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Applications from organizations must be submitted electronically by Monday, May 3, 2021, unless otherwise noted in the guidelines. Emailed, fax transmissions and late applications will not be accepted. Online applications will be available on March 15, 2021.
Arts Council staff conducts a preliminary review of each proposal submitted. Applications that are incomplete or do not meet the evaluation criteria will not be considered for funding.
For most grants, the funded activities must take place between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022. Any exceptions will be noted in the guidelines. Please note that award notices may not be sent until August 2021.
All applicants are required to have a DUNS number. Instructions for looking up or requesting a free DUNS number are available on the Dun & Bradstreet website.
Funding Policies and Eligibility Requirements for Organizations
The Arts Council advises the Secretary of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources on policies and programs. The Arts Council has the discretionary authority to make recommendations on grants and programs that it feels will best aid all the arts in North Carolina. To assist in its decision-making, the Arts Council establishes guidelines for all grant programs.
To be eligible for Arts Council funding, organizations:
1) Must be a nonprofit organization (or an organization that has applied for non-profit status using a fiscal agent*);
2) Must have been producing quality arts programs for at least two consecutive years;
3) Must have prior-year organizational cash operating expenses of at least $20,000.
Tribal organizations must represent North Carolina or federally-recognized tribes.
The Arts Council recognizes that more than one-fourth of the state’s population is African American, Asian American, Latino, and Native American people. The Arts Council strives to provide a representative portion of grant funds for arts programming that reflects the racial and ethnic diversity of the state.
In reviewing grant applications, the Arts Council takes into account all state funds to which an applicant has access or which the applicant has received. The Arts Council makes lateral grants to other state government organizations on a limited basis for distinctly innovative projects.
Colleges and universities may receive grants for programs that are community-based or generate area-wide arts involvement. Grants may not support the institution’s internal programs.
Most Arts Council grants provide funds to hire accomplished artists to present or produce their work or to conduct arts programs. Projects that involve hiring student or avocational artists generally are not eligible for funding directly from the Arts Council.
To encourage public/private partnerships, the Arts Council requires most grantees to match grant amounts one-to-one with funds from other public or private sources. If the grant amount and matching funds are not spent during the designated project period, remaining grant funds must be returned to the Arts Council.
Grantees are held accountable for following all regulations related to project implementation and the expenditure of funds. Grantees who do not comply with these regulations may be ineligible for future funding. See Grantee Requirements for complete compliance conditions.
Nonprofit Status Requirement
Organizations receiving grants must be nonprofit with tax-exempt status under Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, as amended, allowing contributions made to them to be deductible under Section 170. Usually, this status is 501(c)(3). A copy of the applicant’s IRS determination letter for tax-exempt status must be on file with the Arts Council. Organizations must maintain their nonprofit status by filing IRS reports, including Form 990, as appropriate.
Organizations that are seeking tax-exempt status but do not yet have the required IRS determination letter may apply for grants through a fiscal agent for up to three years.
A non-profit organization with tax-exempt status may act as a fiscal agent for an applicant organization that has applied for, but not yet received its tax-exempt status. In cases where a grantee is using a fiscal agent, both the fiscal agent and the grantee organization are fiscally and legally responsible for all grant requirements.
A copy of the letter from the IRS stating that the application for tax-exempt status has been received or a copy of the application submitted to the IRS is required with the application support materials.
The fiscal agent is responsible for the expenditure of all project funds and is liable for the repayment of any grant funds not spent or spent incorrectly. The fiscal agent may charge the grantee for its services. More information on the requirements of fiscal agents can be found under Grantee Requirements.
Any exceptions to the policy, such as in the case of the Arts Equity Project Grant, will be noted in the respective grant guidelines.
Conflict of Interest Policy
State legislation requires grantee organizations to have a conflict of interest policy for their board of directors and management employees regarding the expenditure of state funds. A new, recently notarized copy of the organization’s conflict of interest policy must be included with the grant contract if the application receives funding.
Grant Application Assistance
Arts Council staff can arrange to meet with applicants with disabilities virtually, in our offices which are wheelchair accessible, or in another location that may be more convenient. Grant guidelines are available upon request in alternative formats. Please refer to our Grant Application Resources and Assistance page for more details.
Accessibility Requirements for Grantees
All North Carolina Arts Council grantees are required to sign a contract certifying that they will comply with Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Applicants may include costs for making programs more accessible (i.e. sign language interpreters and audio descriptive services) in their application budgets. See Section 504 Self-Evaluation workbook here. The Arts Council’s grant categories provide funding for arts programs for people with disabilities. Our staff can provide guidance and assistance for applicants and ADA resource materials upon request. For more information please contact our Visual Arts Director & Accessibility Coordinator.
Special Provisions for Rural/Low Wealth Counties
Applicants in or serving counties designated as Tier 1 by the N.C. Department of Commerce are not required to provide a one-to-one match in certain grant categories and may request 75 percent to 100 percent funding of their project costs. These applicants must make a strong case for financial need in their proposal narratives.
An up-to-date list of Tier 1 counties is available on the N.C. Department of Commerce's County Distress Ranking page.
Grant Review Process
Applications received by the Arts Council are thoroughly reviewed by the staff. All applications are then reviewed by one of ten Arts Council panels. Panels are comprised of several Arts Council board members and additional arts professionals with expertise in a particular art form or arts area. After careful review and deliberation, panels make their recommendations for each grant. Recommendations are reviewed and approved by the board and submitted to the Secretary of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, who has final approval of all grant decisions. Award notices are typically sent to applicants in early August.
North Carolina Arts Council grant funds are awarded at the discretion of the Arts Council panels and board and the approval of the Secretary of Natural and Cultural Resources. The Arts Council’s decision-making is guided by published evaluation criteria that require independent qualitative judgment on the part of the panelists, board members, and the Secretary. As a result, the Arts Council’s decision on an application may not be appealed based upon a differing opinion of its artistic content or program merit. However, any applicant may appeal an Arts Council decision on procedural grounds. Within 30 days of formal notification of the final grant award or application rejection, an applicant may appeal a decision by stating in writing to the Executive Director of the N.C. Arts Council the specific procedures that were violated in the consideration of the application. Appeals will be reviewed by the Executive Committee, which will recommend a course of action to the board. The board will then make a recommendation to the Secretary of Natural and Cultural Resources, whose decision shall be final.