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Three disabled and non-disabled dancers perform on a white outdoor stage, which opens up to a majestic background of trees, rolling hills and sky. In energetic unison, the three dancers curl into a ball, with lower limbs raised and upper limbs wrapped protectively around their heads. David and Zara balance on their tailbones, and Janpi balances in a one-handed wheelie in their wheelchair. All three dancers wear royal blue knit cropped shirts and matching pants.

Operating Grants for Organizations

Frequently Asked Questions

Getting Started

Why can’t I see the ‘Operating Grants for Organizations’ under ‘Current Opportunities’ in the grants management system?
Either because:

  • Only organizational entities are eligible to apply for Operating Grants for Organizations. If your profile is set up as an individual applicant account, used to apply for grants for individuals, you cannot see the grant opportunities meant for organizations. Individuals are not eligible to apply to this program.


  • If you are an authorized representative of an eligible organization, you should login with the account associated with that organization. If your organization does not already have an account, you will need to register and create an organizational profile using a different email address than the one associated with your individual account previously used with our grants management system.

After you login to your organization’s account or register as an organization and set up your password, the Operating Grants for Organizations grant will display under ‘Current Opportunities’.

Please note: Seeing ‘Operating Grants for Organizations’ in the ‘Current Opportunities’ section is not a confirmation that your organization is eligible for this grant program.


My organization’s primary mission or purpose is not related to the arts, humanities, or interpretive sciences but does incorporate a creative practice into my work and does some cultural activities. Can I still apply?
Unfortunately, no. There are numerous industries that benefit from creativity. We value the creative energy you bring to this work. However, this program aims to support the cultural sector. So, while we appreciate your creativity in your respective field, we cannot award grants to organizations, collaboratives, and businesses that do not have a primary mission of arts, humanities, or interpretive sciences.

How do you define arts, interpretive sciences, and humanities?
As it relates to this program, Mass Cultural Council uses the following definitions:

The Arts are the creation of work in the crafts and performing, visual, media, folk, design, literary, and interdisciplinary arts. They also include the presentation and preservation of, and education about, works in these disciplines.

The 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.

The Interpretive Sciences are limited to the cultural, interpretive, and educational expression of science and refers to 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.

Can we apply to this program and still receive our CIP Portfolio grant?
No, an organization cannot apply for Operating Grants for Organizations and still receive their Portfolio grant. If your organization chooses to apply before your Portfolio grant expires, then you will be relinquishing your Portfolio grant. If you wish to relinquish your portfolio grant and apply, please contact program staff.

How do I know what year my CIP Portfolio grant expires?
This information is available in the organizational profile in the grants management system. Login to the grants management system account for your organization, click on ‘Organization Profile’, then go to the ‘CIP Portfolio Information’ tab. The ‘Portfolio Grant Expiration (Fiscal Year)’ is the first piece of information under that tab, and this lists the year that your Portfolio grant expires. For instance, if it lists FY24 as your expiration year, then you will not receive a Portfolio grant in the coming year (FY25) and will need to apply for the Operating Grant for Organizations program.

If we have received other grants from Mass Cultural Council (such as Cultural Sector Recovery or Cultural Facilities Fund) can we still apply for this program?
Yes, having received past funding from Mass Cultural Council does not impact an organization’s eligibility for this program.

Are Cultural Districts eligible?
Cultural Districts are not eligible to apply for Festivals & Projects or Operating Grants for Organizations. All Cultural Districts receive a separate non competitive grant from Mass Cultural Council. This is true for Cultural Districts that have incorporated, and for Cultural Districts managed by municipalities or independent 501(c)3 organizations.

501(c)3 organizations that also manage a Cultural District:
The 501(c)3 organization may only apply for Operating Grants if it has operations that are independent of the Cultural District. Their application can mention that they are the manager of the Cultural District, but should not include the activities of the Cultural District as activities of the managing organization. If the Cultural District and the 501(c)3 are substantially the same organization (no separate programs/activities) they are not eligible.

A municipality can apply to Operating Grants for a program other than a Cultural District, if it meets the eligibility requirements for a Cultural Affiliate. They should start a profile in our grants management system for the Cultural Affiliate, identifying the municipality as the parent organization.

Can I apply to Operating Grants for Organizations and Festivals & Projects? How does that work?
Yes, organizations are eligible to apply to both Operating Grants for Organizations and Festivals & Projects. However, an organization can only receive funding from one of these programs.

If an organization’s application for Festivals & Projects is recommended for a grant (notifications are anticipated in September), they have the option to either accept it immediately or defer acceptance until the Operating Grants for Organizations application review process concludes (notifications are anticipated in November). If they choose to accept the grant immediately, they will no longer be considered for an Operating Grant.

Should an organization be awarded an Operating Grant, that grant takes precedence, and the Festivals & Projects grant will be reassigned to another applicant. If an organization is not awarded an Operating Grant, their Festivals & Projects grant will be released for payment.

How do I measure how much of my organization’s programmatic work takes place in Massachusetts?
This could be a calculation of the location of total performances, hours of programming, a ratio of expenses, or other. There will be room in the application to describe how your organization measures your work.

Does my organization have to offer in-person programming?
No, in-person programming is not an eligibility requirement. However, organizations do need to have 50% or more of their programmatic work take place in Massachusetts and demonstrate how they support Massachusetts artists, culture bearers, creative practitioners, humanists, and/or scientists.

My organization is a Cultural Affiliate, what does it mean to manage our own budget?
The Cultural Affiliate should have the ability to determine how to allocate their resources consistent with the mission and intent of the Cultural Affiliate, and the approval of the parent organization.

For Cultural Affiliates, what expenses should we include in calculating whether or not we meet the $50,000 minimum expense requirement?
You should report on the full cash expenses (not in-kind) for running the operations of the Cultural Affiliate, including all overhead that is charged to the program, including staff costs. You should be able to verify these costs with reports from the parent organization.

Can the staffing requirement for Cultural Affiliates be spread out over multiple positions for a total of 30 hours?
No. For Cultural Affiliates, there must be at least one full-time employee who works a minimum of 30 hours per week that is solely dedicated to the operations of the program or department that is applying as a Cultural Affiliate. This requirement cannot be spread out or divided amongst multiple part-time positions.

What do you mean by ‘publicly available’?
These operating grants are intended to support organizations 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 publicly available requirement. Funded organizations should have programming that is available to the public or community by exhibit, performance, demonstration, reading, or other means.

What do you mean by programming that ‘intentionally serves portions of the general public requiring specific accommodations’?
Mass Cultural Council recognizes that portions of the general public require specific accommodations to engage in or experience the arts, humanities, and/or sciences. Programming intentionally serving these populations are also eligible for funding. Examples are seniors in care centers, incarcerated individuals, persons with disabilities, persons in recovery programs, etc.

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 and would not be eligible.

We are a degree-granting school (college, university, K-12 public, private, charter, or independent school), and we have programs in the arts, humanities, and/or sciences. Can we apply?
If your degree-granting school has programs that are intended for the general public, rather than your own students, you might be eligible to apply for that specific program as a Cultural Affiliate. Please see the eligibility criteria for Cultural Affiliates in the program guidelines and contact program staff to discuss eligibility.

We are a newer organization and do not have three completed fiscal years, can we still apply?
Unfortunately, no. Due to how grants are calculated, organizations without financial reporting for the three most recently completed fiscal years are not eligible to apply.

We are not a new organization, but only recently got our 501(c)3 status, so do not have three years of 990s, can we still apply?
Unfortunately, no. Nonprofit organizations must have 990s for their three most recently completed full 12-month fiscal years in order to be eligible to apply.

Our organization had expenses over $50,000 for two out of the three required fiscal years, but not the most recent two fiscal years, can we still apply?
Unfortunately, no. Applicants need to meet the eligibility as stated in the guidelines.

We have 990 or 990EZ forms for FY23 and FY22, but in FY21, we filed a 990N. Can we apply?
An applicant needs to provide tax forms for the three most recently completed, 12-month fiscal years in their application. If the first of the three fiscal years reported was a full 12 months, and the organization filed a 990N (which is allowed for organizations under $50,000 in revenue), you can provide a copy of your 990N postcard, combined with your internal financial report for the first of the three fiscal years reported.

How can I tell if my organization is incorporated in Massachusetts?
Your organization should be registered with the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. You may search for your organization using the search function on the Corporations Division’s website. When you find your organization, you can click on your organization’s record to see the status of your incorporation and any related filings.

My organization is a nonprofit but does not have any full-time employees, can we still apply?
Yes, as long as your organization meets all of the eligibility requirements. Having paid employees is not a requirement for nonprofit organizations and only applies to Cultural Affiliate organizations for this program.

We are not a nonprofit or do not have our own 501(c)3, but do have a fiscal sponsor with a 501(c)3, can we apply?
Unfortunately, no. Organizations are not eligible to apply with a fiscal sponsor for this program.

What is the difference between being fiscally sponsored and being a Cultural Affiliate?
An entity that is fiscally sponsored has entered into an agreement with an organization that has its own 501(c)3 status so that it can have some of the advantages of being a tax-exempt organization without taking the steps to be incorporated or get its own tax-exempt status. The sponsored entity chooses which fiscal sponsor they wish to work with. The fiscal sponsor enters into contracts on behalf of the sponsored entity and is responsible for making sure that any funds are spent on behalf of the tax-exempt purpose. Either the sponsor or the sponsored entity can end the relationship.

‘Cultural Affiliate’ is the name that we give to programs that are part of a larger tax-exempt organization that is not eligible to apply on its own behalf. The Cultural Affiliate is a part of the parent organization, which ultimately has the right to control the Cultural Affiliate. Examples of Cultural Affiliates include art museums and literary magazines at universities, or arts programs that exist within social service organizations or community centers. These entities do not have the ability to simply move the program (for example, the art museum) to another parent organization.

What is an Access Plan, and are there examples available?
Organizations are not required to submit an Access Plan with this application, nor are they being reviewed by the Agency. However, your organization’s Access Plan should be kept on hand (with the regular updates) and would need to be seen if there should ever be an access audit or a grievance that becomes litigious.

Access Plans are both iterative and responsive and determined by the priorities of the organization. This is a living document that should be updated regularly based on evaluation and regular improvements. Per the eligibility requirements, we are asking organizations to attest that they have an Access Plan and understand their organization’s responsibilities under the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504.

Sample plans and considerations can be found online: National Endowment for the Arts’ Accessibility Planning and Resource Guide for Cultural Administrators.

Application Components & Review

How do I choose which of the optional sections to complete?
You should review the questions and the criteria (including this FAQ) and choose the section that best reflects your organization.

Can I change which section I choose after I begin the application?
Yes. In the application you will select from a drop-down menu to indicate which section you have selected. That is the section that will be reviewed. Any text that is in the section that you didn’t select will not be reviewed.

Do I have to describe a specific project for the application?
No, because the funds are for general operating support, they are not tied to a specific project.

Our FY23 tax documents are not ready, what do we submit instead?
You can submit tax documents for FY22, FY21, and FY20 if you have not yet filed your FY23 taxes.

What is a ‘fiscal year’?
A fiscal year is a one-year period that companies and governments use for financial reporting and budgeting. A fiscal year is most commonly used for accounting purposes to prepare financial statements. Fiscal years are referenced by their end date or end year and are often referred to as, ‘FY 2023’, ‘FY23’, or ‘fiscal year ending June 30, 2023’.

Although a fiscal year can start on January 1 and end on December 31, not all fiscal years correspond with the calendar year. For example, for government offices in Massachusetts, the state fiscal year starts on July 1 and ends on June 30.

If I don’t meet all of the prioritization points, should I still apply?
Yes, we encourage eligible organizations to apply even if they do not meet any or all of the prioritization categories.

What grants count as receiving funding in the past?
Only direct grants from the Mass Cultural Council (such as Cultural Sector Recovery, Cultural Facilities Fund, YouthReach, and Festivals & Projects) will be considered for prioritization.

Receiving Local Cultural Council grants will have no impact on your application and are not counted toward having received funding in the past for this program.

How will the narrative questions be reviewed?
Each of the application’s narrative sections (below) 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

Read more about the Scoring Rubric for Narrative Questions.

What do you mean by ‘demonstrate equitable practices’ and ‘demonstrate commitment to equity’?
Mass Cultural Council seeks to support organizations that are ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion in their external and internal work. Equitable practices include but are not limited to accessibility work, financial accessibility, racial equity, anti-racism work, decolonization, gender parity, and/or pay equity.

Applicants will show how they have worked to incorporate equitable practices that make their organization and its programming accessible to, and reflective of, their communities both internally (in their organization through programming, membership, employment, or other practices), and externally (in their communities).

What do you mean by ‘support Massachusetts’ artists, humanists and scientists’?
Mass Cultural Council seeks to support organizations that are providing support to Massachusetts artists, culture bearers, creative practitioners, humanists, and/or scientists.

Applicants will demonstrate how they support creative individuals in Massachusetts, offering opportunities for creative expression, sustainable employment, education, service to the field, and other actions that enable creative individuals to thrive in Massachusetts. Examples may include employment or volunteer opportunities, service organizations (entities that primarily provide services to assist or promote the arts and/or artists), acting as a fiscal agent, emerging artists programs, professional development programs, artist residencies, training programs, and providing a space, platform, or showcase to exhibit, produce, or perform creative work.

What do you mean by ‘advance the cultural sector’?
Applicants will show how their organization’s work advances the cultural sector. This can be through providing service to the sector, pushing the boundaries of their discipline, developing new work, teaching the next generation of practitioners, engaging in economic development or placemaking, supporting unique forms, and/or working in partnerships or collaborations at the intersection of culture and other social issues such as healthcare, social justice, disability rights, civil rights, etc.

What do you mean by ‘engage their community deeply and authentically’?
Applicants will show an understanding of the communities they are serving and demonstrate how their work and internal practices reflect the needs, voices, and identities of those communities. This can be through partnerships and community connection; opportunities for community engagement, participation, and/or input; filling unique community needs; providing hands-on experiences; providing culturally specific programming or services.

Can I be an application reviewer if I work for, even on a part time or volunteer basis, an organization that is applying this year?
No. To ensure that all review panels are free from conflicts of interest and the appearance of such conflicts, reviewers 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, reviewers are required to disclose any past or current adversarial relationships with actual or potential applicants of a professional or personal nature.

Grant Amounts & Timeline

How do I determine what grant amount to ask for?
You do not request a specific grant amount. Grants are determined based on a formula calculation.

How does the formula for grant amounts work?
The formula that is used to determine grant amounts is calculated on the following:

  1. A three-year average of your cash expenses as reported in your form 990 or 990EZ, or other required or approved financial reporting.

    Cash expenses are verifiable by IRS form 990/990EZ, and/or other financial report form provided by, or approved by Mass Cultural Council. Cash expenses do not include in-kind support, fiscal sponsorship monies, grant making expenses, or other pass-through funds.

  2. Equity Impact Points: Additional weighting to align with Agency goals and priorities.
  3. The total funds allocated to the Operating Grants for Organizations by Mass Cultural Council based on our annual legislative appropriation.

Will the grants for this program be comparable to Cultural Investment Portfolio (CIP) grant amounts?
Yes, both this program and the current cycle of CIP offer grants starting at $6,000.

When will maximum grant amounts be announced?
Grant maximums will be announced when award notifications go out in November 2024.

Do Cultural Affiliates receive the same grant amount as other organizations?
The maximum grant amount for a Cultural Affiliate is one-third of the largest grant amount for the program, and no single parent organization will receive more than the current maximum grant in combined Operating Grants for Organizations and Cultural Investment Portfolio (CIP) funding.

Are future budgets or organizational growth considered when determining grant amount?
No. The grant amount is calculated based on a formula that considers a three-year average of your organization’s cash expenses. The grant amount is recalculated each year, so if your organization’s expenses increase, it might result in an increased grant amount in future years.

Is there a matching requirement?
No, there is no matching requirement for this grant.

I won’t be able to complete the application by the deadline. Can I get an extension?
Unfortunately, no. The deadline to complete the application is 11:59pm (ET) on June 13, 2024, and we will not be able to accept applications submitted after the deadline.

When will I know if I will receive funding?
Grant announcements will be made in November 2024. Grant notifications will include information on the next steps required to receive your grant contract and the payment.

If I meet the eligibility requirements and I apply, will I definitely receive a grant?
Applicants are not guaranteed to receive a grant because we will likely receive more applications than we will be able to fund.

Can I make a change to an application that I have submitted?
Prior to the application deadline (June 13, 2024, at 11:59pm ET), you can contact us to reopen your application so you can make changes. You MUST re-submit the application by the deadline. Once the deadline has passed, you will not be able to change your application content, unless you are specifically contacted by staff requesting revisions.


Since this is a multi-year grant, will I need to do any kind of reapplication or reporting if awarded?
Grantees will not need to reapply during their award period but will need to complete an annual report for each year that they receive funding.

Will we need to complete the SMU DataArts’ Cultural Data Profile (CDP) each year if awarded?
No, organizations will need to complete an annual report, but we will not be using the CDP as the annual report.

 What is the grant period and when do the funds need to be spent?
The grant period is July 1, 2024-June 30, 2025, and funds will need to be spent by the end of the grant period, June 30, 2025.

What can the funds be spent on?
As this program is for general operating support, the funds are unrestricted, and can be used to cover any of your organization’s expenses.

What are significant organizational changes that we would need to notify you about?
These organizational change can include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Elimination of public programming.
  • Changes to the organization that make the organization ineligible for funding (ex: losing your tax-exempt status, or moving principal operations out of state).
  • Changes in mission and/or programming to non-eligible activities.
  • Changes to mission and/or programming that deviate significantly from the mission and programming that were in place when the organization’s application was approved for funding.
  • If an organization merges with, or is taken over by another organization or program, the new organization will be reviewed to ensure that the mission, organizational structure, and programming are eligible for continued funding.

What could cause my funding to be suspended?
An organization’s funding may be suspended if they:

  • Have not resolved a contract hold by the given deadline.
  • Temporarily fail to meet eligibility requirements (for example: temporary suspension of public programming, grant formula expenses drop below $50,000).
  • Do not complete the annual reporting requirements by the extension deadline.

If my funding was suspended, can it be reinstated?
For an organization’s funding to be reinstated, they must continue to meet eligibility requirements and complete all annual reporting requirements for the following year, even though their funding is suspended.

Additional Questions?

Technical questions about the online application or grants management system? Contact our grants team.

Programmatic questions about application requirements? Email our program staff or call 617-858-2825.

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