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Operating Grants for Organizations

Application Process

Operating Grants for Organizations provides multi-year, unrestricted operating grants to nonprofit organizations and cultural affiliates that enrich Massachusetts’ cultural life.

Además, usted también puede solicitar la traducción de los materiales de la aplicación y que estos se le sean enviados digitalmente. Este proceso tardará de 5 a 10 días hábiles.

Mass Cultural Council is happy to offer alternative formats, auxiliary aids, translation, interpretation, and other services necessary so that any individual can participate in Mass Cultural Council’s programs and services. Contact staff for help. To facilitate your request in a timely manner, please contact us at least three weeks before any Mass Cultural Council event or grant deadline.

Mass Cultural Council aims to build a diverse and equitable creative and cultural sector in the Commonwealth. To that end, historically underfunded organizations are encouraged to apply, including but not limited to Native American, Indigenous, or Urban Indian organizations, BIPOC organizations, d/Deaf & Disability organizations, and organizations serving vulnerable populations.

How to Apply

  1. Read (and listen to) the program guidelines below and the Frequently Asked Questions. Download a sample application (PDF).


  2. Watch the recorded information session, download the slide deck, and/or drop-in on virtual office hours to learn more about the program. One-on-one virtual support is also available. Mire la grabación de una sesión informativa en español, descargue la presentación PPT en español.


  3. Learn more about requesting an accommodation for accessibility or requesting translation services​.


  4. Create a user profile or login to your account in the grants management system. (Details under “Grants Management System” below.)


  5. Complete and submit the online application by June 13, 2024 at 11:59pm (ET).


Questions? Join our virtual office hours, contact program staff, or call 617-858-2825.

Program Guidelines

Eligibility (Who Can Apply)

The following organization types are eligible to apply:

  1. Nonprofits that are independent and have active (not revoked or dissolved as of the application deadline, June 13, 2024):

    a. 501(c)3 status with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

    b. Nonprofit Corporation status according to the Secretary of the Commonwealth (SOC), meaning they are either:

    i. Incorporated in MA.


    ii. Incorporated as a Nonprofit Corporation in another state, but registered as a foreign corporation in MA, with a MA legal address.

  1. Cultural Affiliates: This is the name that is given to semi-independent programs that operate under a non-cultural parent organization.

a. Cultural Affiliates can include:

i. Departments/Programs of a Massachusetts:

      1. Federally-Recognized Tribal Government
      2. State Government (including public colleges or universities)
      3. Municipal Government
      4. 501(c)3 organization that is not eligible to apply on its own (including private colleges, universities, or conservatories)

ii. MA branch/program of a national 501(c)3 organization

b. Cultural Affiliates must also meet both of the following criteria:

i. Manage their own budget. (Refer to the Frequently Asked Questions for more guidance.)

ii. Have at least one full-time (min. 30 hours per week) compensated administrative staff position dedicated solely to operation of the cultural entity.

Eligible organizations must meet the following criteria:

  1. The organization’s primary mission or purpose is creating, presenting, or providing services in the arts, humanities, and/or interpretive sciences.
  2. Over 50% of the organization’s programmatic (not administrative) work is in Massachusetts.
  3. The organization contributes to the cultural vitality of Massachusetts by providing programming that is publicly available, or intentionally serving a specific portion of the general public, rather than benefitting any private individual or group.

a. A college or university providing programs to its own students, or an organization that only provides programming for its donors, members, or other limited audiences is not considered to be serving specific portions of the general public for this program.

b. Programs of K-12 public, private, charter, or independent schools are typically not eligible for this program unless they meet certain programmatic requirements. We recommend that you contact program staff before starting an application. (Refer to the Frequently Asked Questions for more guidance.)

  1. The organization must:

a. Be able to provide required financial reporting for the three most recently completed, 12-month fiscal years. (Refer to the Frequently Asked Questions for more guidance.)


b. Have minimum expenses of $50,000 for each of the past two, full 12-month fiscal years.

  1. The organization must have an Access Plan that illustrates compliance with or improvement towards the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Each applicant organization may only submit one application. Cultural Affiliate applicants with the same parent organization may each apply.

Organizations receiving funding from Mass Cultural Council’s Cultural Investment Portfolio (including Gateway) may only apply for Operating Grants for Organizations if FY24 is their final year of Portfolio funding. Organizations may apply to Operating Grants for Organizations and Festivals & Projects but will only receive a grant from one, if successful in both programs. Cultural Districts are not eligible to apply to this program. Organizations that manage a Cultural District might be eligible. (Read the Frequently Asked Questions for more information.)

Application Components

The application consists of narrative sections and a financial section.

Narrative: Provide an overview of the organization, including a description of its core programming. The applicant then answers two required sections and chooses one of the other two sections that best suits their work.

Required Sections

      1. Organizational overview
      2. How does the applicant demonstrate equitable practices
      3. How does the applicant support Massachusetts’ artists, humanists and scientists

Choose one of the following two sections:

      1. How does the applicant engage their community deeply and authentically
      2. How does the applicant advance the cultural sector

Financial Section

      1. Answer a few questions about the organization’s financial operations
      2. Upload the tax forms (990 or 990EZ) for the organization’s three most recently completed, full 12-month fiscal years. In most cases, this will be FY23, FY22, FY21, but for some organizations, this will be FY22, FY21, FY20.

a. Cultural Affiliates: programs of parent organizations that do not have their own tax reporting will be required to report their financial information on a budget form that is included in the application.

Additional Information

To better understand and serve organizations through our suite of organizational grant programs, applicants will be asked to provide some additional information about the organization and its programs. This information might be used to help identify grant programs that are aligned to the applicant’s needs.

Application Review Process

Mass Cultural Council staff review all applications to confirm eligibility. Mass Cultural Council will make every effort to ensure accuracy but cannot be held accountable for missing or incorrect information in the relevant sources.

Eligible applications will be forwarded to a grant review team that will include a diverse group of individuals who are knowledgeable about the cultural sector. The review team will assign scores to the applications based on the review criteria applicable to all applications.

Individuals who are interested in signing up to be a reviewer should register online.

No one will be eligible to participate as a reviewer in a program where their application is being reviewed. All reviewers are subject to the Commonwealth’s Conflict of Interest policies.

Review Criteria

Through this program, we aim to support cultural organizations that celebrate, preserve, and inspire creativity, and use the arts, humanities, and/or interpretive sciences to support transformational change and strengthen communities.

Mass Cultural Council works to build a diverse and equitable creative and cultural sector in the Commonwealth, ensuring that all who practice and participate in creative and cultural expression see themselves in it.

Each of the following narrative sections of the application will be reviewed separately, with its own set of criteria and rubric:

      • Support Massachusetts’ artists, humanists and scientists (required)
      • Demonstrate equitable practices (required)
      • Advance the cultural sector
      • Engage their community deeply and authentically

Please read about the Scoring Rubric for Narrative Questions and Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Funding Prioritization

Mass Cultural Council envisions a diverse creative and cultural sector that is valued as essential in the Commonwealth. To that end, priorities have been established to support programmatic practices that advance equity, diversity, and inclusion through our services to the sector.

Prioritization will include the following:

      • Applicants that have not received funding from Mass Cultural Council in the last three fiscal years (FY24, FY23, FY22), or that are applying for the first time. This does not include grants awarded by Local Cultural Councils.
      • Applicants that self-identify as led by and serving people of the global majority — Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Latinx, Asian, Native American, Pacific Islander, and all other ethnicities of color. (Applicants wishing to make this BIPOC Centered Organization identification will need to fill out a form in the Agency’s grants management system.)
      • Applicants participating in the Agency’s Card to Culture program. Applicants may sign-up for this voluntary non-granting program in the Agency’s grants management system.

Equitable Distribution

Mass Cultural Council reserves the right to ensure equitable distribution of funding across the Massachusetts cultural sector – funding proportionate to the number of eligible applications – considering a variety of factors. This may include, but is not limited to, equitable distribution across geography, discipline, and budget size. Additionally, Mass Cultural Council reserves the right to place grantees in the most appropriate and/or advantageous grant program to ensure that our resources serve the cultural sector as broadly as possible.

Grant Amounts

Not all eligible applicants are guaranteed funding.

We anticipate the minimum grant amount for FY25 will be $6,000. Final grant amount ranges will be determined after the applications are submitted, depending on the amount of funding available for Operating Grants for Organizations, based on our annual legislative appropriation and the number of applicants to the program. Grants are made for one year and renewable annually for up to five years. Grant amounts will be redetermined annually.

Grant amounts are based on a formula, which uses a three-year average of an applicant’s cash expenses and includes weighting to align with Agency goals and priorities. Cultural Affiliates – entities working under a parent organization – may have additional caps applied to their individual or collective grant amounts. Read the Frequently Asked Questions for more information on how the formula works.


Application Opens: March 14, 2024
Information Session: March 20, 2024 (1pm ET)
Application Deadline: June 13, 2024 (11:59pm ET)
Applicant Notification: November 2024
Annual Report Due: June 3, 2025

Grant Payment

To receive the funds awarded through this program, grantees must complete the following documentation:

      • CASL (Contractor Authorized Signatory Listing) form
      • Electronic Funds Transfer Form/W-9
      • State Contract and attachments

All the necessary documents will be sent via DocuSign to grantees to complete. Grantees who do not have a bank account that the funds can be transferred to can notify the Contract Officer at the time of award notification to request a mailed check. For Cultural Affiliates, the grant contract will be with the parent organization and the grant is restricted to the activities of the Cultural Affiliate.

Mass Cultural Council will make every effort to expedite payments as quickly as possible.

For more details, you can read detailed instructions about the Agency’s contracts, as well as contract Frequently Asked Questions.

Grant Requirements

Grantees must complete the annual reporting requirements to be eligible for a grant in the next year. The following reporting requirements MUST be completed by 11:59pm (ET) on June 3, 2025 to avoid penalties to your grant for the following year. Grant requirements include:

  1. Acknowledgement of Funding: Grantees are required to credit Mass Cultural Council for funding. Refer to your Contract Package or the online Credit and Publicity Kit for more details.
  2. Annual Report: Grantees will be expected to complete an annual report that includes a financial reporting section where you will be required to upload the most recent three years of 990s or 990EZ, or other required or approved financial reporting (Cultural Affiliates). This will be used to calculate one of the formula factors to determine grant amounts for the following year.

Because information from the annual report is required for grant calculations, if you do not complete all the requirements by the June 3, 2025 deadline, there will be a 25% penalty to your grant for the following year. You have an extension to June 10, 2025. If you still haven’t completed your requirement by this time, your organization will be suspended and not eligible to receive a grant for the following fiscal year.

Annual Report Extension Policy

Extensions may be granted on a case-by-case basis for organizations facing extraordinary circumstances. Please notify Mass Cultural Council Staff as soon as possible to request an extension.

Tax Document Delay Policy

For those grantees submitting a Form 990 or Form 990EZ for FY24 for their final report, if you have been notified by your auditor or accountant that these tax documents will not be completed in time to meet the deadline, please notify Mass Cultural Council Staff as soon as possible to request an extension. Extensions may be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Suspension, Holds, Reductions, and/or Removal from Funding

Mass Cultural Council may suspend funding if an organization does not meet annual grant requirements. If the organization’s funding is suspended for two consecutive years, they will be removed from the grant program and will need to reapply.

Additionally, Mass Cultural Council has the right to withhold, reduce, discontinue funding, or apply restrictions to the use of grant funds if an organization:

      • Intentionally misrepresents their finances, programming, or other eligibility requirements.
      • Does not notify Mass Cultural Council of significant organizational changes.
      • Encounters a situation that creates grave concerns about an organization’s ability to effectively and ethically operate. These concerns could include but are not limited to the following:
        • Violation of ethics and standards as determined by professional associations in an organization’s field or discipline.
        • Operations in violation of the provisions governing the operations of public charities.

In cases where an organization experiences serious organizational capacity issues, Mass Cultural Council will attempt to work with them to address the challenge. Read the Frequently Asked Questions for more information on suspensions, holds, reductions, and/or removal from funding.

Legal and Other Requirements

Accessibility and Non-Discrimination Policy

Mass Cultural Council is committed to ensure that all programs, services, 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. To facilitate your request in a timely manner, please contact us at least three weeks before any Mass Cultural Council event or grant deadline.

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 based on 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 comply 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 if the applicant can demonstrate that Mass Cultural Council did not follow published guidelines and procedures. Dissatisfaction with the denial of an award or the award amount does not constitute grounds for 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 Mass Cultural Council Grants Committee and the governing Council.

Grants Management System

All applicants should submit their applications through the grants management system. After you log in, the application is located under “Current Funding Opportunities”. If you have not applied to Mass Cultural Council before on behalf of your organization and/or do not already have a user profile, you must register in the grants management system.

      • Go to the grants management system and click “Register”.
      • On the next page select “Organization”.
      • Your organization may already exist in our system. Use the “Organization Name” search to find it. If you cannot find your organization in the list, you must register your organization in our system.
      • After completing the registration, you should receive an email from “” to activate your account.
      • Please activate your account within 48 hours.

If you have previously applied for a Mass Cultural Council grant using your email address, you may have a profile in the system already. Here’s how you can check:

      • Go to the online system and click “Forgot Password”.
      • Once you submit your email address, you will receive an email from “” with a link to reset your password. The link is active for 48 hours.
      • If you do not receive an email, you do not have an account and you should create one using the instructions above.

Contact grants help desk if you have questions about your account.

Proceed to the Online Application

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