Equity Response Text Grant Guidelines

This webpage presents the grant guidelines in a text version for those who cannot use the pdf version of the guidelines (Equity Response Grant Guidelines).


August 31, 2020

September 28, 2020

October 26, 2020

November 23, 2020

January 25, 2021

February 22, 2021

March 22, 2021

April 26, 2021

Review our guidelines, and contact MRAC with questions or for support. Alternative formats and translation available. MRAC will need 10 business days to obtain translation services.

As one of 11 regional arts councils in Minnesota, MRAC is funded by an appropriation from the Minnesota Legislature and the Legacy Amendment Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. In November, 2008, Minnesotans passed the Clean Water, Land & Legacy amendment to the Minnesota Constitution, which created the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Proceeds from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund “may be spent only on arts, arts education and arts access and to preserve Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage.


The Equity Response Grant program provides resources for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC)-led, People with Disabilities (PWD)-led, and/or Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual/Agender, Two-Spirit (LGBTQIA2+)-led MRAC eligible groups.

Equity Response grants provide funding (up to $2500) for targeted small-scale projects as a starting or transition point for groups to support their ability to provide access to the arts in a changing environment (COVID-19 and current social change realities).

Some examples of eligible projects could be, but are not restricted to:

  • Meet a group’s needs critical to its continued ability to provide arts activities to its community:
    • Covering the costs of an organization’s responsibilities to staff and contractors for projects not already funded by MRAC, including wages and benefits, to adapt or sustain the organization.
    • Hosting a staff/board retreat and working with a consultant to create or revise a strategic or business plan.
    • Developing a plan, or even beginning work, that sets a group up for other grant opportunities.
  • Advance the group’s journey through (re-)envisioning, planning, securing necessary materials, and/or piloting new ways of working:
    • Acquiring, replacing, or repairing key infrastructure or equipment, such as those for virtual programming.
    • Paying costs to move out of a building, buy supplies for home offices, or make alternative accommodations for employees unable to return because of the pandemic.
  • Explore, initiate, or expand collaborations/strategic partnerships/resource sharing that supports a resilient arts ecosystem in the region:
    • Hosting collaborative virtual conversations aimed at coalition-building and resource-sharing across multiple organizations (such as a monthly meet-up for BIPOC artists or managing directors).
    • Producing a pop-up community artistic activity, with appropriate social distancing, responding to a social issue.



Equity Response Support Round 1
Deadline: August August 31, 2020 11:59 p.m.
Earliest Grant Expenditure Date: October 20, 2020

Equity Response Support Round 2
Deadline: September September 28, 2020 11:59 p.m.
Earliest Grant Expenditure Date: November 17, 2020

Equity Response Support Round 3
Deadline: October 26, 2020 11:59 p.m.
Earliest Grant Expenditure Date: December 15, 2020

Equity Response Support Round 4
Deadline: November 23, 2020 11:59 p.m.
Earliest Grant Expenditure Date: February 16, 2021

Equity Response Support Round 5
Deadline: January 25, 2021 11:59 p.m.
Earliest Grant Expenditure Date: March 16, 2021

Equity Response Support Round 6
Deadline: February February 22, 2021 11:59 p.m.
Earliest Grant Expenditure Date: April 20, 2021

Equity Response Support Round 7
Deadline: March 22, 2021 11:59 p.m.
Earliest Grant Expenditure Date: May 18, 2021

Equity Response Support Round 8
Deadline: April 26, 2021 11:59 p.m.

Earliest Grant Expenditure Date: June 15, 2021

The latest project end date is June 30, 2022 for all grants.

During each MRAC fiscal year (July 1 – June 30), groups may apply to any or all deadline(s), but can only receive one Equity Response program grant.

Eligible groups may also receive a Flexible Support grant.

Groups that have an open MRAC-funded project in any grant program from a previous fiscal year are eligible to apply for these new FY21 funding sources.

This grant is not an eligible income line on grant proposal budgets in other MRAC grant programs.


The Metropolitan Regional Arts Council is a hands-on grantmaker and we want to help you prepare an application that is eligible and ready for panel review.  Assistance is provided in the following ways:

  1. Online Resources – Visit the Grant Resources page (mrac.org/grants/grant-resources) to access templates, technical how-tos for the grant interface, links to sites to find demographic information, and a glossary of terms.
  2. Grant Application Workshops – MRAC offers grant application workshops to learn about the grant program and to discuss project ideas. Check the online calendar (mrac.org/events) for dates and times: mrac.org/events. Recorded workshops are also posted online prior to the deadlines.
  3. Program Directors – MRAC Program Directors are available for questions on eligibility and program intent, project idea development, and will, when possible, review your application materials for eligibility in advance of the deadline. We encourage you to reach out to the program director before you submit an application, especially if you are a first-time applicant to MRAC.


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 PDF guidelines are made to be accessible to screen reader software, and a web page version of the Equity Response Program guidelines (mrac.org/equity-response/equity-response-text-guidelines) is available in a format accessible to screen reader software and translation programs. MRAC staff is available to assist with adapting our typical processes to ensure that people with disabilities have equal opportunity to submit an application.

Please email Scott Artley, Accessibility Program Director, at scott@mrac.org or leave a message at 651-523-6384 to connect about your needs. You may also contact the MRAC’s main number at 651-645-0402 or mrac@mrac.org. Office hours are generally 9 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.


MRAC grant applications must be completed online and received by MRAC no later than 11:59:59 p.m. on deadline day. 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. 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 seven-county (Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, Washington) Twin Cities metro area.

The applicant group must implement and manage the proposed project. Groups that are new to MRAC, and those returning again, are eligible to apply.

Applicant groups must have demonstrated leadership that fits the grant priority (detailed on the next page) and be one of the following:

1. Arts groups and organizations

  1. Federally tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organizations with annual operating expenses of $400,000 or less.
  2. MRAC may ask for more information, such as an audit or a board approved financial statement, if the organization appears to have been approaching the $400,000 limit in their previous year. If a previous year’s audit is not yet finished, a contingency may be placed on that award until the audit or board approved financial statement proves eligibility.

2. Cultural groups and organizations

  1. Federally tax-exempt 501(c)(3) culturally-specific nonprofit organizations that provide arts and non-arts programming with annual arts programming expenses of $400,000 or less.

3. Fiscally sponsored groups with arts projects and annual operating expenses of $400,000 or less.

  1. A fiscally sponsored group must be comprised of at least three people.
  2. The group must have an advisory committee of at least three people that is responsible for oversight of project and grant funds.
  3. The group must have a fiscal sponsor. Fiscal Sponsors must be registered with the IRS as a 501(c)3 nonprofit with a Minnesota address and have an active registration with the Minnesota Secretary of State as a nonprofit organization.

4. Non-arts and non-cultural nonprofit organizations

  1. Non-arts and non-cultural nonprofit organizations with annual arts programming expenses of $400,000 or less. Non-arts and non-cultural nonprofit organizations must be able to isolate their arts programming revenues and expenses from non-arts and non-cultural financial activity.
  2. A public entity such as a unit of state, local, or tribal government with arts expenses of $400,000 or less.
  3. Community education units of a school district in the seven-county metro area with arts budgets of any size.
  4. Eligible nonprofit, non-arts, and non-cultural organizations must describe how this request will create access to the arts and ensure connection to audiences across the seven-county metro.

Applicant groups cannot be:

  • Individuals
  • Public, private, alternative, charter, transitional, or home schools (this includes school support organizations such as PTAs, PTOs, school foundations, etc.).
  • Organizations whose main purpose is to raise funds for another person, organization, or cause.


This program is only available to groups and organizations led by individuals who are Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Disabled/have a disability, and/or are LGBTQIA2+. To qualify as “led-by,” the applicant group’s leadership must be made up of at least 50% or more BIPOC individuals, LGBTQIA2+ people, and/or People with Disabilities (PWD).

Non-profit arts organizations: “leadership” includes your organization’s staff (paid or unpaid), board membership, and individuals who are responsible for overseeing the operations and programs of the organization. This does not include project participants.

Non-profit cultural organizations: include staff and volunteers who are responsible for overseeing arts programming. Include advisory board members. This does not include project participants.

Non-arts, non cultural non-profit organizations, government agencies, tribal councils: include individuals who are responsible for overseeing the project and advisory board members. This does not include project participants.

Fiscally-sponsored groups: includes individuals who are responsible for overseeing the operations of the group (not the fiscal sponsor). This does not include project participants.

Community Education groups: include director, staff, and volunteers who are responsible for overseeing the programs and operations of your program. In addition, include incidental Community Education leadership staff who may impact your group/program such as marketing or facilities leaders. Include relevant and mandated advisory council members and/or school board members. This does not include project participants.

This program does not fund:

  • Projects that do not uphold applicable federal, state, and local laws, rules, regulations, and ordinances in relation to the use of MRAC funds.
  • Attendance at training events/conferences outside the state of Minnesota.
  • Projects that are managed by another entity other than the applicant.
  • Projects and activities designed to raise funds/regrant/donate funds on behalf of another person, organization, or cause. MRAC funds cannot be contributed to another organization or person.
  • Projects 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.
  • Projects that include costs incurred before Earliest Grant Expenditure Date. All expenses included in the grant proposal must be incurred on or after this date. Including expenses incurred prior to this date may deem the entire application ineligible.
  • Projects for which any portion of activities take place after June 30 of the MRAC fiscal year following the one in which the award was issued are ineligible. The latest project end date is June 30, 2022. This means that the project is complete and all grant funds have been expended.
  • Projects budgets that include unrealized income such as scholarships or in-kind support.
  • Projects in which any portion of activities are located outside the seven-county metro area are ineligible. Exception: attendance at training/conference events may be outside of the seven-county metro area as long as they take place in Minnesota.
  • These dollars cannot substitute other state dollars. This includes:
    • Requests in which any portion of the project budget will be used to pay an artist or arts organization to provide essentially the same services that an ongoing teacher, teaching staff, or arts specialist previously provided or would be expected to provide in a school setting are ineligible.
    • Requests in which the project will replace discontinued or nonexistent arts programs that should be fulfilling the state’s arts curriculum requirements in schools are ineligible.
  • The purchase of real estate property.
  • Development of endowments.
  • Capital projects (facility improvements) to leased spaces that are not approved by the property owner are not eligible. No capital improvements can be made to homes. Written permission from the property owner of the space is required.
  • Debt reduction and building cash reserves.
  • Travel expenses to or from Minnesota. You may engage an out-of-state artist or consultant within your project, but their travel expense 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.).
  • Costs for relocating the applicant’s legal address/residence outside the state of Minnesota.
  • Using these funds as a match requirement for other MRAC awarded grants.
  • Project expenses that are included in another MRAC grant.



The following will be reviewed by the panel:

  • Purpose and Background (1500 characters)
  • Community (3000 characters)
  • Proposed Project (4000 characters)
  • Board of Directors/Advisory Committee (500 characters)
  • Project Expense Budget- (1000 characters)

The following will not be reviewed by the panel:

  • Fiscal sponsor letter (one upload, for fiscally sponsored groups only)
  • Property owner permission letter (one upload, if applicable)
  • Additional Data

Application Tips: You will type your application into the text boxes online. Character counts include letters, numbers, spaces, and paragraph breaks. There is no formatting (bold or italics). You may find that you do not need all the characters allotted. Do not include links in narrative text fields, the review will be limited to your application. The application system will auto-save your work every few minutes, but some applicants may wish to work in another document and paste your answers in once written. We provide templates on our website for working on your proposal before uploading it to the online form.

1. Application Narrative (Type into text boxes online. Character counts do include spaces)

The narrative portion of your application is designed to help you outline your group’s purpose and background as well as address each of MRAC’s two criteria in relation to the proposed project: Community and Proposed Project. 

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.

Purpose and Background (1500 characters)

Summarize why and how your group formed, and what it does. What is its history? What is the group’s mission or purpose for forming? In general, what kind of arts programming has it produced, and/or does it plan to produce? This section is not rated by panelists, but helps introduce your group to panelists who may not be familiar with what you do or your group’s artistic output.

Community (3000 characters)

Communities can be defined as a geographical neighborhood, or a community centered around artistic practices, or shared cultural identities.

  1. Describe your community. Consider using statistics, numbers, qualitative information, etc.
  2. How is that community included in leadership in your group or this specific project?
  3. What shared interest, challenge, or demand exists within this community that your group addresses?
  4. What is your vision for staying relevant to your community to meet their needs?

Stronger proposals will… Give reviewers enough context about the group to understand who you are, who you serve, and an idea of the journey your group is on. You may find addressing COVID-19 changes to your community is relevant here.

Be sure to answer all four questions; consider numbering your responses.

Proposed Project (4000 characters)

  1. As the purpose of this grant is to help applicants provide access to the arts in this changing environment (COVID-19 and social change realities of today), please describe your current situation/position as it relates to creating access to the arts for your community.
  2. What are the proposed activities that address your situation/position?
  3. Who will be involved in the project?
  4. When will the project take place?
  5. How will the project impact your organization or group?
  6. If your project expenses exceed $2500, how will you cover the costs beyond this grant from MRAC?

Stronger proposals will… Clearly describe project activities that are appropriately scaled to the $2,500 grant available, and how these activities are a timely opportunity to support groups’ ability to provide access to the arts in a changing environment.

Be sure to answer all applicable questions; consider numbering your responses.

2. Board of Directors/Advisory Committee (1000 characters)

MRAC applicants are required to have either a board of directors or an advisory committee; these governing bodies must encompass a minimum of three individuals. Enter in a list of your board/committee members indicating their profession, organizational affiliation, or area of expertise, etc. This document may be made available to the public so please do not include contact information. If you are applying with a fiscal sponsor, do not enter your fiscal sponsor’s board; enter your group’s advisory committee. Individuals named on this list must know that they are part of the leadership team of the applicant and know this proposal is being submitted. 

A listing might look like this: Manny Mohammad, Lawyer, Minneapolis Law Firm, Board Secretary.

3. Total Project Budget Expenses (1000 characters)

List the major expenses of your proposal with dollar amounts. The expenses listed in the Total Project Cash Expenses field must equal the expenses detailed in the text box. Your project may be larger than the amount requested in this grant program. In the text box, provide simple explanations for the expenses, ie $1000 equipment: laptop and printer, or $2000 personnel ($1200 for project manager and $800 for lead artist).

Examples of eligible expense items:

  • Contracted Artists
  • Administrative & other personnel
  • Professional fees/consultants
  • Supplies and/or capital purchases
  • Space rental
  • Equipment rental
  • Accessibility-related costs (be specific)
  • Facilities expenses
  • Administrative overhead (be specific)

Refer to the listing of ineligible expenses above. Including ineligible expenses may affect the amount MRAC will award if funded, or render the entire application ineligible.

  1. Fiscal Sponsor Letter (one upload – for fiscally sponsored 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

5.  Property Owner Permission Letter (one upload- if applicable)

If you are requesting funds to install permanent equipment or to make capital improvements to a space or facility you do not own, upload a letter from the property owner granting your organization permission to do the work detailed in the application.

  1. Additional Data

In addition to the information above, you will be required to provide details about your group and project (such as the anticipated number of adults and children your activities will serve) that is not listed in these guidelines. These are brief questions and generally can be completed quickly. We collect this for reporting and tracking purposes and the application form lists which answers are shared with the panel. Some data is shared with the Minnesota State Arts Board.


A group of volunteer peer panelists will review applications and individually score proposals. Panelists are trained on the grant guidelines and provided with a guide to help them rate each application on the two grant criteria: Community and Proposed Project. Panelists will rate each criterion on a scale of 1 through 5, where 5 is stronger. Criteria ratings are then combined for a total application score of 2 to 10. Panelists will be required to write at least one comment about their feedback and reasoning for their ratings.

The Narrative sections are the primary tool for panelists to find evidence that an application addresses the criteria. However, the panel will apply both criteria to the application as a whole—for example, there might be information in your budget that supports the strength of the proposed project, or there may be a detail in the Proposed Project narrative that reinforces that the project is effectively informed by community leaders, supporting a stronger rating in the Community criterion. However, it’s generally best to be explicit in the narrative about the ways the other parts of your proposal support a strength in each criterion. Be sure to answer all the questions posed, even if you think it’s apparent elsewhere in the application.

Rating Guide

On a scale from 1-5, where 5 is stronger, a panelist is asked to rate how well an applicant has provided evidence to support the following statements:

Rating Guide – Community

  • Applicant has identified a clearly defined community (who is in this community, who served in/by this community)
  • Applicant has demonstrated that group leadership is an authentic reflection of this community, and/or meaningfully included in project leadership
  • Applicant has identified shared interest/challenge/demands of their community
  • Applicant’s vision for how it produces arts activities is relevant to the interests/needs of this community

Rating Guide – Proposed Project

  • Applicant has described their current situation/position to create arts access to the community described
  • Project details are thoroughly considered, the scope is appropriate
  • Applicant described the individuals (and/or other groups) who will be involved with the project – their roles, why they were chosen, why they are the right choice for the applicant/project
  • Applicant provided a clear timeline for the project
  • Applicant explained how the project will impact them
  • If the project exceeds $2,500, applicant explained how they will secure the additional funding

Get Help Reviewing Your Application

You may find it helpful to get a friend or colleague who is less familiar with your organization and/or project to review your application using the Rating Guide above before submitting it to learn how you might improve.



  1. Staff: MRAC staff review all applications for eligibility.
  2. Panel: A peer review panel reviews all eligible applications. The panel reviews for FY21 will take place remotely. Panelists will receive training from MRAC staff and then will read and rate applications. Panel comments can be shared with applicants upon request.
  3. MRAC Board of Directors: MRAC staff submits the panel recommendations to the MRAC board of directors who make the final decision on funding.
  4. 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.



  • Communication regarding the grant award is via email with the contact person listed for the grant proposal.
  • 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 organizational 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.
  • For groups applying with a fiscal sponsor, a check is mailed to the fiscal sponsor to the address included in the grant application, The check is made out to the fiscal sponsor and lists the applicant in the memo line.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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