NASAA Notes: March 2021

March 3, 2021

Pennsylvania: Equitable Operating Support

Children at the Taller Puertorriqueño’s Art Education Programs for Children and Youth. (Taller Puertorriqueño is a long-time Arts Organizations and Arts Programs grantee of PCA’s, located in Philadelphia). Photo by Senia Lopez

The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) recently announced a new grant-making strategy designed to increase funding equity for Black, indigenous and/or people of color (BIPOC) and rural communities. BIPOC and rural groups—which tend to be smaller-capacity organizations rooted in communities with fewer resources—face numerous historical inequities and obstacles to securing funding for the arts. To reverse this trend in its own grant making, PCA has modified its policies for general operating support grants distributed through the Arts Organizations and Arts Programs (AOAP) funding stream, which funds more than 300 Pennsylvania cultural organizations each year.

In conjunction with a new strategic plan adopted in 2019, PCA made an explicit commitment to promoting equitable access to the arts. To inform revision of the AOAP program, which is PCA’s largest grant funding pool, the agency conducted a rigorous analysis of its historical funding practices and formulas. The analysis showed that PCA often devoted the largest grants to organizations that already had the greatest capacity and invested much less in smaller organizations—such as those in BIPOC and rural communities—where the opportunity and need for community development is great. PCA engaged in dialogue with rural communities, BIPOC organizations and equity experts and created a special council task force to consider policy alternatives. As it was formulating its new guidelines, the agency also consulted with grantees, the governor’s office, legislative leaders and other stakeholders to build understanding of historical funding gaps and highlight ways in which rectifying past inequities would be beneficial to Pennsylvania communities while better reflecting the demography and geography of the state.

PCA’s revised AOAP strategy departs from long-standing formulas that determined grant awards based on budget size. Instead, the new policy utilizes two simple funding tiers—one for rural and BIPOC organizations and a second for nonrural/non-BIPOC organizations. For fiscal year 2021, BIPOC and rural grantees will each receive a total of $26,000, and non-BIPOC/nonrural grantees will each receive a total of $13,000. While BIPOC and rural organizations will realize increases in their grant amounts through this strategy, so, too, will 171 AOAP grantees in the latter funding tier whose typical PCA funding levels fell below $13,000. Organizations receiving funding reductions were contacted individually to orient them to the new tiers and provide a forum for questions and answers about the policy change. Matching requirements were waived for all AOAP grantees for fiscal year 2021 to accommodate the high degree of financial stress nonprofit arts organizations are experiencing due to COVID-19.

For more information about PCA’s new grant guidelines, tier definitions or policy development process, please contact Director of External Affairs and Public Awareness Norah Johnson.

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