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Program Guidelines - FY2018

Program Description
The goal of SerHacer is to support the growing number of intensive, creative youth development ensemble-based music programs that use music instruction as a vehicle for youth development and social change. Inspired by the work of El Sistema, SerHacer brings together public schools, private schools, charter schools, community music schools, conservatories, orchestras, community organizations, universities and social service organizations to work together to expand access to social and artistic music-making opportunities for the 193,000 children living in poverty and countless more without access to the arts in the Commonwealth.  Through technical assistance, grants, and convenings, SerHacer is focused on working with partners around the Commonwealth to support music-making that measures success not only in ticket sales, but in children and communities as well.

Eligibility Requirements
SerHacer supports new or existing, innovative, ensemble-based music programs that:

  • Provide safe and healthy youth spaces

  • Are assets-based

  • Are youth driven

  • Foster the development of positive relationships and social skills

  • Set high expectations for growth and learning

  • Address the broader, cross-sector context in which creative youth development exists

The primary applicant for a SerHacer grant must be:

A cultural organization or an organization with a strong programming history in music incorporated in Massachusetts as a non-profit organization and current in its tax-exempt status under IRS Section 501(c)(3).


Any school (public, charter, parochial, or independent) in Massachusetts holding a valid DESE number.

Programs currently funded by YouthReach are not eligible to apply for SerHacer.

Grant Amounts
Applicants should request grants of $15,000/year. Actual grant amounts will be determined by the money available and the number of projects recommended for funding. The deadline for all applications is February 15, 2018.

Rules pertaining to multiple sites
In an effort to support the growth of Creative Youth Development work throughout the Commonwealth in the most efficient way possible, organizations that are operating in multiple Program Sites (defined below), may request up to an additional $5,500 for each additional Program Site where services are being delivered to young people. For example, if an organization were currently working in 3 sites they would be eligible to request a grant of up to $31,000 ($20,000 for the initial Program Site and $5,500 for each additional Program Site).

A Program Site operated by an organization is a separate SerHacer program located at a physical location where services are delivered to a unique set of young people who are predominantly not engaged at the organization’s other Program Sites and conducted by separate staff. Multiple physical locations for the same program at an organization which serve the same young people in all locations is not considered separate Program Sites for the purposes of this section. Mass Cultural Council will determine it is sole considered discretion the eligibility of separate Program Sites.

Matching Requirements
All SerHacer grants must be matched based on the criteria below. First-cycle grants can be matched with cash and in-kind support. However, in-kind goods and services may not exceed 50 percent of the match. "In-kind" refers to a donation of goods or services. Any goods or services that you do not have to pay for are considered in-kind. Free rehearsal space, donated supplies or pro bono consultant work are examples of in-kind goods and services. Staff time on this project paid for by the primary applicant should be listed as cash match; staff time on the project paid for by a collaborating organization is an in-kind donation. Funds raised by a collaborating organization specifically for the project constitute a cash match.

Note: Match requirements will vary in future cycles according to how long a project has been funded through SerHacer as follows:

Project Cycle

Match Requirement

First-cycle projects (Years 1-3 of SerHacer funding)

1:1 (up to 50% in-kind)

Second-cycle projects (Years 4-6 of funding)

1:1 (cash)

Third-cycle projects and beyond (Year 7+ of funding)

2:1 (cash)

Review Criteria
Below are the criteria that review panels use to evaluate SerHacer proposals. The application is available online.  A complete application package includes:

Project summary and logic model
Application narrative and curriculum or schedule
Biographies of key personnel
Detailed project budget and summary
Collaborator list

First time applicants to the Mass Cultural Council should also include:
IRS Tax-exempt Letter
Articles of Incorporation
Financial Statements for the most recently completed fiscal year

SerHacer proposals will be reviewed using the following criteria on a 100-point scale:

  • Community need and participation (30 points)
  • Program Design (45 points)
  • Program Evaluation (15 points)
  • Fiscal Management (10 points)

Documented need among the young people for whom this program is designed and documented lack of access to similar opportunities within this community for these young people. Quality programming may include:

  1. Application documents that the participants are culturally underserved and at particular risk because they face challenges such as violence in their homes or neighborhoods, poverty, immigration status, disability, incarceration or mental illness.
  2. Beyond the proposed program, participants lack support and resources in their homes, schools and communities; few other arts or social service resources are accessible to this target population.
  3. Documentation proving there are no barriers to program participation for at-risk youth such as prohibitive participation fees or lengthy or intimidating application or audition processes. Solutions have been found to address transportation and turf issues. Participation is not limited to highly talented or easily engaged youth.

Evidence that the broader community is involved in responding to the needs of the participating young people.

  1. The program is working to change the way the community views and thinks about vulnerable young people and the ability of the music to build a more positive and livable community.
  2. The project coordinates appropriately with other youth-serving, cultural, and community organizations along with other efforts within the community.
  3. Appropriate partners or collaborators are actively recruited and involved in meeting the needs of the young people

Evidence that the staff, collaborators, and program design will provide young people with in-depth, high-quality ensemble music experiences that are designed to encourage the pursuit of artistic excellence. Quality programming may include:

  1. Ensemble music making is the main vehicle for learning
  2. Instructors have strong credentials in their discipline and as educators
  3. Instructional design of the program fosters accomplishment and excellence in music through rigorous intensive ensemble work
  4. Youth are given high-quality materials and space
  5. Youth develop their own creative, analytical, and artistic voice
  6. Youth learn to effectively mentor other students
  7. Program design includes frequent performances for a broad range of audiences
  8. Program design includes opportunities, partnerships, or planning around multi-year participation from young people
  9. As a result of the program, young people excel as musicians

Evidence that staff, collaborators, and program design will meet the developmental needs of participating young people.

  1. Program operates as part of a holistic community of support for young people rather than isolated from other programs and services. Program recognizes the multiple needs of the participating young people and integrates its efforts with those of other providers.
  2. Program is based on participating young people’s assets rather than on deficits. Program identifies participants' strengths, builds on them, and cultivates additional assets young people need to become successful adults. Such assets might include skills (interpersonal, communication, decision-making, conflict-resolution, problem-solving, academic, or workforce skills), knowledge, attitudes, and/or behaviors.
  3. Staff have received adequate and appropriate training to meet students' developmental needs and have access to appropriate resources within or outside the organization to address issues beyond current program or staff capacity.
  4. Program takes place in safe and healthy spaces (i.e., physical safety is taken into consideration regarding program location, equipment, activities, and staffing; adequate adult supervision is provided; personnel are knowledgeable regarding procedures for dealing with emergencies; program creates an emotional safety in which participants are able to develop a sense of belonging and membership).
  5. Program fosters the development of positive relationships with adults and peers.
  6. Program encourages sustained, long-term involvement by participating young people and offers them expanding opportunities as they progress.
  7. Youth participants, artists, and appropriate collaborators play a meaningful role in the planning process both in designing the program and throughout its implementation.
  8. Young people have a true voice in shaping their projects, the program and, when appropriate, the organization - beyond program feedback forms. Young people set and monitor goals for their own achievement and assess their own progress and may be involved in decision-making.
  9. Adults set high expectations for participation, growth, and learning.
  10. If stipends are offered, they are connected to specific, consistent performance expectations and not merely to attendance.
  11. Recruitment and implementation plans are realistic given program goals, staffing, and resources.

Effectiveness of plans to document and evaluate the program's impact on participating young people. Quality program evaluation may include:

  1. Program evaluation measures the young people's progress toward program goals; systems are in place to monitor and document the changes in skills, knowledge, attitude, or behavior that the program intends to promote.
  2. Staff regularly analyzes evaluation data and uses it to improve the program. When appropriate, students are included in this process.
  3. Student assessment and program evaluation systems are manageable and adequate time, staffing, money and other resources are in place to implement them.

Soundness of fiscal management, including diversity and reliability of financial support.

  1. Match is met by a reasonable margin.
  2. Budgeted expenses align with the proposed activities, staffing, and schedule.
  3. Organization is in good financial health and has good track record of financial management and fundraising.
  4. Projected funding is sufficiently diverse; the proposed program's fate is not reliant on any one funder.
  5. Income projections are sound and reasonable; specific sources have been researched and projections are reasonable, based on both the track record of the funder and their history with the applicant.
  6. Staff responsible for fiscal administration is skilled and experienced.
  7. There is evidence of long-term planning for the proposed program's stability and sustainability.

Deadlines & Timeline:

February 15, 2018

Application Deadline

March 2018 - May 2018

Site visits for applicants seeking SerHacer funding

June 2018

SerHacer panels review proposals

July 2018

Governor signs new fiscal year budget

August 2018

Mass Cultural Council reviews panels’ funding recommendations

September 2018

Funding decisions announced

November 2018

80 percent of fiscal year 2018 award issued

July 2019

Final Reports Due, remaining 20 percent of fiscal year 2018 award issued

August 2019

Mass Cultural Council reviews staff recommendations for second-year funding

September 2019

Funding decisions announced

November 2019

80 percent of fiscal year 2019 award


Rules Pertaining to Multiple Proposals
In any single Mass Cultural Council fiscal year (July 1 - June 30), an organization may be the primary applicant for only one SerHacer grant application. However, an organization may be the primary applicant on one project and collaborate on others. Applicants to SerHacer may not receive funding through the YouthReach program, however, application for a SerHacer grant does not preclude organizations from applying to other Mass Cultural Council programs for which they meet eligibility requirements. Funds from other Mass Cultural Council programs cannot be used to match SerHacer grants, however.

Review Procedures & Funding Decisions
After the application deadline, Mass Cultural Council staff review applications for eligibility and appropriateness. Ineligible and uncompetitive applications are removed from consideration. The remaining applications are passed on to a panel of independent reviewers to conduct site visits and evaluate applications according to the review criteria. Panels are comprised of administrators, artists, and youth development specialists who represent diverse geographic, ethnic, philosophical, and aesthetic perspectives. Panelists evaluate applications and make funding recommendations to the Mass Cultural Council's board. The board considers these recommendations in the context of the agency's available funds and makes all final funding decisions. For details on the decision-making process, see the timeline above.

Site Visits
Program Site visits are a critical part of the application review process and every effort is made to have a panelist visit each applicant. The purpose of the site visit is for panelists to gain first-hand experience and direct contact with the proposed project’s key players, location, and community.

The site visit will occur during a regular working session, not a culminating event, final showcase, or performance.  In the case of multiple program sites every effort will be made to visit each defined Program site.

Site visits are scheduled ahead of time to accommodate both the reviewers’ and the applicants’ schedules. Following is a list of required elements for the panelist during a site visit:

  • Observe “the process” in action—class, rehearsal, etc.—so that panelist can see the interaction between adults and young people, instructional approach and flow, space, etc.
  • Talk to senior staff from the organization and key staff for proposed program.
  • Talk to someone in a caretaking/authority position with the participating (or intended) young people, outside of the program staff (parents, collaborators, case workers, or other key stakeholders as appropriate).
  • Talk to participating (or intended) young people.
  • See examples and/or documentation of completed student work.
  • Review and discuss specific evaluation/documentation tools.

These elements can take place in any order, so long as they are included as part of the site visit. Applicants are expected to set up the visit to accommodate these requirements.

For more on site visits, see the Site Visit Report (PDF) form reviewers complete and "Preparing for Your Site Visit (PDF)."

Reporting Requirements
All grant recipients are required to submit regular reports to the Mass Cultural Council detailing the project's progress, including any changes in timeline, personnel, collaborating organizations, or content, along with annual financial information. Reports must demonstrate continued commitment to the project by all partners and be signed by officials from the primary applicant agency. 

The Mass Cultural Council has the right to withhold, reduce, or discontinue funding if a SerHacer partnership:

  • Misses deadlines for grant reports.
  • Does not notify the Mass Cultural Council of changes in project collaborators or other significant changes in the project.
  • Fails to comply with the terms of the grant contract.
  • Is unable to raise the required match.
  • Demonstrates inadequate financial management and oversight.
  • Does not properly credit Mass Cultural Council support.
  • Demonstrates inadequate recruitment and/or retention of participating youth.

Mass Cultural Council will not release the next year's funding until complete reports are received from the primary applicant.


Access Policy 
In accordance with state law, the Mass Cultural Council recognizes the importance of non-discrimination, diversity, and equal opportunity in all aspects of its programs and activities. The Mass Cultural Council is committed to access, not only as a matter of state and federal law, but also as a policy designed to encourage the participation of all segments of the Commonwealth’s population in Mass Cultural Council -funded programs. The Mass Cultural Council also considers low-income communities, rural populations, and citizens over 65 years old as underserved populations that should be proactively included in programs.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that persons with disabilities have access to public programs or services on an equal basis with the rest of the general public. Furthermore, federal law mandates that any program or service that receives federal or state funding must be accessible to persons with disabilities. Therefore, all events and programs funded by the Mass Cultural Council must be accessible to persons with disabilities, including those with visual, hearing, mobility, and learning disabilities. Accessibility includes the facility and event location as well as the content of the program.

Conflict of Interest 
To ensure that all Mass Cultural Council review panels are free from conflicts of interest and the appearance of such conflicts, panelists are required to disclose any past, current, or prospective affiliation they or their immediate family members may have with an actual or potential applicant. "Affiliation" applies to employment, board memberships, independent contractual relationships, advisory or policy relationships, substantial contributor relationships, and other financial relationships. In addition, panelists are required to disclose any past or current adversarial relationships with actual or potential applicants of a professional or personal nature. Mass Cultural Council board members are not permitted to participate in discussion or votes related to any applicant with whom they have an affiliation or any applicants competing with that applicant.

Reconsideration Policy 
An applicant may request reconsideration of a Mass Cultural Council decision on an application if the applicant can demonstrate that the Mass Cultural Council failed to follow published application and review procedures. Dissatisfaction with the denial of an award, with the amount of an award, or with the duration of an award does not constitute grounds for reconsideration. The first step in the process is to consult with the appropriate Program Manager to review the procedures that resulted in the Mass Cultural Council's decision. If the applicant wishes to pursue a reconsideration, a written request must be sent to the Mass Cultural Council's Executive Director within 30 days of the date of notification of the decision. Such requests will be reviewed by the board no earlier than its next scheduled meeting.

Acknowledgment of Funding 
Grant recipients are required to credit the Mass Cultural Council in all print, audio, video and internet materials, and all publicity materials (such as press releases, brochures, posters, advertisements and web sites). Detailed information will be provided in the contract package mailed to grantees.

Application Process
All items are required for an application to be considered complete. Incomplete applications will affect the outcome of an application. Email and faxed materials are not acceptable.

  1. Review the Program Guidelines (above) to ensure that you understand the SerHacer Program rationale.
  2. Contact Program Manager Rodrigo Guerrero to confirm eligibility and to discuss any questions you may have about the program.
  3. Create an organizational profile to access the online application forms.
    (Please note: Usernames/Passwords created for previously-submitted CIP-Gateway, Cultural Districts, Cultural Facilities Fund, YouthReach, and/or SerHacer applications can all be used.)
  4. Complete the online application, comprised of the following elements: 

    Project summary and logic model
    Application narrative and curriculum or schedule
    Biographies of key personnel
    Detailed project budget and summary
    Collaborator list

    First-time applicants to the Mass Cultural Council only:
         IRS Tax-Exempt Letter
         Articles of Incorporation
         Financial Statements for the most recently completed fiscal year
  5. Click the "final submission" button of the application by the deadline. The electronic application will then be automatically received by the Mass Cultural Council.

The electronic submission of all the application pages and support materials listed above constitutes the final application.

Proceed to the Online Application

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