• Purpose

    Assist organizations of artistic merit in fulfilling their missions by providing funds to maintain their stability and encourage their advancement.


    These grants provide general operating support to Virginia arts organizations to continue, strengthen, and expand their programs.

  • Eligibile Applicants

    To be eligible for General Operating Support, applicants must:

    • Be a non-profit Virginia organization whose primary purpose is the arts (excluding units of government and educational institutions and their private companion foundations) and that are exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code
    • Have a valid DUNS number
    • Be incorporated in Virginia and have its headquarters and home season, or activities equivalent to a home season for non-producing organizations, in the state.
    • Have completed three years of programming. Applicants for General Operating Support are required to present at least three different programs or services for the public in Virginia each year.
    • Have a total operating income of more than $10,000 for the last completed fiscal year.  Organizations with smaller budgets may be eligible to apply for Project Grants or Technical Assistance.
    • Have a stable, independent governing board
    • Be  handicap accessible
    • Meet the Basic Eligibility Requirements listed in the Guidelines for Funding

    NOTE: First-time General Operating Support applicants must contact the Commission staff before applying to confirm eligibility. Organizations applying for General Operating Support are not eligible for Project Grants. Organizations receiving General Operating Support greater than $2,500 are not eligible for AIEx Grant funding.

    Avocational Organizations. Priority in this funding program will be given to organizations that pay artists. Avocational organizations may be funded in this program if they provide specific services or programs that would otherwise not be available in that particular geographic area. Avocational organizations may apply in the other grant programs of the Commission.

    Festivals.In order to be eligible for General Operating Support a festival must be a separately incorporated Virginia organization with a year-round administrative staff and a year round presence in the community; have as its primary purpose the arts, spend the majority of its budget on arts activities; last longer than three consecutive days; hire professional artists; and include education and outreach programs as part of the festival. Other festivals may apply for Project Grants and Touring Assistance.

    Educational Organizations.Organizations that exist primarily to provide arts education should meet the following criteria:

    • The instructors should be professionals or former professionals in their fields
    • Classes should be aimed at acquiring skills at ever-increasing levels of difficulty
    • Classes should be focused on development of skills rather than being primarily rehearsals for a performance
    • The organization should have a diversified funding base, beyond tuition and ticket sales for public performances, that shows wide-spread community support
    • Scholarships should be available for low income students. There should be an active effort to recruit students from all segments of the community
    • In addition to instruction, there should be regular opportunities for students to perform or exhibit for the public

    Vocal and Musical Ensembles. Vocal and musical ensembles that perform primarily pop, Broadway, or barbershop music, or that focus primarily on competitions are not eligible for General Operating Support but are eligible to apply for Project Grants for new initiatives or for Technical Assistance.

    Diversity. Applicants that are serving racially, ethnically, and/or culturally diverse communities are expected to actively seek racial, ethnic, and/or cultural diversity in their artists, audiences, boards, and staff. Applications for funding should fully describe all efforts to create this diversity.

    Diversified Funding Base. Applicants are expected to earn as much income from ticket sales/admission fees as possible, while seeking contributions from individuals, corporations, foundations, and government, as well as income from special fund - raising activities. This philosophy recognizes that government resources are limited while demands for services are high and that the arts are healthier when open to diverse influences and not financially dependent on any single source of support.

  • Eligible Activities

    • Special projects
    • Maintenance / operation costs
    • On-going programming
  • Deadline

    The Commission awards all General Operating Support Grants for a one year period. Each grantee is required to submit an application annually. Organizations that have been funded by the Commission in the General Operating Support category in past year will be notified by the Commission in early December about what information will be required for the application deadlines. All new applicants must contact the Commission before applying to determine eligibility.

    Online Short Form Applications are due February 1, 2019 by 5:00 p.m., for expenses occurring between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020.

    Long Form applications are due by March 1, 2019, by 5:00 p.m., for expenses occurring between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020.

  • W-9 Form Requirement

    Plan ahead! All organizations applying to the Virginia Commission for the Arts are required to provide a W-9. Download a W-9 form, HERE.

  • DUNS Number Requirement

    All applicants must include their DUNS number when applying for a grant.Obtaining your DUNS number is a free, straightforward process. For more information, click here.

  • Reporting Requirements

    If the grant is awarded, the organization must submit a year - end report no later than June 1 of each year in order to receive the second payment for the grant. Failure to submit a final report by June 1 will impact future funding in the next grant year. If a n organization undergoes a substantive change in its mission, its artistic leadership, or its management during the grant period, the Commission must be notified immediately. If in the opinion of the Commission such changes alter the purpose for which the grant was awarded, the Commission may require the organization to submit justification for continuing to receive the grant funds

  • Amount of Assistance

    Organizations approved for funding will receive no more than 10% of their previous year's cash income, less Commission support, commissions to artists, facility rental income for non-arts activities, money paid to the organization for out-of-state trips or tours by the people taking the trips or tours, and money raised for capital purposes in the previous year. Most organizations will receive less than the maximum, and no organization is guaranteed a specific funding amount. Minimum grant awards will be $500 per year; maximum grant awards will be $200,000 per year. 

  • Criteria for Evaluating Applications

    • Artistic excellence
    • Effective management
    • Service to the community

    Artistic Excellence is the first and most important standard of review. The organization has high-quality activities that achieve a distinct artistic vision consistent with the applicant’s mission and goals. The Commission supports organizations with a wide variety of artistic programs, including both the preservation of an artistic heritage and the presentation of new works and new artists.

    Effective Management is measured by the organization’s capacity to effectively manage its operations and resources as reflected by organizational stability and fiscal position. The organization has a sound, board approved business or strategic planning process that shows evidence that the organization is maximizing its opportunities to generate earned income and contributed income. The organization has a strong board composition, staff qualifications, and clearly articulated roles and responsibilities.

    Public Service and Public Benefit to the Community includes efforts to expand the applicant’s reach through partnerships that work to make the arts a vital part of community life. The organization has a commitment to arts education for Virginians of all ages as part of or beyond the organization’s regular programming. The organization makes the arts a vital part of economic development for the organization’s home community, its region or the state.

    In evaluating the applications the Commission will take into account whether the requested grant will result in significant programs for the community that could not be provided within the applicant's existing financial resources. The Commission will also evaluate the general merits of each application relative to others being considered.

    NOTE: The Commission requires General Operating Support grantees that have income of over $600,000 for at least two consecutive years to submit an opinioned, independent audit of their financial records every year. 
  • Application Review/Payment Procedure

    1. Applicants submit the information requested by the Commission each year. The Commission staff is available for consultation on applications, and to review drafts of applications before the application deadline. If assistance is needed, contact the Commission office at least four weeks before the deadline. Organizations planning to apply to the Commission should include the panelists and Commissioners on their mailing lists.
    2. Applicants submit completed online application forms by the deadlines. NO EXCEPTIONS.
    3. The Commission staff reviews each application for completeness and eligibility. Incomplete or ineligible applications will not be reviewed and will be returned to the applicant with an explanation.
    4. Copies of the applications are sent to the members of the regional panel.
    5. The panelists independently review each application prior to the panel meeting.
    6. The panel meets with two members of the Commission staff. Commissioners attend panel meetings as observers. Applicant representatives may attend the panel meeting as observers but may not make a presentation to the panel. The panel makes its recommendations after group discussion. Names of Commissioners and advisory panelists, as well as dates and locations of Commission and panel meetings, are available from the Commission office and on the Commission website. Applicants are encouraged to invite the panelists and Commissioners to their public arts events in advance of the panel meetings.
    7. Following the panel meeting, the Commission staff makes a recommendation on each application.
    8. The board of the Commission then reviews the recommendations of the panel and staff and takes final action on the applications.
    9. Applicants are notified of Commission action by mail. The appeals process for applications not awarded funds can be found in the appeals section of the guidelines.
  • Application and Final Report Forms

    General Operating Support Forms

  • Major Arts Institutions

    Organizations that meet the standards described below will be reviewed by a statewide, multidisciplinary panel in alternating years. These organizations will follow the same guidelines and application procedures as other applicants for General Operating Support.

    In addition, Major Arts Institutions must have the following:

      • Have significant economic and artistic impact in its region of the state
      • Must pay its performers. Organizations that have the purpose of presenting the visual arts must have professional curators who select the work to be shown. These organizations may not charge fees to artists for the exhibition of their work.
      • Employ full time administrative staff
      • Have boards of directors with the authority and skills to guide the organization
      • Have been reviewed and approved for full funding in operating support from the Commission for at least four years prior to being considered by the Commission to be a major arts institution
      • Have previous year’s cash income of at least $1,500,000. Substantial income for non-arts activities, such as facility rental income, is not included in the income minimum
      • Have education/outreach programs
      • Have opinioned, independent audits of their financial records each year