Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund
About the Fund
Program Guidelines
Info Sessions
Funded Projects
Contact the Fund

Program Guidelines - 2015

The Cultural Facilities Fund is not currently accepting applications. Guidelines and application deadlines for the next round of funding will be released once the Governor announces availability of funds.

Note for 2015:

  • Read all the applications questions before writing your answers, it will help you focus and address exactly what we are asking for each section.

  • The online application is only one part of the application. Every application has “Supplementary Materials” that must be mailed to the MCC by the application deadline.

  • Organizations that have previously been awarded Cultural Facilities Fund grants can apply to the Fund so long as the prior grant has been fully disbursed or declined (in whole or in part) according to the following schedule and conditions:

    • the Grant Agreement for the prior grant must be fully executed and dated by MassDevelopment a minimum of 60 days before the application deadline, or by September 21, 2014; and

    • for Capital Grants, grantees must submit evidence from the Massachusetts Historic Commission that the Project is compliant by October 6, 2014; and

    • all invoices and accompanying final certifications requesting disbursement must be submitted to, and approved for payment by MassDevelopment a minimum of 30 days before the application deadline, or by October 21, 2014.

  • We will announce the grants by March 2015. If you are successful getting a grant you will be able to pay for invoices dating back to September 1, 2014.
  • If you are successful, the entire 1:1 match has to be in hand before you can enter into a grant agreement and draw grant funds. Pledges do not fulfill the matching requirement.


Grant Pool
Approximately $15 million dollars will be available for new grants this round.

In future rounds, allocations will be "subject to appropriation" by the Legislature and the Governor. This means that funds must be secured each year through the regular state budget process or capital spending plan.

Back to Top

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

  • Feasibility & Technical Assistance Grants: For costs and expenses related to a planning and feasibility assessment 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.

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.

Back to Top

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 $250,000 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 cash match, -- "in-kind" matches are not allowed.

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
    • Loan proceeds
    • Staff salaries
    • Other operating activities;
  • Funds already expended on the eligible project prior to September 1, 2014; 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.

Back to Top

Grants Administration
Applicants will be required to execute a Grant Agreement with MassDevelopment for funds disbursement. Before the Grant Agreement can be executed, the matching funds have to be raised and certified by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

A grant award is the maximum amount that will be disbursed.  A Grantee will receive the full amount awarded if it can demonstrate through the submission of invoices that all project expenses presented for disbursement are eligible expenses.  If project costs decrease or submitted invoices are determined to be ineligible, an award amount may be decreased.

Disbursement of funds under the Award will occur only after:

  • Matching funds have been raised and certified by MCC.

  • Grantee has filed a Project Notification Form ("PNF") with the Massachusetts Historical Commission ("MHC") and completed MHC's review process.

  • The Grant Agreement with MassDevelopment is fully executed including an Updated Budget showing work items including costs for which the Grantee expects to use the matching funds and the costs for which the Grantee expects to use the grant. Both matching and grant funds must be used on the eligible project.

  • Invoices for work performed on the project, dated no earlier than September 1, 2014, have been submitted to MassDevelopment, reviewed for adherence with the Updated Budget, and approved by MassDevelopment. Approved invoices, whether paid or pending payment by the Grantee, will be paid in full to the Grantee by MassDevelopment. Ten percent of the grant amount will be held back pending submission of a Certificate of Completion indicating the project as described in the Updated Budget has been completed. The standard form Certificate of Completion is included in the Grant Agreement.

Grant announcements are expected to be made in the Winter of 2014.

Back to Top

Final Application Deadline: November 21, 2014

Back to Top

Eligibility Confirmation
If you have any questions about your eligibility, application procedures, or the application in general, please contact the MCC directly. All initial inquiries should be directed to Jay Paget, Program Director (617-858-2723) or Annie Houston, Program Officer (617-858-2727).

Back to Top

Public Information Sessions
It is strongly recommended that you attend one of the public information sessions where the guidelines will be explained in detail. You will also have the opportunity to ask questions about the application. Learn more about the sessions.

Back to Top

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) according to the following schedule and conditions:

  • The Grant Agreement for the prior grant must be fully executed and dated by MassDevelopment a minimum of 60 days before the application deadline, or by September 21, 2014; and

  • for Capital Grants, grantees must submit evidence from the Massachusetts Historic Commission that the Project is compliant with the requirements of M.G.L. Ch. 9, ss. 26-27 and 950 CMR 7 a minimum of 45 days before the application deadline, or by October 6, 2014 and

  • all invoices and accompanying final certifications requesting disbursement must be submitted to, and approved for payment by MassDevelopment a minimum of 30 days before the application deadline, or by October 21, 2014

In the case of an existing grantee that chooses to decline its entire grant amount, the grantee shall send an affirmative renouncement of the Grant, with an explanation of the circumstances surrounding the renouncement to MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council a minimum of 45 days before the application deadline, or by October 6, 2014. If an existing grantee chooses to decline a partial amount of its grant, the grantee shall follow the procedure and deadlines outlined above, and must also demonstrate, through a final certification and any other documentary evidence that MassDevelopment may request, that the grantee has committed a share of its matching funds to the project that is at least equivalent to the grant funds already disbursed.  The reasons why a grantee declined a prior grant (in whole or in part) will be considered when evaluating that grantee as an applicant for a new grant.

Previously funded applicants will be asked to demonstrate the distinction between the previously funded scope-of-work and the newly proposed scope-of-work.

An organization previously awarded a Cultural Facilities Fund grant that does not meet the above schedule and conditions will not be eligible for funding.

Back to Top

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.

Massachusetts Cultural Data Project
All nonprofit cultural organizations applying for a Capital Grant must enter three years of financial, programmatic and operational data into the Massachusetts Cultural Data Project’s standardized online form. (Learn more.) This information will be assessed by the grant review panel—in conjunction with the planning and financial sections of the application—to determine if an organization has the financial capacity to undertake and sustain the capital project at this time.  Municipalities, colleges, and universities are not required to complete this step.

Back to Top

Grant Recommendations and Notifications
Based upon the recommendations from the review panel, grant recommendations will be submitted by the Massachusetts Cultural Council to the Cultural Facilities Fund Advisory Committee. Recommendations of the Advisory Committee for grant awards will then be presented to the Board of MassDevelopment.MassDevelopment will have final authority on all grant decisions. Grant notifications will occur shortly after awards have been approved and will be contingent on confirmation of fund availability from the Commonwealth. MCC staff will also be available to provide follow-up information and panel comments after the grant notifications have been sent.

Back to Top

Legal and Other Requirements

Access Policy
MassDevelopment and the MCC 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
Applicants to the Cultural Facilities Fund must comply with MassDevelopment’s Contractor Policy which obligates applicants to adhere to the debarred vendor policy required by the Commonwealth of its agencies.  In both the application and grant agreement, an applicant must certify that for project costs which are to be financed by the Cultural Facilities Fund, it will not (i) knowingly solicit or consider bids, contract or negotiate with any vendor listed as debarred on the debarment lists maintained by the Commonwealth’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Industrial Accidents, the Office of the Attorney General, or the Federal government or (ii) approve a sub-contract with any such vendor.  An applicant must also covenant to put the same requirement in any contract with vendors hiring sub-contractors.

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 Massachusetts 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 grant agreement, completing economic impact survey, or submitting grant reports;
  • Does not notify MassDevelopment and the MCC 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 MCC.

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 Massachusetts 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 MCC may feature the work of some funded organizations in their publications and Web sites. Photographs are welcome. Please send images to the MCC, ATTN: Communications Coordinator or e-mail 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.

Back to Top

Proceed to Grant Category-Specific Information:

Proceed to Online Application

Please note: The Intent to Apply and the Application are both available through MCC's online applications site.

To Access the Intent to Apply (due February 7):
Step 1: Create an organizational profile (if you do not already have one).
Step 2: Complete Intent to Apply - Project Overview page

Once submitted, the Intent to Apply cannot be edited, however you can change the scope of your project or the grant request in the application itself until submitting either on or before the March 7 deadline.

After the Intent to Apply is submitted you will have access to the full application.
Please email Annie Houston at with any questions.