Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund
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Application and Program Guidelines

There is no Cultural Facilities Fund application at this time. Check back for updates on an FY19 round of funding in September 2018.

Join our e-mail list for notifications about the Fund.

For your reference, below is a summary of our 2018 program guidelines.  Feel free to refer to these instructions if you would like to learn about the program, eligibility requirements and review criteria. Please keep in mind that all dates and deadlines are not static year to year, and program guidelines are subject to revision.

Grant Application Steps

  1. Read Program Guidelines and all the application questions before writing your answers, it will help address exactly what we are asking for in each section.

  2. Register and follow instructions to begin the online application.

  3. The online application is only one part of the application. The other components required are “Supplementary Materials” that must be mailed to the Mass Cultural Council by the application deadline, and all 501c3 cultural organizations applying for a capital grant must complete and generate a funder report through DataArts.

Eligibility Requirements
The following entities ("Cultural Organizations") are eligible to apply for grants for Cultural facilities:

  • Nonprofit cultural organizations: 501(c)(3) organizations that are primarily concerned with the arts, humanities, or interpretive sciences. The legislation includes but is not limited to museums, historic sites, zoos, aquariums, theaters, concert halls, exhibition spaces, classrooms, and auditoriums ("Cultural Facilities"). Eligible facilities must be owned, leased, or used by one or more nonprofit cultural organizations, and must be accessible to the public.

  • Municipalities that own cultural facilities: provided that the cultural facility is at least 50,000 square feet in size, and at least 50% devoted to cultural purposes provided. However, if such building, structure, or site is 125 years old or older and is significant in the history, archeology, architecture or culture of the nation, the commonwealth, or the community in which it is located, it may be of any size.

  • Public or private institutions of higher education that own cultural facilities: provided that the cultural facility provides service and open access to the community and the general public beyond its educational mission and can demonstrate financial need.

Grant Categories

Applicants may only apply for one grant per round, with the exception of an Systems Replacement Plan Grant, which may be applied for in tandem with any other grant category.

In addition, if an organization is awarded a Capital Grant it will also be awarded a Systems Replacement Plan Grant, if recommended by the Cultural Facilities Fund review panel, completion of which Systems Replacement Plan may be a precondition to obtaining any capital grant funds.

Note: If and organization is awarded a Capital Grant it will also be awarded a Systems Replacement Plan grant, if recommended by the Cultural Facilities Fund review panel completion of which Systems Replacement Plan may be a precondition to receiving any capital grant funds.

  • Feasibility & Technical Assistance Grants: For costs and expenses related to overall planning and feasibility for a proposed eligible project.

  • Systems Replacement Plan Grants: These are a specific type of Feasibility and Technical Assistance Grant specifically designed for organizations without full-time maintenance staff. The SRP is a 20-year capital needs assessment of the building and its mechanical systems.

  • Capital Grants: For the acquisition, design, construction, repair, renovation, rehabilitation or other capital improvements or deferred maintenance of a cultural facility. All of the following would qualify for consideration under this description:
    • New construction.
    • Additions to an existing structure.
    • Renovations or repairs to an existing structure.
    • Fixed/integrated equipment.
    • Any combination of the above.

Threshold Criteria

The statute of the Cultural Facilities Fund has established five threshold review criteria for all its grants:

  • Project must be an "eligible project"
  • There must be a demonstrated community need for the project.
  • The project must be able to demonstrate that it will benefit tourism in the local area.
  • There must be a demonstrated financial need for a grant.
  • The project must be able to demonstrate local support.

In addition to the statutory threshold criteria:

  • Capital Grant applicants must meet "financial capacity" threshold criteria.
  • A College or University must demonstrate that its cultural facility provides service and open access to the community and the general public outside of the regular educational mission.
  • A Municipality must demonstrate how 50% or more of its facility is for arts, humanities or interpretive science programming.

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Award Ranges and Cash Matching Requirements

Feasibility & Technical Assistance Grants
Grants up to $50,000    1-1 match

Systems Replacement Plan Grants
Grants of $7,000   1-1 match

Capital Grants
Award maximums for Capital Grants have not been set at this time. In the past, maximum grants have ranged from $200,000 to $675,000. A maximum grant amount will be set by the Cultural Facilities Fund Advisory Committee during the review process.

Cash Matching Requirements:
All grants less than $1,000,000 awarded by the Cultural Facilities Fund are subject to a 1:1 matching requirement. All matches have to be in the form of a secured cash match. Pledges and in-kind goods or services are not eligible towards the match.

If you are awarded a grant, the entire 1:1 match has to be in hand before you can enter into a grant agreement with MassDevelopment and draw grant funds. Pledges do not fulfill the matching requirement.

Applications for grants in the later phases of building fundraising campaigns are welcome. Matching funds may include private funds donated to the Grantee and designated for the Eligible Project, or federal or municipal appropriations. The following may not be used as matching funds:

  • Operating funds expended by the organization for:
    • Mortgage interest
    • Fundraising costs
    • Staff salaries
    • Other operating activities;
  • Loan Proceeds
  • Selling capital assets including the deaccessioning of museum collections;
  • Funds already expended on the eligible project prior to September 1, 2017; and
  • Funds received from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Capital Grantees will have up to 24 months and Feasibility and Technical Assistance and System Replacement Grantees up to 12 months from the grant approval date to raise matching funds. However, as part of the evaluation criteria, applicants which demonstrate ability to raise matching funds within 12 months will be prioritized for award. Matching funds must be used for eligible project costs.

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Deadlines for Returning CFF Grantees
Organizations that have previously been awarded Cultural Facilities Fund grants will have the opportunity to apply to the Fund in the upcoming round so long as the prior grant has been fully disbursed or declined (in whole or in part).

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Application Review
Completed applications will be compiled, reviewed for statutory eligibility, and eligible applications will be forwarded to a grant review panel that will consider the entire applicant pool. The review panel will include a mix of individuals who are knowledgeable about cultural facilities development, capital fundraising, financial management, historic preservation, facilities maintenance, construction, strategic planning, and community and economic development.  The review panel will assign scores to the applications based on the review criteria applicable to all applications.

To ensure equity in the distribution of Cultural Facilities Fund grants statewide, the panel may at times adjust award assignments on the basis of the Fund's commitment to geographic distribution, reaching under-served communities, and having all sizes of cultural organizations represented.

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DataArts (formerly the Cultural Data Project) Cultural Data Profile
All nonprofit cultural organizations applying for a Capital Grant must register through DataArts and create a Cultural Data Profile by entering three years of financial, programmatic and operational data. Applicants submitting Feasibility & Technical Assistance and/or Systems Replacement Plan grant applications are not required to complete DataArts. If your organization is new and three years of data is not available, you may enter less than three years. Organizations will then submit their data to the Mass Cultural Council  via a standardized online funder report. Municipalities, colleges and universities are not required to submit a Cultural Data Profile. Please note: You must generate a funder report for this to be considered complete. (Learn more about this process.)

This information will be assessed by the grant review panel—in conjunction with the online application—to determine if an organization has the financial capacity to undertake and sustain the capital project at this time. Municipalities and institutions of higher education are not required to complete this step.

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Legal and Other Requirements

Access Policy
MassDevelopment and the Mass Cultural Council encourage applicants from all segments of the state's communities in order to encourage diversity in the cultural life of the Commonwealth. In accordance with state law, Massachusetts cultural organizations may not discriminate in their programs or staff and board membership on the basis of race, gender, religion, creed, color, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or age.

Organizations funded under this program must make reasonable accommodations to ensure that people with disabilities have equal physical, programmatic, and communications access as defined by federal law.

The Cultural Facilities Fund retains the discretion to waive provisions of these guidelines if the project to be granted a waiver continues to meet the statutory eligibility criteria and the requested waiver is consistent with the public purposes of the Cultural Facilities Fund.

Contractor Policy
Recipients of awards from the Cultural Facilities Fund must comply with MassDevelopment’s Contractor Policy.  In the Grant Agreement for the Cultural Facilities award, a recipient must agree that for costs of its project which are to be financed by MassDevelopment, it  and/or its affiliates have not and will not enter into a contract with any general contractor, construction manager or other vendor listed as debarred or suspended on the debarment lists maintained by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Industrial Accidents, the Office of the Attorney General and the Federal Government (the “Debarment Lists”).

A grantee must also require that its general contractor or construction manager (if one is engaged) certify in the construction contract for MassDevelopment financed work that the general contractor or construction manager: (i) will check the Debarment Lists before directly engaging a subcontractor or other vendor and (ii) has not and will not contract directly with a subcontractor or other vendor listed on a Debarment List. The certification in the general contractor or construction manager contract shall further provide that the general contractor or construction manager understands and acknowledges that noncompliance may result in debarment from future MassDevelopment funded projects for a period of one year from the date of written notification of noncompliance.

A grantee is required to provide the name of its general contractor or construction manager (if one is engaged) to MassDevelopment at least 10 business days prior to the execution of the Grant Agreement.

The state’s Administration and Finance website provides a page with links to all of the above-noted lists.

Reporting Requirements and Grant Cancellations
All funded organizations are required to participate in a yearly economic impact survey and report issued by the Mass Cultural Council annually and due in mid-November. MassDevelopment reserves the right to withhold, reduce, or cancel grants if an organization:

  • Misses deadlines for raising matching funds, entering into the grant agreement, completing economic impact survey, or submitting grant reports;
  • Does not notify MassDevelopment and the Mass Cultural Council of significant changes in programs, services, anticipated sale of the building (or other disposition), or significant changes in personnel;
  • Fails to comply with the terms of the Grant Agreement;
  • Is unable to raise or expend the required cash match;
  • Demonstrates inadequate financial management and oversight;
  • Does not properly credit MassDevelopment and the Mass Cultural Council.

Conflict of Interest
To ensure that all review panels are free from conflicts of interest and the appearance of such conflicts, review 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.

Acknowledgment of Funding
Grant recipients are required to credit MassDevelopment and 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.

Documenting Your Programs
MassDevelopment and the Mass Cultural Council may feature the work of some funded organizations in their publications and web sites. Photographs are welcome. Please send images to the Mass Cultural Council, ATTN: Digital Communications Officer or e-mail them to (Digital submissions are preferred-300 dpi resolution and approximately 4" x 6" print size.) For each image you submit, please include the name of your organization and a description (including identification of individuals prominent in the picture). Include photographer credits, if appropriate, and the dates the images were taken.

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Proceed to Grant Category-Specific Information: