The Grant Cycle
Each town and city in Massachusetts is different. Putting into practice locally developed priorities can help LCCs to support projects that best meet the needs and priorities of their community. Mass Cultural Council encourages local cultural councils to develop their own council priorities in addition to the state criteria that LCCs use for grant evaluation. Identifying council priorities is an important step in attracting the applications for projects that best suit your community. Even when requests far outstrip available funds, it is important to make sure that local priorities are not overly restrictive and result in too few quality applications to fund. A council’s priorities should clearly communicate any local application instructions or restrictions.
LCCs are required to review and update their priorities on an annual basis.
Considerations for Council Priorities
- Fully fund a few proposals or partially fund many? If partially funded, can the projects be successfully completed?
- Require that a revised budget (and project scenario) be submitted if the proposal is funded below a certain level?
- Limit the dollar amount awarded to any one applicant?
- Limit the number of applications that any one applicant can submit?
- Require applications to have cash or in-kind matches to maximize the grant dollars being distributed in the community?
- Set a ceiling on the percentage of a project that can be funded by your LCC (e.g., a maximum 50 percent of the project’s cost)?
- Limit the number of years any one applicant can come back consecutively for funding for the same project or program?
- What aspects of field trips are eligible for funding? Tickets, travel, chaperones, guide fees?
- Allow capital expenditure requests?
Cultural Equity and Council Priorities: Examples
The Medford Arts Council has included the following cultural equity statement as their first council priority for the new fiscal year:
Cultural Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Projects that elevate the voices and experiences of historically-marginalized groups to highlight the current and historical diversity of Medford. Projects should create opportunities for artists and community members who identify as Black, Indigenous, POC, LGBTQX, refugee, immigrant, or person living with a disability. Projects may include coalition building, research, leadership, and youth development.
Developing council priorities further allow LCC members to think about creating subcommittees or smaller groups to focus on tasks or interests. These groups help actualize ideas and give LCCs more structured roadmaps for action.
Creating Council Priorities
- Gather community input.
Community input gives an LCC the information they need to make good grant decisions. Knowing what cultural activities the community values will help an LCC set their priorities. There are many ways to conduct community input. Sample community input invitations, surveys, and agendas are available on the community input page.
- Meet, draft, and vote on your council priorities.
Schedule a meeting prior to the opening of the grant cycle (September) to discuss which local priorities to implement. Discuss the results of the community input and draft council priorities and vote as a group to approve them. A sample draft of council priorities is available.
- Publicize your council priorities.
Publish council priorities no later than September 1. LCCs may also distribute hard copies at key locations in their community with instructions for accessing the application online.
- Review your policies and priorities periodically.
If new issues come up during grant review, it is important to make notes in the minutes to discuss them later when reviewing the elements of the LCC funding philosophy. An LCC should not make policy decisions during a grant cycle; it is unfair to applicants if additional criteria are introduced after they have applied, and it could trigger a reconsideration request from an applicant who felt the rules were changed without public notice.