Designated County Partners

In most counties, local arts councils have been nominated by their county governments and approved by the N.C. Arts Council as Designated County Partners (DCPs) to manage the Grassroots allotment. In order to maintain its designated status, a local arts council must meet the following standards:

  • Provide support for quality programming in the performing, visual, literary and traditional arts. Programming choices are responsive to community needs and demonstrate improvement and innovation. Programming choices also engage constituents across geographic, cultural, social and economic strata.
  • Foster collaborative relationships with and provide services and support for county arts organizations and arts resources.
  • Support individual artists in the county through services and opportunities including appropriately compensating artists for services. Promote and participate in the Regional Artists Project Grant program.
  • Conduct or support arts in education programs led by qualified artists for pre-K-12 students. DCP shows commitment to comprehensive arts education opportunities for the county’s youth.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to racial and cultural equity in programming, board representation, governance, and administrative practices.
  • Demonstrate stability and fiscal responsibility through effective board and staff leadership, sound administrative practices and strategic planning. If staffed, arts councils must provide appropriate salaries and benefits.
  • Track economic impact and actively participates in county tourism and economic development efforts.
  • Maintain a history of managing the Grassroots grant responsibly and according to requirements, including meeting the deadlines for applications, fulfilling the subgranting and multicultural requirements and completing final reports.   

A complete Designated County Partner guidebook is available for download:
Download the Grassroots Arts Program guidebook »

DCPs may use up to 50 percent of their grant funds for general operating support; the remaining 50 percent must be used for arts programming as follows:

  • DCPs with county populations above 50,000 are required to subgrant at least 50 percent of their allocations to other organizations to conduct arts programs.
  • DCPs with county populations below 50,000 must use 50 percent of their funds for arts programs that they conduct or for grants to other organizations to conduct arts programs.

To ensure that Grassroots Arts Programs reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of our state, each DCP is required to spend a representative percentage of its annual county allotment on programs that reflect the diverse cultures (specifically African American, Asian American, Latino, and Native American) of its county’s population. The minimum amount a DCP must spend on multicultural programming is provided on an allocation chart by county and is available at

Grassroots Arts Program Subgrant System Overview

DCPs with county populations above 50,000 are required to subgrant at least 50 percent of their allocations to other organizations in their county to conduct arts programs. If the DCP is not required to subgrant, but chooses to, these same guidelines must be followed.

Eligibility for Subgrants

Organizations must have been in operation for at least one year. While nonprofit 501(c)(3) status is preferred, organizations that are nonprofit in nature may also receive Grassroots Arts Program subgrants.

Priorities for Funding

The first priority for awarding subgrants is to provide program or operating support to qualified arts organizations (where they exist), including theaters, symphonies, galleries, art guilds, choral societies, dance companies, folk arts societies, writers groups, and arts festivals, among others. Grassroots funds are not generally awarded to arts organizations that receive funding through the N.C. Arts Council’s State Arts Resources (SAR) Program. SAR organizations must receive prior approval from the N.C. Arts Council staff before applying for Grassroots funds.

The second priority for subgranting grassroots funds is to support arts learning and arts-in-education programs conducted by qualified artists. These can be artist residencies in schools, after-school summer camps, or adult arts learning classes. Grassroots funds may not be used for activities associated with a school’s internal arts programs such as in-school student performances, the purchase of art supplies, or student arts competitions and publications.

The third priority includes subgrants made to other community, civic, and municipal organizations that provide quality experiences for the greater community. These programs must be conducted by qualified artists.

How to Apply

DCPs submit a full application for Grassroots funds every three years. In the off years of the three-year cycle, DCPs submit an update application. The 2020-21 deadline is Monday, March 2, 2020. Applicants will submit the form electronically through the GO Smart portal ( Follow this link to view the schedule for full and update applications.

The following information will be requested of organizations required to submit a full application. These questions should be answered as they relate to the entire scope of the organization, not just as your role as a DCP. Make sure that the information you provide addresses the evaluation criteria. Organizations will also be asked to provide operating income and expense information for the last, current, and upcoming fiscal years.

County Overview

  1. Briefly describe the county you serve, including population and demographics. Describe any notable economic, social, and cultural changes in your county over the past three years. Describe how your organization contributes to the local and state economy. Include employment, visitor statistics, and other forms of economic impact you track. 

Programs and Services

  1. Describe the key artistic programs and activities your arts council has planned for 2020-21. Indicate whether these programs occur annually and how they serve the geographic diversity of your county. Describe how your program choices demonstrate improvement, innovation, and the fulfillment of the public's needs. List and describe the artists selected for these programs.
  2. Describe the services you provide to individual artists in your county and your participation in the Regional Artist Projects grant program. 
  3. Describe the overall process your organization uses to subgrant Grassroots money to other groups in your county. Include information on how you publicize the availability of funds, assistance to applicants, your application review system, and the composition of your subgrant panel. 
  4. Describe the arts-in-education programs you conduct and fund that benefit children and youth in your community.
  5. Describe how your organization engages the multicultural populations in your county. Include outreach or artistic programs you conduct and fund that are racially and culturally diverse.

Organizational Strength

  1. State the names, titles, and responsibilities of key staff members. Provide salary ranges and benefits for staff positions. Describe the system for evaluating staff.
  2. Describe your board of directors and their key responsibilities. Describe your board rotation policy and how new members are recruited and trained.
  3. Briefly describe the facilities in which your organization conducts its primary operations. Indicate whether you own, lease or occupy donated space.
  4. Describe your organization’s fundraising strategies. Include information on annual fundraising events and specify the percentage of annual revenue these activities contribute to your operating budget. 
  5. Describe your organization's marketing strategies. Include information on how you use your website and social media in promotion. Provide statistics on your website, Facebook, and any online projects or campaigns you have initiated. Explain how you evaluate the success of your online efforts. 
  6. Describe your organization's financial condition. Include information about any debt, deficits, endowment, surpluses, or cash reserves. Describe how your organization exercises effective fiscal control and accountability. Upload a financial statement or audit for your most recently completed fiscal year (2018-19). ​
  7. Describe how your organization advocates for public funding for the arts.
  8. Describe your organization’s planning process. Briefly summarize the key goals and objectives of your current long-range plan.

Work Samples

Work samples for the Grassroots application should convey the artistic quality of two or three artists that will be part of your programs planned for the grant year. For visual artists, submit 3 to 5 images using the tools in GO Smart. These images may be of work by a visual artist that will be featured in your gallery, an upcoming artist-in-residence program, or other visual arts program. For performing artists, you may upload to the online application (GO-Smart) up to 5 digital audio samples (musicians and music groups only) a short video clip, or a Web Link Collection form linking to a video on an external site.

The following information will be requested of DCPs required to submit an update application:

  1. Describe any significant changes in your organization (i.e. changes in staff, facilities, financial condition, or organizational structure) that have occurred since your last application.
  2. Provide a brief description of the programs you will conduct with your 2020-21 Grassroots funds.
  3. Attach a financial statement or audit for your most recently completed fiscal year (2018-19).
  4. Provide operating income and expense information for the last, current, and upcoming fiscal years.