Funding Sources for Arts Organizations

Volume CII, No. 6June, 2002

Heather Beaudoin

Each year, thousands of cultural organizations apply for financial support in the form of public grants to the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA). How these two departments function and how the grant approval process works is of importance to 802 members, since the city’s cultural institutions are a major source of employment and, in some cases, musicians have established their own organizations which are eligible for public funding. Following is an overview of the process:


The Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) funds and administers programs that support cultural institutions and organizations which enhance and sustain New York City’s cultural life, heritage and economy. DCA is required to fund operating expenses at the 34 cultural institutions that occupy city-owned facilities and to oversee city capital expenditures approved for design and construction work and major equipment purchases for cultural institutions in New York City.

DCA awards and administers annual grants to more than 500 cultural organizations for program support. In addition, DCA offers funding for arts education, awards federal grants to arts organizations that service low to moderate income neighborhoods, certifies artists as eligible to live in joint residential/work space, and supports and administers commissions for public works of art at city construction projects.

A lower level of funds will be available for the coming year than in the recent past. The Fiscal 2003 February Plan, an initial budget proposal, cut $19.1 million from the funding for cultural institutions and programs funded by New York City through DCA. (DCA’s Fiscal 2002 Adopted Budget was $139.2 million and DCA’s Fiscal 2003 Preliminary Budget is $111 million.) The reduction is attributed to the mayor’s proposed 15 percent cut by each city agency.

Eighty-five percent of DCA’s budget is allocated to the Cultural Institutional Groups (CIG), which is comprised of 34 museums, theatres, botanical gardens, zoological parks and historical societies. These organizations are designated as city-funded cultural institutions and are all located on city-owned property. Many of these organizations were created as public/private partnerships, in which the institution provides the programming and the city provides and helps maintain the building and premises. Others – such as Carnegie Hall and Snug Harbor Cultural Center – became city-funded cultural institutions because of their significance as cherished public structures. Additional grant funding for organizations outside the CIG is allocated through an application and review process.

This year New York has a new DCA Commissioner, Kate Levin, and a new Chair of the City Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee, José Serrano, Jr. Both Commissioner Levin and Council member Serrano have expressed interest in providing funding for cultural organizations that have historically not received city monies. For more information on applying for a DCA grant, visit their web site at or call (212) 643-7770.


The New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) is a state funding agency that provides support for activities of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in New York State. NYSCA has been directed by the state Legislature to maintain the “paramount position of this state in the nation and the world as a cultural center” through the support of nonprofit arts organizations in New York State. NYSCA achieves its goals primarily through its grant-making activity. It offers grants and support services through a number of discipline- and field-related programs.

NYSCA’s annual appropriation for grants (Local Assistance) and operations (State Purposes) is received from the Legislature at the start of each state fiscal year. In fiscal year 2001, the Council received $4.9 million in State Purposes and $48.4 million in Local Assistance. In addition to state funds, NYSCA also receives annual support from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), a federal agency. In the most recent federal fiscal year, NYSCA received a total of $684,000 from the NEA.

Information on NYSCA’s granting process is available on their web site: Here are some of the main points:

NYSCA grant applications are due on March 1 of every year. NYSCA strongly advises applicants to consult with its staff by phone or e-mail well in advance of the March 1 deadline if they have any questions about submitting an application. In evaluating applications, the Council employs a four-step review process involving NYSCA staff, qualified advisory panels, a committee of Council members, and the full Council.

NYSCA suggests that new applicants limit their NYSCA application to one or two project requests, choosing those projects that best meet the Council’s funding goals and criteria. NYSCA grants are for a twelve-month period and the receipt of NYSCA funding obligates an organization to undertake the proposed activities in a timely and professional manner. NYSCA also suggests that applicants keep them apprised of appropriate programs by adding the Council to their mailing list as soon as they consider submitting an application. This is a good way to alert NYSCA staff to your programs.

On or before March 1, nonprofit organizations must submit four copies, one of them bearing an original signature, of the completed NYSCA application form found at The application form asks general questions about the organization and its finances, and specific questions about the projects or activities for which you are seeking support.

NYSCA offers project support for specific programs and activities of nonprofit organizations, municipalities and Native American tribes, and organizational support for arts and cultural organizations with a successful artistic and managerial track record.

Individual artists and unincorporated groups may apply for project support, but must do so through a nonprofit organization acting as their fiscal sponsor. Certain programs and funding categories have been designed to provide support for individual artists applying through sponsoring nonprofit organizations. Individual artists should be aware that there are categories designed to support the work of artists applying to the Council through a sponsoring nonprofit organization.

Some NYSCA grants are awarded on a multiyear basis. Such support reflects the Council’s confidence and trust in the ongoing operations or programs of an organization and is generally awarded based on the Council’s assessment of the organization’s track record.

Council members, staff, site reviewers and grant panelists review all applications using these criteria:

  • Artistic and programmatic quality of the program or activity;
  • Relationship of proposed activities to the organization’s mission;
  • Managerial and fiscal competence, including the organization’s capability to carry out the proposed activities;
  • Service to the public, including the number of people served, and efforts to broaden and/or diversify audiences;
  • Nature and extent of programmatic interpretation, education or orientation efforts for the benefit of the public;
  • Scarcity or availability of comparable services within a geographic area;
  • Nature and extent of other available earned revenue and/or public and private support.

NYSCA is unable or unlikely to fund major expenditures for the establishment of new organizations. accumulated deficits, reserve funds or debt reductions. Other categories unlikely to receive grants include programs of public universities or of State agencies or departments, programs of public school districts or their components or affiliates, or operating expenses or fellowships at professional training schools that are not open to the general public. Similarly, activities restricted to an organization’s membership (funded activities must be open to the general public and promoted as such), programs that are essentially recreational, rehabilitational or therapeutic, operating expenses of privately owned facilities, such as homes or studios, requests that are greater than an organization’s total operating expenses minus total operating income, those components of an organization’s budget that are not directed toward programs in New York State, competitions or contests, out-of-state travel expenses, or hospitality or entertainment costs for receptions, performance or museum openings or fundraising benefits, are not generally eligible for funding.


As an alternative to NYSCA funding, organizations may choose to seek arts funding in the form of regrants. Applications for regrant funding are made not to NYSCA, but to local nonprofit organizations for arts activities, technical assistance or other developmental purposes. The largest regranting program is Decentralization (DEC), a program created by the state Legislature to encourage local decision-making in granting funds for arts and cultural activities. Information about New York State DEC sites is found at

Cultural organizations can also reach out to the City Council member, New York State Assembly member or Senator in their respective districts and lobby for additional resources through member items. There are also arts advocacy organizations that provide grants for cultural organizations in need. For more information, please contact the Public Relations Department at (212) 245-4802, ext. 176.