The Role of Grants in the Arts

For those interested in working in the nonprofit sector of the arts, exploring the world of arts presenting organizations can be both rewarding and challenging. When working for nonprofit organizations, finding and securing substantive arts funding is an essential part of administrators’ responsibilities.

Keeping an arts organization afloat can be very difficult. Although an important goal of many organizations is to become self-sufficient through revenue from ticket sales, donors and continuing private funding sources, many arts organizations rely on public grants for the arts to cover startup expenses and fund projects — as well as maintaining operational costs.

As such, aspiring nonprofit administrators should consider a Master of Arts in Arts Presenting and Live Entertainment Management degree, which includes coursework focused on effective budgeting and securing of grants for funding from local, regional and national sources.

Types of Public Grants

Applying for and securing grants for the arts requires understanding the types of grants available to nonprofit organizations. Most grants go toward funding startup costs for new projects; continuing costs of existing projects; and the operational costs of an organization such as personnel salaries, rent, marketing and promotional costs.

Grants are generally available as one-time funding sources, although some offer a simplified annual reapplication process based on project evaluation following the grant period. Ongoing grants are less common, although they are available at times, often in the form of in-kind donations such as governmental agencies allowing the use of public buildings and materials for free or at low-cost to nonprofit organizations. Some grants award funds with no restrictions, while others are available as “matching grants” or “challenge grants,” wherein the granting agency supplies funds with the stipulation that the organization matches those funds with an agreed-upon sum from other sources, such as private donations, endowments and operational revenue.

The Grant Application Process

The application process for grants for the arts varies widely, but it generally breaks down into three categories.

Sometimes a granting entity will independently seek out organizations that they believe represent their investment strategy and organizational values. After communication between the granting body and the organization begins, the organization generally develops a project proposal, complete with mission, description of how the grant will address and support both the organizational goals and the granting entity’s goals, budgeting for short- and long-term success and funding allocation, and evaluative process throughout and at the end of the grant’s time frame for deployment.

This process also applies, generally speaking, to situations when a granting entity selects multiple organizations to solicit for proposals. Funding candidates discuss how they would apply the funds as well as why they are best-suited to serve the granting body’s strategic priorities and values. The granting entity selects from this group as opposed to opening the grant to all applicants.

A third (perhaps the most common) style of grant application process is the public request for proposal wherein the granting entity, whether a private foundation or a public one such as the National Endowment for the Arts, publishes a grant opportunity for organizations to apply for within a specific time frame. The foundation then selects an organization or project from the application pool that best addresses the grant’s purpose. Many nonprofit organizations actually hire experienced grant writers for the specific purpose of searching out and applying for these public grants.

Available Funding for Arts Presenting Organizations

There are many sources for arts funding. A simple online search will yield hundreds of grant opportunities from which to choose. Grants vary in amount from small material cost grants in the three digit range to millions of dollars for the development of endowments, in-kind contributions and grand-scale organizational development. For instance, although The National Endowment for the Arts awards grants ranging from $2,000 to upwards of $200,000, their current annual financial appropriation levels are in the $150 million range.

Overall foundational granting appropriation in the arts and other areas amounts to upwards of $40 billion dollars annually. Grant amounts must be appropriate for the project and organization they are funding. Grant writers are most successful when they know the precise budget of their projects and find grants that both align with that project’s goals and offer a financial reward appropriate to that project’s budget.

Grants for the arts are an important source of funding for an arts presenting organization’s project development, maintenance and operational costs. Studying grant writing and sourcing in an Arts Presenting and Live Entertainment Management degree program can help nonprofit professionals in arts presenting develop and ensure the financial stability of their organizations.

Learn about the Frost School of Music’s online master’s degree program in arts presenting and live entertainment management.


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