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 LCC members. Applicants apply directly to local councils.
How to Apply
Check out council profiles to learn about local priorities.
Set up a user account and profile in the grants management system (See details under “Grants Management System” below.)
Complete the online application by October 17, 2023 at 11:59pm (ET).
Questions about the LCC Program in general or application requirements for councils? Contact us.
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?
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 2,500 municipally appointed volunteers serving statewide.
A hallmark of the LCC Program is the emphasis on local autonomy and decision making. LCCs 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. LCC grants vary by council and are determined by each council. Mass Cultural Council strongly encourages LCCs make awards of no less than a minimum of $250 to each approved application. 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. Each LCC stipulates whether they provide reimbursement or direct grants on their council profile.
Applicants complete their applications online and submit them directly to the LCC to whom they are applying through the online system by the October 17 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 local guidelines and 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 17, 2023. Late applications cannot be accepted.
Types of grants: An LCC may approve grants for a broad range of projects and programs, such as operating support, ticket subsidies, field trips, artist residencies, public art, fellowships, community events/programs, site specific projects, and other activities, based on local priorities. Each LCC determines its own local eligibility requirements based on a community engagement process.
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 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 reside or be located in Massachusetts. LCCs may accept applications from anyone included in the following list. LCCs are authorized to prioritize eligible applicant types or limit which types of applicants they fund; if they do so, they must publish the eligibility in their local guidelines:
- Individuals. Individual applicants, which includes sole proprietors, must show that a public benefit results from the project for which they are applying.
- Incorporated nonprofit organizations. Organizations incorporated as nonprofits with the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
- Unincorporated associations. A group of individuals coming together with a common purpose (e.g., local community band, theater group) that do not have nonprofit status.
- Incorporated for-profit organizations. For-profit organizations incorporated with the Secretary of the Commonwealth. This includes corporations, partnerships, and Limited Liability Companies (LLC). Applicants must show that a public benefit results from the project for which they are applying.
- Tribal, federal, state, and municipal government organizations. This includes any governmental entity such as public schools, libraries, other municipal agencies, and the Local Cultural Council itself.
- Religious organizations. LCCs cannot fund activities that are “inherently religious” such as religious worship, instruction, and proselytization. Religious organizations or groups with a religious affiliation are eligible to apply for funding for a project or program that:
- Is available to the general public.
- Has purpose of benefiting the public, not the religious organization.
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 Priorities
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 support activities that contribute to the cultural vitality of the community rather than benefiting any private individual or group. However, this does not mean that a large crowd of people needs to participate to satisfy the public benefit requirement. Whenever possible, activities funded by LCCs should be available to the public or community by exhibit, performance, demonstration, reading, or other means. An important component of public benefit is advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and access. 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.
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.
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 LCC 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.
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 will be posted on this web site by noon on September 1. 2023.
While 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 should be made via email. The request must be sent to the Mass Cultural Council at our email address (email@example.com) within 15 days of the notification date on the disapproval letter (timestamp on email). Business days, weekends, and holidays count toward the 15-day limit. The applicant should also send a copy of the request to the LCC. The request should include:
- The LCC’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.
Read more about the Reimbursement and Direct Grant payment processes in the full LCC Program Guidelines (PDF).
Tax implications to grantees. LCCs and grantees should be advised that grant payments can be considered taxable income depending on a variety of factors. Most recipients of grant payments will be required to complete a W-9. Recipients should discuss the impact of any grant payment on their tax filings with a tax professional. Individuals who are the recipient of income-based benefits should not receive payment without first contacting the agency or agencies providing the benefits as one-time payments can disrupt benefits.
- Grant application opens September 1.
- By noon on September 1, LCC funding priorities and additional requirements will appear on their council profiles. Applicants should visit the profile of the LCC to which they are applying to learn of any priorities or required supplemental materials, such as a support letter, to be submitted with their application.
- Grant applications must be submitted to the LCC through the online system by the deadline, October 17 at 11:59pm (ET).
November – December
- LCCs hold voting meetings to make decisions on applications, send denial letters, and address reconsideration requests.
January – March
- LCCs submit their Annual Reports
- LCCs send approval notifications and publicize grant awards.
- LCCs begin processing reimbursement requests or direct grants.
- 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, submit reimbursement or Direct Grant materials, and acknowledge the funding they’ve received through Mass Cultural Council/LCC.
Grants Management System
All applicants should submit their applications through the online system.
To access Mass Cultural Council’s grants management system, a user account using a unique email address (your username) with a secure password is required. Each user also completes a personal profile (“My Profile”).
If you are an LCC applicant and have not applied to any other Mass Cultural Council programs, or are applying for an LCC grant for the first time, you do not have a record in the new system. Click “Register” to create a new user account/password and then select a profile type (individual or organization) to register.
- Register as an Individual if you are applying for a grant for yourself or a project you are leading. In this case you will be considered the applicant and grantee.
- Register as an Organization if you are applying for a grant on behalf of an organization, school, town, or other group. In this case the organization is the applicant and grant recipient and you are the primary contact for the application.
Start typing your organization’s name, select your organization from the list, and then complete your contact information. If your organization is not listed, follow the directions to add your organization information and your contact information to register your organization manually.
Applicants who have previously applied for LCC grants AND other Mass Cultural Council grants are likely to have a record in the new grants management system.
To see if you already have a record, go to the grants management system and click “Forgot password?” Enter your email address. If the email you entered matches the one in our system, you will be sent an email from “firstname.lastname@example.org” with instructions for resetting your password.