Grants will be available for up to $10,000 for groups to complete projects improving access to the arts for people with disabilities (PWD). The program supports accessibility-specific capital projects and programmatic/management projects with significant potential to encourage the increased and long-term participation of PWD in the arts.
Eligible groups are nonprofit organizations, public entities, and informal groups with annual arts programming expenses less than $1 million. Groups must be located within, and eligible project activities must take place solely within, the seven-county metro area: Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties. Grant requests must outline specific projects that may include related costs for personnel, supplies, equipment, and other expenses needed to carry out the project.
VSA Minnesota, the state organization on arts and disability, formerly had a similar program called “ADA Access Improvement grants” that ran for ten years. This grant program was funded through MRAC dollars, but administered by VSA Minnesota. Now that VSA Minnesota has sunsetted (closed permanently) MRAC has brought this grant program back in-house. This revised grant program largely continues the focus and intent of VSA’s grant program, with some adaptations to align it with MRAC’s typical processes and policies. Access Improvement grants are the first phase of a multi-year plan. This grant program in particular will change significantly in the coming years as additional accessibility funding strategies are introduced.
The Metropolitan Regional Arts Council does not discriminate on the basis of disability in the admission or access to, or treatment or employment in, its services, programs, or activities. We at MRAC strive to provide accessibility services and accommodations proactively, and are committed to finding solutions to ensure people of all abilities are included.
These guidelines are available in a format accessible to screen reader software and translation programs on our website: mrac.org/grants/access-improvement. MRAC staff is available to assist with adapting our typical process to ensure that people with disabilities have equal opportunity to submit an application.
Please email Scott Artley at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 651-523-6384 to connect about your needs. You may also contact the front desk at 651-645-0402 or email@example.com. Office hours are generally 9 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.
Important Dates for FY20 Access Improvement Grants
MRAC Fiscal Year FY2020: July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020
Application Deadline: March 30, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.
Panel Review: Early June 2020
Earliest Grant Expenditure Date: June 24, 2020
Latest Project End Date: June 30, 2021
Before Applying – Resources
The Metropolitan Regional Arts Council is a hands-on grantmaker and program directors want to help you prepare a strong application that will be ready for panel review. We strongly encourage you to reach out to the program director before you submit an application, especially if you are a first-time applicant in the grant program. Additional assistance is provided in the following ways:
- Program Directors – MRAC Program Directors are available for questions on eligibility and program intent, project idea development, grant attachment verification, and can, upon request, review your application materials in advance of the deadline. Submit application drafts one week ahead of time (by Monday, March 23rd) to receive priority attention; drafts submitted later will be reviewed as we are able.
- Grant Application Workshops– MRAC offers free grant application workshops 3-6 weeks before the deadline for applicants to learn about the grant program and to discuss project ideas. Check the online calendar for dates and times: mrac.org/events. Access services are available by request as part of the registration process for all our events with at least one week advance notice; find details at mrac.org/access. A captioned video webinar version of the grant application workshop will be posted on the Access Improvement grant program web page (mrac.org/grants/access-improvement) by March 11, 2020.
- Online Resources– Visit mrac.org/grants/grant-resources to access templates, technical how-tos for the grant interface, links to sites to find demographic information, a glossary of terms, and a growing list of accessibility-related resources for arts organizations.
- First Fridays with Program Directors– The first Friday of the month from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. there are open office hours where you can drop in and have conversation with MRAC Program Directors. No RSVP is needed. Please check MRAC calendar in case of changes. Access services are available by request for all our events with at least one week advance notice; find details at mrac.org/access.
How to Apply & Eligibility
MRAC grant applications must be completed online and received by MRAC no later than 11:59:59 p.m. on the deadline date. To access the online portal, visit www.mrac.org and select ‘Manage My Organizational Grant.’ The online interface allows for Google Translate to access the application in a variety of languages, and to be read with screen reader software. Groups should only use one organizational grant record, while there can be multiple users per organization. Contact MRAC with any difficulties accessing the online portal, but note that technical assistance is available only until 5:00 p.m. on the deadline day. We do not accept incomplete or late applications. Please read guidelines thoroughly to ensure eligibility.
All applicant groups and project activities must be located within the 7-county (Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, Washington) Twin Cities metro area.
Applicant group must implement and manage the proposed arts project.
Applicant groups must be one of the following:
- Federally tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organizations with annual operating expenses of less than $1,000,000 in the most recently completed fiscal year.
- Federally tax-exempt non-arts organizations (such as human services organizations) and community education units with annual arts programming expenses of less than $1,000,000. Arts budgets must be isolated from the larger entity’s budget and have an advisory committee for the proposed project. Organizations must have at least two years of arts activity to be eligible to apply.
- Informal and/or unincorporated arts-focused groups with at least two years of arts activity and with expenses of less than $1,000,000 in the most recently completed fiscal year. The applicant group must have its own board of directors or advisory committee that provides input on the project and oversight of the grant funds and must have a Minnesota-based fiscal sponsor. Fiscal Sponsors must be registered with the IRS at a 501(c)3 nonprofit with a Minnesota address and be listed as a domestic nonprofit with the Minnesota Secretary of State as a Nonprofit Corporation. See Fiscal Sponsor section on page 12 for more information.
- A public entity such as a unit of state, local, or tribal government with arts programming expenses of $1,000,000 or less in the most recently completed fiscal year. Arts budgets must be isolated from the larger entity’s budget and the group must have an advisory committee for the proposed project. Organizations must have at least two years of arts activity to be eligible to apply.
Please Note: In FY20 (this round’s deadline, March 30, 2020), groups with arts programming expenses under $1 million are eligible. In FY21 (a future deadline next spring), only groups with arts programming expenses under $400,000 will be eligible, aligning with MRAC’s traditional eligibility criteria. In other words, this will be the final round open to organizations with budgets over $400,000.
Applicant groups cannot be:
- Organizations registered with the MN Secretary of State as a profit-making Minnesota business (e.g. Business Corporation, Limited Liability Corporation, Limited Liability Partnership, MN Public Benefit Corporations, etc.).
- Public, private, alternative, charter, or home schools (this includes school support organizations such as PTAs, PTOs, site councils, school foundations, etc.).
- Organizations whose main purpose is to raise funds for another person, organization, or cause.
- Organizations without at least two years of arts programming or service history by the grant deadline. In other words, organizations must have at least two years of arts activity to be eligible to apply.
This program funds:
- Newly conceived first-time efforts or established efforts with potential to involve more PWD.
- Projects that have specific beginning and ending dates within the allowable project period.
- Supplies, project overhead costs, promotional fees, access accommodations, personnel, and artistic fees directly related and necessary to the project.
- Accessibility-specific equipment and facilities improvement expenses directly related and necessary to the purpose of increasing the participation of PWD in the arts.
- Programmatic and management activities (like arts activities, leadership development, and engagement efforts) specifically designed to increase the participation of PWD in the arts.
This program does not fund:
- Groups with incomplete projects funded by a VSA Minnesota ADA Access Improvement grant. Organizations must have an approved final report for the previous project by the end of August 2020 (closing out the previous VSA grant) to receive funding from the new MRAC Access Improvement grant program. Projects funded previously may be underway at the time of application, but funds for a new project in this program will not be released until after the previous grant’s final report is approved.
- Projects that have received or are seeking support from any other MRAC grant program.
- Requests in which any portion of the activity is located outside of the 7-county metro area. Purchases can be made outside of the metro area.
- MRAC does not reimburse costs incurred before the published Earliest Grant Expenditure Date. All expenses included in the grant proposal must be incurred after this date. Including expenses incurred prior to this date will deem the entire application ineligible.
- “Incurred” means an expense for which you have made a firm promise to pay, regardless of whether you have paid yet. Examples include “contracting” or “securing” artists or venues, which would be incurred, versus “selecting” or “finalizing” them, which are not necessarily incurred.
- Project End Date: MRAC funds awarded in FY20 cannot have artistic or financial activities that extend beyond June 30, 2021. Be aware that choosing this end date may affect eligibility to receive a grant in the FY21 fiscal year as groups cannot have more than one open grant in a grant program.
- Projects that take place as part of the K-16 school-day curriculum and activities in public, private, alternative, charter and home schools. This includes costs to subsidize school participation (e.g. tickets, bussing, etc.).
- Murals, sculptures, purchase and/or installation of public art pieces, or publications without community input and participation.
- Purchase of land or buildings, endowments, debt reduction, or cash reserves.
- Capital projects to leased spaces that are not approved by the property owner in advance.
- Costs for fundraising events. This includes activities designed to raise funds for your own organization and on behalf of another person, organization, or cause.
- Activities that attempt to influence any state or federal legislation or appropriation; to support activities that are essentially for the religious socialization of the participants or audience; or discriminate against persons or groups.
- Travel expenses to or from Minnesota. You may engage an out-of-state artist or participant within your project, but their travel expenses to get to or from Minnesota cannot be included in a MRAC request.
- Expenses to purchase alcoholic beverages or to pay associated costs (servers, insurance, liquor licenses, etc.).
During this MRAC fiscal year (July 1 – June 30), groups may receive:
- 1 Arts Project Support grant
- 1 Arts Learning grant
- 1 Organizational Support grant (Organizational Development or Capital)
- 2 Management Consulting Fund grants
- 1 Access Improvement grant
- Groups can apply to both Organizational Support deadlines (Organizational Development or Capital) but may only receive one Organizational Support award per MRAC fiscal year.
- Eligible groups that have a MRAC-funded project in process may apply for a subsequent grant in the same program category if the project from a previous fiscal year is completed before MRAC’s published earliest grant expenditure date for the new project. A Management Consulting Fund project must be complete before a new one is awarded.
- Groups may not apply for funding in multiple grant programs for the same project. Each project may ONLY be funded by one MRAC grant.
- Groups with incomplete projects funded by a VSA Minnesota ADA Access Improvement grant are ineligible for Access Improvement grants. Organizations must have an approved final report for the previous project by the end of August 2020 (closing out the previous VSA grant) to receive funding from the new MRAC Access Improvement grant program. Previously funded projects may be underway at the time of application, but funds for a new project in this program will not be released until after the previous grant’s final report is approved.
The following documents will be reviewed by the panel.
You will upload several files. Document uploads must be a MS Word, MS Excel, or PDF document. Word and Excel documents are preferred because they are generally more accessible for panelists. It is highly recommended to create an Application Packet within the grant interface to assure your documents uploaded correctly; errors in formatting may have an adverse affect on your application.
Format all upload documents as follows:
- US Letter paper size (8.5 x 11) in portrait orientation with at least ¾ inch margins
- A text font equivalent to Calibri 12-point or larger (15 characters per inch), sans serif fonts are preferred because they are generally more accessible for panelists
- Use criteria headers within the document
Checklist of required files (items 1-7 are required of all applicants):
- Narrative – (one upload – no more than five pages)
- Project Personnel List – (one upload – multiple pages)
- Board of Directors/Advisory Committee– (one upload – one page)
- ADA Access Plan – (one upload – multiple pages)
- Project Expense Budget – (one upload – one page)
- Project Income Budget – (one upload – one page)
- Organizational Income and Expense – (one upload – one page)
- Landlord Letter – (if applicable) (one upload – one or multiple pages)
- Fiscal Sponsor Letter – (if applicable) (one upload – one or multiple pages)
1. Narrative (one upload – no more than five pages)
The narrative portion of your application is designed to help you outline your organization’s mission and history as well as address each of MRAC’s five criteria: Community Need & Support, Equity & Inclusion, Organizational Challenge, Organizational Solution, and Ability.
Please provide enough information to help the review panel evaluate your project in relation to EACH criterion. Assume the panel is not familiar with your group, your arts discipline, or the community you intend to serve; use the narrative to provide this information. The panel will apply all five criteria to the application as a whole.
Mission & History
- In about one paragraph, summarize your group’s purpose/mission and your arts programming history.
Community Need & Support
- How do you define your community? Describe the individuals your organization serves (i.e. artists, attendees, participants, etc.). Describe the community that your organization or group serves by describing the diversity of people within this community (e.g. racial, ethnic, cultural, age, gender, ability, geographic, and/or economic status, etc.).
- Explain how your organization or group is best positioned to engage with and support the community you have described. What shared interest, need, or demand exists within this community as it relates to your work? How is the diversity of your current community represented among your leadership, artists, and decision-makers?
- In what ways have members of the community shown their support for your project (e.g. collaborations and partnerships; financial contributions; volunteer time; in-kind donation of services, supplies or space)?
Equity & Inclusion
- Within the context of your community, describe how your organization identifies and proactively addresses barriers to engaging historically marginalized, targeted, and underserved people and identities that may otherwise have limited access to your group’s activity. Examples might include:
- IPOC (Indigenous people and People of Color including Native American, Black/African/African American, Afro Latinx, Caribbean, Chicanx/Mexican, Central American, South American, Middle Eastern/North African, Southeast Asian/Asian/Pacific Islander)
- Immigrants and/or refugees
- Economically disadvantaged individuals
- LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) people
- People with disabilities (also see additional questions below about PWD)
- In what ways has your group made attempts to be more equitable and inclusive? What specific strategies have you employed to enable the meaningful participation of communities that have had limited access to your group’s activities?
- If you are an organization or group that primarily serves a community of people identified above, how are you engaging with members of your community who are not yet connected to your work because they are also marginalized, targeted, or underserved?
- In what ways does your organization currently ensure that people with disabilities can participate? Examples might include holding activities in ADA-compliant accessible venues, providing ASL interpretation/audio description, offering large print programs or sensory tours, etc. How successful are these efforts currently?
- Describe the underlying situation – problem, opportunity, issue, or need – that your project intends to address. You must be able to name the problem/opportunity before you can accurately define a project. How will addressing this challenge advance your group’s mission?
- Who has been involved in identifying the challenge, and in determining the priorities or plan for how it should be addressed? How have PWD been involved in this process?
- What is compelling about this situation? How will addressing this challenge in particular have significant potential to facilitate the increased and long-term participation of PWD in the arts? Why is this a priority at this moment in time?
- What is the solution your group proposes to address the organizational challenge? How did you arrive at the solution, and who was involved in developing it? If this project is part of an ongoing effort or long-range plan, where does this specific phase of the project fit into the broader plan, and how does it position you to take the next steps afterward? How does this project relate to your ADA Access Plan?
- What is your work plan and timeline? What activities will you undertake? What are the specific activities or steps you will take? When will these activities take place and how long will they take to complete?
- Who are the key personnel involved in this project? If current employees or volunteers will carry out the project, explain how it will be integrated into their workloads (e.g. shift of responsibilities, extra hours). If you are hiring a contractor, consultant, or a staff member, how will their work interact with your existing personnel?
- If your project includes capital equipment purchases or facilities improvements, describe how the improvement is critical to addressing the Organizational Challenge.
- Simply removing barriers to access is not enough in this grant program—how will you proactively encourage and enable the participation of PWD during and/or after project activities?
Do you have a demonstrated ability to carry out this project? The panel will find some answers in the narrative/attachments, and repeating information here may not be necessary, but may be useful to reinforce key points. Use this section to provide any additional useful information to demonstrate that this is a well-planned project that your group can clearly achieve. The panel will consider such things as:
- Are the group’s employees/volunteers, board/advisory committee members adequately involved and qualified for their roles in this project?
- Is the project clearly “doable” given your group’s resources, project budget, timeline, etc.?
- Was there a reasonable process for selecting capital purchases/contractors? If using a consultant, how was the consultant selected, and what will their role be in the project? What specific skills, prior consulting experiences, or familiarity with your community make this consultant the best fit for this project? If hiring an employee or contractor, what is the process and the timeline for attracting a new employee? If hiring a contractor or an employee, how was this employee designation determined? MRAC maintains a database of consultants and can provide assistance in finding qualified individuals if assistance is needed
- How will you evaluate the project and its outcomes in relation to your stated organizational goals? How do these outcomes reflect that this is the best solution for the situation, challenge, or opportunity?
- How will anticipated organizational change be sustained after this grant?
2. Project Personnel List (one upload – multiple pages)
Upload a list of the key people and groups involved in your project. Briefly describe their qualifications for the project. Do not include the mission or history of your organization in this section. You may submit up to one page of information per person/group. Multiple pages must be submitted in one upload. Individuals and organizations named on this list and in the narrative must know at the time of the application that they are included in the project.
3. Board of Directors/Advisory Committee (one upload – no more than one page)
You are required to have a board of directors or advisory committee, encompassing three individuals as a minimum. Upload a one-page list of your board/committee members indicating information that may be useful in describing their qualifications to advise, such as their profession, organizational affiliation, and/or area of expertise. This is a public document so you may choose to omit contact information.
4. ADA Access Plan (one upload – multiple pages)
A board-approved (or advisory committee-approved) ADA Access Plan is a required attachment for all applicants in this grant program. An ADA Access Plan describes an organization’s plan to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, ensuring that people with disabilities can fully participate in and enjoy the activities of the organization.
An ADA Access Plan should:
- Document the current access strategies of the organization (such as hosting activities in physically accessible locations and providing ASL interpretation upon request); and
- Articulate the known accessibility barriers people with disabilities may encounter when attempting to access the organization’s facilities, programs, and services; and
- Indicate a thoughtful plan (activities and timeline) to remove barriers to equal access, whether in the short-term or long-term.
An ADA Access Plan is not:
- Solely a nondiscrimination or accessibility policy.
- Simply a list of current access strategies without plans to address additional barriers.
MRAC provides the following resources to ensure organizations are able to create or update an ADA Access Plan:
- DIY ADA Access Planning workshops will be held at MRAC leading up to the deadline. In the two-hour workshop participants learn about accessibility and start working on an ADA Plan. Reservations are appreciated but not required. Full details available at mrac.org/events.
- MRAC maintains a list of consultants who have self-identified accessibility planning services as an area of expertise, and a list of consultants who attended MRAC’s ADA Planning for Consultants training. Please reach out to your program director to request this list. We encourage organizations to apply for a Management Consulting Fund grant, which could fund consulting fees.
- Online resources from MRAC and the Minnesota Access Alliance are available to create your own ADA Access Plan from templates and assessments.
5. Project Expense Budget (one upload – no more than one page)
Your project’s total expense must equal your project’s total income.
Download and complete the Excel budget form or generate your own form with the same information in the same format. Once completed, upload a one-page project budget detailing expenses. Include all cash expenses (cash expenses are defined as money, i.e. cash, credit card, check, being spent). Do not include unrealized income such as scholarships, free/discounted tickets, or in-kind support.
Expenses included on this form should directly relate to the proposed project and only the proposed project. MRAC assumes that your entity does other programming and has additional expenses, but for the sake of this grant proposal, only include items on the budget that are project-focused. Please reach out to your program director with questions.
Capital expenses are defined by MRAC as changes to facilities and/or any piece or pieces of equipment that are expected to have a usable life beyond the scope of the project. Please contact your program director if you are unclear about whether MRAC would consider a budget item to be a capital expense. Your request may not be part of a larger capital campaign. If your total project budget exceeds $50,000, you must call MRAC staff and receive written approval before applying.
6. Project Income Budget (one upload – no more than one page)
Your project’s total income must equal your project’s total expense.
Download and complete the Excel budget form from the MRAC website or generate your own form with the same information in the same format. Once completed, upload a one-page Project Income Budget. Do not include in-kind goods and services. Include all cash income (cash income is defined as money, i.e. cash, credit card, check, being received).
Project Expense Matching Funds
If you are requesting $1-$7,000 of MRAC support you do not need matching funds.
If you are requesting $7,001-$10,000 of MRAC support, for every four MRAC dollars requested, you must match or raise one dollar from a cash source. Match sources may include general operating funds, past surpluses, other grants, or revenue you plan to raise specifically for this project, including ticket sales. All proposals are reviewed together regardless of requested amount. Requesting a smaller grant amount provides no advantage in the review process, so ask for what you need to do the project as long as you can meet the required match amount.
The MRAC grant request must be included in your Project Budget Income.
- Check your math and budget figures carefully. Project budget errors or ineligible expenses, including in the notes section, may affect your MRAC request or result in your application being deemed ineligible.
7. Organizational Income-and-Expense Statement (one upload – no more than one page)
Download and complete the Excel Spreadsheet form with income-and-expense amounts for your last fiscal year (must be a 12-month period). Include the dates of your last fiscal year (the entirety of this date range must be in the past). Please describe the circumstances surrounding a substantial year-end surplus or deficit in the space provided on the Excel Spreadsheet, or within your Narrative.
Nonprofit, non-arts organizations: Download and complete the Excel Spreadsheet with only arts programming income and expenses for your last fiscal year (must be a 12-month period). Include the dates of your last fiscal year (the entirety of this date range must be in the past). Or, generate your own annual statement with the same information in the same format and on one page. This must isolate your arts spending only and must fit on one page.
- This document should be an accurate overview of arts programming income and expenses for the organization or group and MRAC expects to see surpluses or deficits on this form.
8. Landlord Letter (if applicable) (one upload – for groups that lease space requesting funding for capital expenses)
If you are requesting funds to install permanent equipment or to make capital improvements to a space or facility you do not own, include a letter from your landlord granting your organization permission to do the work detailed in the application.
9. Fiscal Sponsor Letter (if applicable) (one upload – for informal groups only)
A fiscal sponsor is a tax-exempt organization that receives MRAC grant monies and manages the financial aspects of the project on behalf of a group that does not have tax-exempt status. Your fiscal sponsor must be a federally tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located in Minnesota, be registered with the IRS with a Minnesota address, and must be active as a Nonprofit Corporation with the Minnesota Secretary of State.
You will need to upload a letter on the fiscal sponsor’s letterhead that outlines the agreement between your organization and the fiscal sponsor. The letter must include the following:
- The name of the organization and the project being proposed
- Fiscal sponsor’s EIN which is also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number
- The mission of the applicant group
- Signature of the fiscal sponsor contact
- A date within three months of the grant deadline
Outcomes & Evaluation
Within the online grant interface, in addition to demographic information about your group and intended participants, you will be asked to submit the proposed outcomes and the evaluation plan for the project. This is for reporting and tracking purposes and is not shared with the panel, but is shared with the Minnesota State Arts Board. It is important for the application to also include this information within the grant narrative.
In two sentences, describe the measurable outcomes you hope to achieve through this project. What skill, knowledge, attitude, behavior or condition will change? Who will be affected by the change? Your answer may be brief. Examples of outcomes may include: “Student surveys showed that 65% of respondents developed new skills in this art form” or “95% of the students indicated their ability to express themselves creatively was enhanced.”
In two sentences, describe your methods for evaluating your anticipated outcomes. Examples of evaluation methods may include, but are not limited to: Audience/participant counts, Audience/participant surveys, Artist surveys, Post-performance feedback, etc.
Review and Decision Process
- Staff: MRAC staff review all applications for eligibility.
- Panel: A peer review panel reviews all eligible applications. The panel meetings are all open to the public; and applicants will be notified of the meeting; and are encouraged to attend. Panel recordings are shared in your grant record within one week of review.
- MRAC Board of Directors: The panel submits its recommendations to the MRAC board of directors who make the final decision on funding.
- Appeal: Appeals must be made in writing within 30 days of the notification of the board decision. Contact MRAC for a copy of the appeal policy.
- An authorized signer for your group or organization will need to complete an online grant agreement.
- A W9 form will need to be uploaded by the applicant. If fiscally sponsored you will need a W9 from your fiscal sponsor.
- Funds are sent via check to the address on file in the online account within one month of the signed agreement being signed. Make sure the address is current with all necessary information and mail can be received at this location.
- The group will need to use the appropriate language and logos on all promotion of the funded activities.
- Groups are required to spend the entirety of the MRAC grant award. In cases where a match was required, groups are required to raise and spend the match requirement as well as the grant award.
- An online final report is due 2 months after the project end date that was entered at the time of application. You must show expenditures at or greater to the budgeted amount or funds will need to be returned.
- Any project changes to the activities, timeline, or budget need to be approved in writing by the program director. Reach out with any questions or changes to the project before changing the project, as not all project changes can be approved.
- Overdue final reports may affect future eligibility to apply for and/or receive MRAC funding.