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UP Designation

Application Process

Applications are not being accepted to this program in FY24. The guidelines below are to provide reference only. Organizations interested in UP Designation should come back to this page in Fall 2025 for program updates.

Through the Universal Participation (UP) Initiative, Mass Cultural Council offers organizations an opportunity to join a growing cohort of UP Designated Organizations to foster idea sharing, collaboration, and effective practices focused on inclusion, diversity, equity, and access.

How to Apply

  1. Read the program guidelines below.


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


  3. Check to see if you already have a user profile in the new grants management system. (We moved many user profiles over from our previous system, so before registering, make sure you aren’t already in the system. See details under “New Grants Management System” below.)


  4. Complete and submit the online application by November 15, 2021 at 11:59pm (ET), along with two required documents (an organizational resolution and a testimonial as described under “Review Process and Criteria”).

Questions? Contact Charles G. Baldwin, Program Officer.

FY22 Program Guidelines

Program Description

The UP Designation is a distinction awarded by Mass Cultural Council to organizations for their demonstrated commitment and engagement in exemplary inclusive practices. Along with this recognition of excellence, new opportunities to learn and lead are available through grants and stipends.

Organizations that embrace inclusion, diversity, equity, and access ideals, provide training on accessibility and diversity services, engage user/experts to facilitate program and policy development, and are willing to try new solutions are strongly encouraged to apply for UP Designation.


Who can apply?

  • Massachusetts organizations with a 501(c)3 designation with the Internal Revenue Service which is currently active, in good standing with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.


  • Massachusetts-based unincorporated group/association with a nonprofit objective, or a Massachusetts-based corporation in the process of obtaining a 501(c)3 designation using a Fiscal agent. Fiscal agents can either be municipal entities or nonprofit entities incorporated in Massachusetts or registered as a foreign corporation doing business in Massachusetts.

To be eligible, applicant organizations must offer public programming in the arts, humanities, or interpretive sciences.

Participation Requirements

Participants in the Universal Participation Initiative must be willing to share details of successful strategies so that the field and the public benefit from the collective knowledge.

UP Designated Organizations must:

  • Share innovations and outcomes with the UP Initiative and the field at large.
  • Support other organizations by providing technical or experiential expertise to organizations taking part in the Innovation& Learning Network (ILN).
  • Participate in at least one of the three Card to Culture programs.
  • Fulfill the annual reporting requirements for Mass Cultural Council, so that the collective impact of the UP Initiative can be measured.

UP Designation Benefits

The UP Initiative does not provide a monetary award upon designation; however, additional opportunities are available to organizations with UP Designation.

UP Designated organizations can:

  • Tap into a wealth of knowledge and experience from the professionals within the UP Initiative.
  • Participate in the Innovation Learning Network (ILN) workshops, expediting staff awareness, and training.
  • Apply for a grant to support access through the Innovation Fund.
  • Apply for a UP Professional Development Grant to receive a stipend to attend the Kennedy Center LEAD Conference.
  • Receive nominations for Mass Cultural Council’s biannual UP Award. The UP Award is both a badge of distinction and a monetary award.

Review Process and Criteria

A panel of Mass Cultural Council staff will review applications using the criteria below and make recommendations for final approval.

UP Designation is awarded to organizations that:

  • Demonstrate that organizational behaviors and culture reflect the aspirations of the Universal Participation Initiative. This means that the organization:
    • Provides on-going training about inclusive culture and services
    • Engages user/experts to inform decision making and policy development
    • Coordinates and integrates a vision of inclusion throughout the entire organization
    • Innovates through trial and error and creative problem solving
  • Demonstrate a commitment to learning, taking action, and embracing inclusivity as a core organizational value, which is evidenced in part by the Organizational Resolution and Patron Testimonial(s) submitted with the grant application.
    • An organizational resolution approved by the applicant’s governing board*, stating a commitment to learn, take action and embrace inclusion as a core organizational value.
    • At least one testimonial from a visitor to your organization that speaks to a specific situation in which the organization demonstrated its commitment to learn, take action, and embrace inclusion as a core organizational value.

* If the application deadline occurs before the governing board votes to approve the resolution, applicants must submit the date that the organization anticipates that the organizational resolution will receive approval from the governing board. Mass Cultural must be in receipt of the current organizational resolution before the UP Designation is awarded.

Other Requirements and Legal Policies

Reporting Requirements

In efforts to measure the collective impact of the UP Initiative and to continue to improve the program through participant feedback, UP Designated organizations must complete an annual report by or before the report due date (August 19, 2022).

Length of Designation

The UP Designation is valid for five consecutive years. Organizations must complete a new application and submit a new resolution, approved by the current governing board. The new organizational resolution must express the organization’s continued commitment to the principles of the Universal Participation Initiative.

Failure to Meet Requirements

Organizations that do not meet the annual report requirement will risk losing their UP Designation.

Mass Cultural Council also reserves the right to revoke UP Designation in cases where Mass Cultural Council has concerns that an organization no longer represents the ideals of the Universal Participation Initiative. In such cases, Mass Cultural Council will first communicate its concerns to the organization and allow the organization the opportunity to respond and address the concerns to maintain its designation status. If an organization does not address Mass Cultural Council’s concerns, it will lose its UP Designation.

Accessibility and Non-Discrimination Policies

Mass Cultural Council is committed to ensuring that all personnel and service programs, 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.

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. The Mass Cultural Council will not fund any organization or program that discriminates on the basis of these attributes. We strive to reflect diversity in all activities, programs, and services removing any barriers to accessibility. The Mass Cultural Council and its grantees are expected to be in compliance 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.


Application Open: October 7, 2021

Application Deadline: November 15, 2021

Notifications: Decisions will be sent via email in December 2021

Annual Report Deadline: August 19, 2022

New Grants Management System

All applicants should submit their applications through the online system.

  1. Check to see if you already have a user profile in the grants management system:
    • Go to the online application.
    • Click “Forgot Password”.
    • Once you submit your email address, you will receive an email with a temporary password and a link to the site.
    • Copy the password to use on the login page, you will then be prompted to create a new password.
  2. If you do not already have a user profile, complete a registration in the grants management system:
    • If you are applying for a grant on behalf of an organization, school, town, or other group, register as an Organization. You will select your organization using a search field or add it if it is not listed. Individuals are not eligible to apply for UP Designation.

Proceed to the Online Application

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