City opens $ 2 million grant program to help nonprofits in the creative sector


The city has launched another emergency relief program for arts organizations, with $ 2 million in federal assistance available to nonprofit groups linked to local arts and cultural communities.

Nonprofit Arts and Culture Relief Grant will provide 100 grants of $ 20,000 to local creative sector groups whose fundraising and event revenues have been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic . Applications for the grants were opened yesterday and close on August 2, with informational webinars scheduled for today and full guidelines for applicants available on

City council approved funding for the program in June, using money provided to the city by the American Rescue Plan Act. From that same round of federal funds, the Council also allocated $ 6 million for the general arts ecosystem, $ 4 million for the city’s music ecosystem, and up to $ 1 million in Austin Civilian Conservation funds. Bodies that can be used for efforts related to the creative sector.

City employees gave an overview of the grant program at the Arts Commission meeting last month, noting that it was created to be easier to apply for and allow more flexibility in how funds can be used.

Arts groups filed as 501 (c) 3 or 509 (a) are eligible and must have an activity history of two years from the opening of the application period.

Eligible applicants will be assessed using a scoring matrix to determine winners, rather than through a lottery system as has been used in some previous Covid relief grant programs.

Groups with a significant presence or ties to historically underserved communities in Austin are strongly encouraged to apply.

“One of the most significant changes from previous rounds of nonprofit funding for this (cycle) is that it is not reimbursement-driven, so organizations do not have to provide received during the application period, ”said Laura Odegaard, head of the city’s cultural arts program. Division.

“That way it makes it easier for organizations to apply faster, and removes the barrier of previous grants that didn’t allow repayment of income from sales, donations and things like that. There will also be no lottery system for this grant, which creates more transparency, supports those in urgent need and allows us to lead with fairness.

Last year, the Council included nonprofit groups of all kinds in a $ 6 million grant program funded by the federal CARES Act, although only $ 1 million was allocated to the creative sector. These awards also varied in amounts and were capped at $ 20,000 each, with over 160 groups applying for this round of funding.

During discussion of the program at last month’s meeting, Arts Commissioner Amy Mok said the city’s creative nonprofit groups were severely crippled by capacity limits for public events and gatherings. in general.

She said the groups need as much help as possible to regain a solid financial footing.

“We need to provide funding to these organizations to fill their financial cushion, as a lot of their resources have been lost due to lost income,” she said.

“A lot of these organizations… whatever cushion they had, was exhausted to the bone. From a business perspective, it’s really hard not to have the amount of reserve or cash flow needed to run a business. “

The local creative sector was one of four priority areas identified by the Board when deciding how to spend ARPA money. Other main concerns included homelessness, public health, workforce development, child care and direct emergency assistance to those in need.

Sylnovia Holt-Rabb, deputy director of the economic development department, said applicants will be rated based on the fairness and diversity of their board and leadership positions, the overall size of the group and the level of financial urgency.

Once scoring is complete, the rewards will be administered by the Better Business Bureau in descending order based on those scores.

Holt-Rabb said council members were keen to set aside federal funds for creative nonprofits, which have already faced financial challenges due to rising costs of land, property taxes and others. affordability factors.

“They are still suffering and this industry is essential for Austin because the creative community is the secret sauce everyone wants,” she said.

“The Council resolution gave us a specific direction to dedicate funding to nonprofits for creatives to the tune of $ 2 million. We took what we learned from the first nonprofit grant as well as the feedback we received from the community to launch this new nonprofit arts grants program.

photo by RL Cheng / CC BY-SA 4.0.

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