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Home / Creative Youth Development / SerHacer / Application Process


Application Process

The goal of SerHacer is to support creative youth development ensemble-based music programs. These programs use music instruction as a vehicle for youth development and social change.  SerHacer is an exciting grant for schools, community music schools, conservatories, orchestras, community organizations, universities, and social service organizations to expand access to social and artistic opportunities for children and young people without access to the arts in the Commonwealth. Through direct consultation services, grants, and convenings, SerHacer is focused on working with partners around the state to support music-making that measures success not only in ticket sales, but in children and communities as well.

SerHacer-funded programs are eligible to join the Johnson String Project, which is dedicated to ensuring that all students in El Sistema-inspired programs in Massachusetts have access to high quality string instruments. More than a simple ‘donate an instrument’ program, participating organizations are guaranteed quality instruments that they can exchange as students grow, and can have them maintained and repaired at no cost.

SerHacer supports new or existing, ensemble-based music programs that:

  • Provide safe and healthy youth spaces
  • Are assets-based
  • Are youth driven
  • Foster the development of positive relationships and social skills
  • Set high expectations for growth and learning
  • Address the broader,  context in which creative youth development exists

The primary applicant for a SerHacer grant must be:

A cultural organization, or an organization with a strong programming history in music. Applicants need to be  incorporated in Massachusetts as a non-profit  and current in its tax-exempt status under IRS Section 501(c)(3).


Any school (public, charter, parochial, or independent) in Massachusetts holding a valid DESE number.

Programs currently funded by YouthReach are not eligible to apply for SerHacer.

Program Guidelines – FY2019-21

The deadline for FY19-21 SerHacer grants has passed.

The following guidelines are for reference purposes only. Guidelines will be available in the Fall of 2021 for funding from FY23-25.

Grant Amounts

Applicants should request grants of $15,000/year. Actual grant amounts will be determined by the funds available and the number of projects recommended for funding. The deadline for all applications is February 15, 2018.

Matching Requirements

All SerHacer  grants must be matched based on the criteria below. First-cycle grants can be matched with cash and in-kind support. However, in-kind goods and services may not exceed 50 percent of the match. “In-kind” refers to a donation of goods or services. Any goods or services that you do not have to pay for are considered in-kind. Free rehearsal space, donated supplies or pro bono consultant work are examples of in-kind goods and services. Staff time on this project paid for by the primary applicant should be listed as cash match; staff time on the project paid for by a collaborating organization is an in-kind donation. Funds raised by a collaborating organization specifically for the project constitute a cash match.

In all cases, grants or funds received through any other Mass Cultural Council program may not be used as matching funds.

Project Cycle Match Requirement

First-cycle projects (Years 1-3 of SerHacer funding) — 1:1 (up to 50% in-kind)

Second-cycle projects (Years 4-6 of funding) — 1:1 (cash)

Third-cycle projects and beyond (Year 7+ of funding) — 2:1 (cash)

Application Components

A complete application package includes:

  • Project summary and logic model
  • Application narrative and curriculum or schedule
  • Biographies of key personnel
  • Detailed project budget and summary
  • Collaborator list
  • First time applicants to the Mass Cultural Council should include:
  • IRS Tax-exempt Letter
  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Financial Statements for the most recently completed fiscal year

Review Criteria

SerHacer proposals will be scored using the following 100-point scale:

  • Community need and participation (30 points)
  • Program Design (45 points)
  • Program Evaluation (15 points)
  • Fiscal Management (10 points)

First time applicants to the Mass Cultural Council should also include:

  • IRS Tax-exempt Letter
  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Financial Statements for the most recently completed fiscal year


Documented need among the young people for whom this program is designed,  and documented lack of access to similar opportunities within this community for these young people. Quality programming may include:

1. Evidence that participants are culturally under-served and at particular risk.

This could be challenges such as :

  • Violence in their homes or community
  • Poverty
  • Immigration status
  • Disability
  • Incarceration
  • Mental illness.
  • Lack of support and resources in their homes, schools and communities
  • Few other arts or social service resources are accessible to this population.

2. Documentation proving there are no barriers to program participation for at-risk youth such as:

  • Prohibitive participation fees
  • Lengthy or intimidating application or audition processes.
  • Solutions have been found to address transportation and turf issues.
  • Participation is not limited to highly talented or easily engaged youth.

Also, Evidence that the community is involved in responding to the needs of the participating young people. For example:

  • The program works to change the way the community views and thinks about vulnerable young people
  • Music is perceived as an asset to build a more positive community.
  • The project coordinates appropriately with other youth-serving, cultural, and community organizations along with other efforts within the community.
  • Appropriate partners or collaborators are actively recruited and involved in meeting the needs of the young people


Evidence that the staff, collaborators, and program design will provide young people with in-depth, high-quality ensemble music experiences that are designed to encourage the pursuit of artistic excellence. Quality programming may include:

1. Program cultivates additional assets young people need to become successful adults, including:

  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Decision-making skills
  • Conflict-resolution
  • Problem-solving
  • Academic performance and navigation
  • Workforce skills.

2. Ensemble music making is the main vehicle for learning

3. Instructors have strong credentials in their discipline and as educators

4. Design of the program fosters achievement and excellence in music through rigorous intensive   ensemble work

5. Youth are given high-quality materials and space

6. Youth develop their own creative, analytical, and artistic voice

7. Youth learn to effectively mentor other students

8. Frequent performances for a broad range of audiences

9. Program design includes  the expectation of  multi-year participation from young people

10. As a result of the program, young people excel as musicians


Evidence that staff, collaborators, and program design will meet the developmental needs of participating young people:

1. Program operates as part of a larger community of support for young people. The Organization  works alongside other programs and services.

2. Program recognizes the multiple needs of young people in it.

3. Program is based on young people’s assets rather than on deficits.

4. Program identifies participants’ strengths and builds on them.

5. Staff has received adequate and appropriate training to meet students’ developmental needs

6. Staff has access to appropriate resources within or outside the organization to address issues beyond its current capacity.

7. The Program takes place in safe and healthy spaces,  for example:

  • Physical safety of program location, equipment, activities, and staff.
  • Adequate adult supervision is available.
  • Personnel receives training in procedures for dealing with emergencies.
  • Program creates an emotional safety in which participants are able to develop a sense of belonging and membership.

8. Program fosters the development of positive relationships with adults and peers.

9. Program encourages sustained, long-term involvement by participating young people and offers them expanding opportunities as they progress.

10. Youth participants, artists, and appropriate collaborators play a meaningful role in the planning process both in designing the program and throughout its implementation.

11. Young people have a meaningful voice in shaping their projects, the program and, when appropriate, the organization.

12. Young people set and monitor goals for their own achievement and assess their own progress and may be involved in decision-making.

13. Adults set high expectations for participation, growth, and learning.

14. If stipends are offered, they are connected to specific, consistent performance expectations and not merely to attendance.

15. Recruitment and implementation plans are realistic given program goals, staffing, and resources.



Effective  plans to document and evaluate the program’s impact on participating young people. Quality program evaluation may include:

1. Program evaluation  that measures  young people’s progress toward program goals

2. Systems are in place to monitor and document the changes in skills, knowledge, attitude, or behavior that the program intends to promote.

3. Staff regularly analyzes evaluation data and uses it to improve the program. When appropriate, students are included in this process.

4. Student assessment and program evaluation systems are manageable

5. Adequate time, staffing, money and other resources are in place to implement them.



Soundness of fiscal management, including diversity and reliability of financial support.

1. Cash match is met by a reasonable margin.

2. Budgeted expenses align with the proposed activities, staffing, and schedule.

3. Organization is in good financial health and has good track record of financial management and fundraising.

4. Projected funding is  diverse; the proposed program’s fate is not reliant on any one funder.

5. Income projections are sound and reasonable; specific sources have been researched and projections are reasonable, based on both the track record of the funder and their history with the applicant.

6. Staff responsible for fiscal administration is skilled and experienced.

7. There is evidence of long-term planning for the proposed program’s stability and sustainability.

Rules Pertaining to Multiple Proposals

In any single Mass Cultural Council fiscal year (July 1 – June 30), an organization may be the primary applicant for only one SerHacer grant application. However, an organization may be the primary applicant on one project and collaborate on others. Applicants to SerHacer may not receive funding through the YouthReach program, however, application for a SerHacer grant does not preclude organizations from applying to other Mass Cultural Council programs for which they meet eligibility requirements. However, funds from other Mass Cultural Council programs cannot be used to match SerHacer grants.

Review Procedures & Funding Decisions

After the application deadline, Mass Cultural Council staff review applications for eligibility and appropriateness. Ineligible and uncompetitive applications are removed from consideration. The remaining applications are passed on to a panel of independent reviewers to conduct site visits and evaluate applications according to the review criteria. Panels are comprised of administrators, artists, and youth development specialists who represent diverse geographic, ethnic, philosophical, and aesthetic perspectives. Panelists evaluate applications and make funding recommendations to the Mass Cultural Council’s board. The board considers these recommendations in the context of the agency’s available funds and makes all final funding decisions.

Site Visits

Program Site visits are a critical part of the application review process and every effort is made to have a panelist visit each applicant. The purpose of the site visit is to gain first-hand experience and direct contact with the proposed project’s key players, location, and community.

The site visit will occur during a regular working session, not a culminating event, final showcase, or performance.  In the case of multiple program sites every effort will be made to visit each defined Program site.

Site visits are scheduled ahead of time to accommodate both the reviewers’ and the applicants’ schedules.

Following is a list of required elements for the panelist during a site visit:

  • Observe “the process” in action (class, rehearsal, etc.). This is for panelists to see the interaction between adults and young people, instructional approach and flow, space, etc.
  • Talk to senior staff from the organization and key staff for proposed program.
  • Talk to someone in a caretaking/authority position with the participating (or intended) young people, outside of the program staff (parents, collaborators, case workers, or other key stakeholders as appropriate).
  • Talk to participating (or intended) young people.
  • See examples and/or documentation of completed student work.
  • Review and discuss specific evaluation/documentation tools.
  • These elements can take place in any order, so long as they are included as part of the site visit. Applicants are expected to set up the visit to accommodate these requirements.

For more on site visits, see the Site Visit Report (PDF) form reviewers complete and Preparing for Your Site Visit (PDF).

Reporting Requirements

All grant recipients are required to submit regular reports to the Mass Cultural Council detailing the project’s progress, including any changes in timeline, personnel, collaborating organizations, or content, along with annual financial information. Reports must demonstrate continued commitment to the project by all partners and be signed by officials from the primary applicant agency.

The Mass Cultural Council has the right to withhold, reduce, or discontinue funding if a SerHacer partnership:

  • Misses deadlines for grant reports.
  • Does not notify the Mass Cultural Council of changes in project collaborators or other significant changes in the project.
  • Fails to comply with the terms of the grant contract.
  • Is unable to raise the required match.
  • Demonstrates inadequate financial management and oversight.
  • Does not properly credit Mass Cultural Council support.
  • Demonstrates inadequate recruitment and/or retention of participating youth.
  • Mass Cultural Council will not release the next year’s funding until complete reports are received from the primary applicant.

Legal and Other Requirements

Access Policy

In accordance with state law, the Mass Cultural Council recognizes the importance of non-discrimination, diversity, and equal opportunity in all aspects of its programs and activities. The Mass Cultural Council is committed to access, not only as a matter of state and federal law, but also as a policy designed to encourage the participation of all segments of the Commonwealth’s population in Mass Cultural Council -funded programs. The Mass Cultural Council also considers low-income communities, rural populations, and citizens over 65 years old as underserved populations that should be proactively included in programs.

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 program or service that receives federal or state funding must be accessible to persons with disabilities. Therefore, all events and programs funded by the Mass Cultural Council must be accessible to persons with disabilities, including those with visual, hearing, mobility, and learning disabilities. Accessibility includes the facility and event location as well as the content of the program.

 Conflict of Interest

To ensure that all Mass Cultural Council review panels are free from conflicts of interest and the appearance of such conflicts, panelists are required to disclose any past, current, or prospective affiliation they or their immediate family members may have with an actual or potential applicant. “Affiliation” applies to employment, board memberships, independent contractual relationships, advisory or policy relationships, substantial contributor relationships, and other financial relationships. In addition, panelists are required to disclose any past or current adversarial relationships with actual or potential applicants of a professional or personal nature. Mass Cultural Council board members are not permitted to participate in discussion or votes related to any applicant with whom they have an affiliation or any applicants competing with that applicant.

Reconsideration Policy

An applicant may request reconsideration of a Mass Cultural Council decision on an application if the applicant can demonstrate that the Mass Cultural Council failed to follow published application and review procedures. Dissatisfaction with the denial of an award, with the amount of an award, or with the duration of an award does not constitute grounds for reconsideration. The first step in the process is to consult with the appropriate Program Manager to review the procedures that resulted in the Mass Cultural Council’s decision. If the applicant wishes to pursue a reconsideration, a written request must be sent to the Mass Cultural Council’s Executive Director within 30 days of the date of notification of the decision. Such requests will be reviewed by the board no earlier than its next scheduled meeting.

Acknowledgment of Funding

Grant recipients are required to credit the Mass Cultural Council in all print, audio, video and internet materials, and all publicity materials (such as press releases, brochures, posters, advertisements and web sites). Detailed information will be provided in the contract package mailed to grantees.

To Apply

All items are required for an application to be considered complete. Incomplete applications will affect the outcome of an application. Email and faxed materials are not acceptable.

  • Review the Program Guidelines (above) to ensure that you understand the SerHacer Program rationale.
  • Contact Program Manager Erik Holmgren to confirm eligibility. You can ask any questions you may have about the program.
  • Create an organizational profile to access the online application forms.
  • (Please note: Usernames/Passwords created for previously-submitted CIP-Gateway, Cultural Districts, Cultural Facilities Fund, YouthReach, and/or SerHacer applications can all be used.)

Complete the online application, comprised of the following elements:

  • Project summary and logic model
  • Application narrative and curriculum or schedule
  • Biographies of key personnel
  • Detailed project budget and summary
  • Collaborator list

First-time applicants to the Mass Cultural Council must include:

  • IRS Tax-Exempt Letter
  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Financial Statements for the most recently completed fiscal year

Click the “final submission” button of the application by the deadline.

The electronic application will then be automatically received by the Mass Cultural Council.

The electronic submission of all the application pages and support materials listed above constitutes the final application.

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