February 1, 2023
Virginia: Grants Portfolio Update
From time to time, state arts agencies will revisit their funding categories, to recalibrate them to a changing environment. The Virginia Commission for the Arts (VCA) recently completed such a grants review. Some goals of the process were to:
- clarify points of entry into the agency’s programs;
- respond to feedback from grantees, panelists, commission members and staff; and
- streamline grant systems.
In 2022, VCA conducted meet-and-greet forums around the state to gather input on constituent needs. These conversations, combined with input from planning town halls and a review of past awards by the commission and staff, informed changes to the agency’s grant guidelines for FY2024. The updated grants portfolio includes a mixture of old and new grant opportunities now organized under a three-part structure:
- Partnership grants: operating support and local matching funds designed to forge strong local partnerships
- Impact grants: project support for cultural activities that benefit communities and students
- Artist engagement: fellowships, touring and teaching artist roster opportunities, and funds that help presenters and schools hire artists of various genres
Highlights of key guidelines changes include:
- Operating support for small organizations: A new program creates opportunities for flexible, recurring support of small arts organizations with annual budgets of $5,000 to $150,000.
- Community Impact grants: Framing the agency’s project support categories as “Community Impact” investments will help both VCA and its grantees to communicate the public value of their awards.
- Education Impact grants: This program now aligns with Community Impact grants and emphasizes how these grants are awarded for lifelong learning opportunities.
- Strategic alignment: Adjudication criteria have been revised to align with the agency’s guiding principles around artistic excellence, operational excellence and community engagement. Revised criteria include consideration of how an agency (1) fulfills its mission, (2) operates in a sound and strategic manner, and (3) engages underserved, under-resourced and under-represented audiences/communities.
- Application streamlining: Certain questions have been simplified on grant applications.
- Application review: For small awards, utilizing staff and commission (rather than panel) reviews will expedite funding decisions and ensure that state funds used for panels are reserved for the largest and most topically specific grants.
- Rebranding: Materials relating to the new grants reflect VCA’s new brand, which debuted in fall 2022. The brand includes a fresh logo, a new Americans with Disabilities Act–compliant website and new brand guidelines for grantees.
More meet-and-greet events—hosted by staff, commissioners and community organizations—will introduce the new grants framework, encourage applications and introduce prospective grantees to the agency. Virtual technical assistance workshops also are being conducted. For more information, contact VCA Senior Grants Officer Cathy Welborn.
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