• Application and Forms

  • Purpose

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

  • Description

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

  • Eligible Applicants

    Virginia organizations whose primary purpose is the arts (excluding units of government and educational institutions and their private companion foundations), that have an independent governing board, that meet the Basic Eligibility criteria, and that are exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

    Organizations must be incorporated in Virginia before applying for General Operating Support and must 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.

    A Virginia arts organization is defined as one whose primary purpose is the arts, that is incorporated in the state, and that has its headquarters and home season, or activities equivalent to a home season for non-producing organizations, in the state.

    Applicants that are at least three years old must have a previous year’s income of at least $10,000 in cash. Organizations with smaller budgets may be eligible to apply for Project or Technical and Organizational Development Assistance grants.

    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 widespread 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 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.

    Diversified Funding Base. Applicants are expected to earn as much income from ticket sales/admission fees as possible, and seek contributions from individuals, corporations, foundations, and government, including from special fundraising activities when feasible. This philosophy recognizes that government resources are limited while demands for services are high and that the arts are healthier when open to diverse stakeholders 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 the current year will be notified by the Commission in mid-December about what information will be required for the application deadlines. All new applicants must contact the Commission before applying to determine eligibility.

    Short Form Applications are due February 1, 2022 by 5:00 PM EST, for expenses occurring between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023.

    Long Form applications are due by March 1, 2022, by 5:00 PM EST, for expenses occurring between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023.

  • 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.

  • Reporting Requirements

    If the grant is awarded, the organization must submit a year-end report no later than June 1 in order to receive the second (final) grant payment. Failure to submit a final report by June 1 will impact future funding in the next grant year, and may impact subsequent years. If an 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 total operating 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, money raised for capital purposes in the previous year, and endowment income. 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 is the first and most important standard of review. What constitutes artistic excellence may vary in relation to the organization’s mission and goals, audiences and activities. The organization should evidence 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 for each.

    Community Engagement and Access includes efforts to expand the applicant’s reach to new and diverse audiences through partnerships that work to make the arts a vital part of community life, including those who identify in ways that have been historically underrepresented in the arts, considering intersectionality across race, ethnicity, age, ability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity, socioeconomic status, geography, citizenship status, and religion. The organization should evidence a commitment to arts education for Virginians of all ages as part of or beyond the organization’s regular programming, and an intention to practices addressing Inclusion, Diversity, Equity or Access (IDEA). 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: Typically, the Commission requires General Operating Support grantees with income over $600,000 for at least two consecutive years to submit an opinioned, independent audit of their financial records each year. In light of continued financial challenges related to the pandemic/COVID -19, the Commission will continue to allow organizations with budgets exceeding $600,000 to submit board/treasurer approved Profit & Loss Statements or IRS Form 990s in lieu of independent opinioned audits.
  • 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, if received at least four weeks before the deadline.
    2. Applicants must complete and submit the online application by the posted deadline. THERE ARE 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. Applications are made available to the members of the regional advisory panels electronically.
    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 silent observers. Applicant representatives may attend the panel meeting as observers but may not address 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 made available through the Commission office and on the Commission website.
    7. The Commission Board then reviews the recommendations of the panel and staff, and takes final action on the applications.
    8. Applicants are notified of Commission action by email in late June.
    9. The Commission will generally pay 85% of each year’s grant amount by August 15. The final 15% will be paid within 30 days after the Commission receives the final report on the grant. The Commission reserves the right to use an alternative payment schedule in special circumstances. Final reports must be submitted after the completion of all funded activities or by June 1 at the latest.
  • Major Arts Institutions

    Organizations that meet the standards described below will follow the same guidelines and application procedures as other applicants for General Operating Support.

    In addition, Major Arts Organizations must meet the following criteria:

    • 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 a board of directors with the authority and skills to guide the organization.
    • Have been reviewed and approved for full funding in general 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, should not be included in the income minimum.
    • Have well-established education/outreach programs.
    • Have current 990s filed and on file with the VCA.

      The Commission staff will submit to the Commission Board for their approval any arts organization that meets the above criteria to be moved into the Major Arts Organizations category. The Commission staff will also notify the Commission Board of any Major Arts Organization that does not meet the above criteria for three consecutive years. The Commission may vote to remove the organization from this category.

      NOTE: An arts organization cannot opt out of being in the Major Arts Organization category once it has met the above criteria.

  • Contact

    For questions about the General Operating Support Grants, contact:
    Cathy Welborn
    Program Coordinator
    Virginia Commission for the Arts