to a community, LCCs should look towards responses from their community input process to better inform their council priorities. A council’s priorities should clearly communicate any local application instructions or restrictions. These priorities can help shape the kinds of applications councils receive and possibly accept.
In accordance with state law, LCCs may not discriminate against applicants on the basis of race, gender, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, sexual orientation or age, nor may they fund projects that discriminate on the basis of these attributes.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that persons with disabilities have access to public programs or services on an equal basis with the rest of the general public. Furthermore, federal law mandates that any programs or service that receives federal or state funding must be accessible to persons with disabilities and there must be reasonable accommodation made to provide an accessible environment. Therefore, all events and programs funded by the LCCs must consider access for persons with disabilities, including the facility or event location as well as the content of the program. To ensure equitable access, an applicant’s first step is a candid assessment and identification of barriers (physical, virtual, cultural, communication) followed by a bold and innovative plan for improvement.
If an applicant puts forward a proposal for a project with strong potential for public benefit, but the Local Cultural Council has concerns about access for persons with disabilities, the council may choose to award a conditional approval (see page 12 of the LCC Program guidelines). This would allow the applicant the opportunity address the concerns and improve access as a condition of receiving the grant. For further information on ensuring accessible programming, please refer to the Accessibility page for LCCs.
LCCs are authorized to develop additional criteria and may give different weight to their criteria in order to reflect local concerns and community cultural needs. Council priorities were required to be posted on this web site by September 1. 2021.
However, due to COVID-19 and delays in the State budgeting process, in FY21 the Mass Cultural Council allowed LCCs to make limited updates to their local priorities between October 28 and November 13. LCCs were encouraged to remove requirements, restrictions, and barriers that may have been carried over from previous years, that no longer make sense given the current reality of the COVID-19 pandemic – requirements such as venue letters or online only applications for communities that have little to no internet access.
Local Cultural Councils were directed to not make changes that would make any applications submitted between October 1 and October 28 ineligible. LCCs could only make changes that broaden local criteria to be more inclusive and flexible. LCCs who chose to take advantage of this opportunity were directed to publicize the change to their community and include the date the local priorities were updated on their public webpage.
While the Mass Cultural Council can encourage LCCs and provide guidance, LCCs have the authority to determine their own local priorities and criteria each year.
Grant funds received from a local council may not be used to purchase food or beverages.
Although individual students are not eligible to apply for scholarships, an organization may apply to an LCC to sponsor a scholarship provided the LCC feels the scholarship program provides sufficient public benefit and meets all other state and local criteria.
An applicant may request reconsideration of an LCC decision on his or her application if the applicant can demonstrate that the LCC failed to follow published state guidelines and council priorities. Dissatisfaction with the denial of an application or with the amount of an award does not constitute grounds for reconsideration.
Reconsideration requests must be made in writing and must be sent to the LCC within 15 days of the date the disapproval notification was sent. The applicant should also send a copy of the request to Mass Cultural Council. The request should include:
- The council’s disapproval notification to the applicant.
- The applicant’s reason for requesting reconsideration stating how the LCC failed to follow published state guidelines or local criteria.
Within 15 days of receiving a reconsideration request, Mass Cultural Council will determine if the applicant has grounds for reconsideration, and will notify both the applicant and council of its decision via email.
If Mass Cultural Council determines that the applicant has grounds for reconsideration, the LCC must convene a quorum of members and review the application, as if for the first time. Following all published state guidelines and council priorities, the LCC must decide whether to approve or deny the grant request and must notify the applicant of the final determination in writing.
- On October 1 the online application opens.
- On October all councils have posted their funding priorities and additional requirements to their council profiles. Applicants should visit the profile of the council to which they are applying to learn of any council priorities. This is also where a council would inform applicants that they require supplemental materials, such as a support letter, to be submitted with their online application.
- Applicants can complete their forms online and upload any required supplemental materials up until the December 14 deadline at 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time.
- Between October 1 and the deadline, applicants will access the online system to complete and submit applications. A link to the application system can be found under the “Apply Now” tab for every council profile. Users will be prompted to create an account for the online application system. Once logged in, users can begin to complete their form online. Once the application is complete, it can be saved and submitted to the chosen council. Users will receive a confirmation email notifying them that their application has been submitted successfully. Applicants can still apply to more than one council. If an applicant wishes to apply to more than one council they have to complete and submit a new application for each council.
- Grant applications must be submitted to the LCC through the online system by the deadline, December 14 at 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time.
- After the deadline, online submissions will be collated by Mass Cultural Council for each LCC and delivered to the council in the form of a PDF panel book.
- Between December 14, 2020 and February 13, 2021 councils will hold voting meetings to make decisions on applications, send denial letters, and handle reconsideration requests.
- Mass Cultural Council announces LCCs’ state allocations (Date TBD)
- By March 1, councils will have submitted their Annual Report to Mass Cultural Council, and will begin to notify sucessful applicants.
- LCCs process reimbursement requests with their municipality. The time it takes LCCs and cities/towns to process reimbursements varies but can take 4-8 weeks.
- Grantees carry out their programs and acknowledge the funding they’ve received through Mass Cultural Council/LCC.
All applicants should submit their applications through the online system. There may be some councils that accept paper applications. Check the council’s priorities to learn if paper applications are accepted. If they are accepted, a Word version of the form is available upon request.