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ToolkitLCC Program Information

Eligibility & Criteria

A hallmark of the LCC Program is the emphasis on local autonomy and decision making. Councils are free to make funding decisions that best meet the particular needs and priorities of their community within the parameters of the broad state guidelines. The Mass Cultural Council imposes few restrictions on the eligible uses of local funds, as long as the criteria set forth in the LCC Program Guidelines (PDF) is met. The LCC Program Guidelines are a valuable resource for councils; it is useful to download a complete copy to refer to and bring to council meetings. Key aspects of eligibility requirements for standard LCC grants and criteria for funding are discussed below.


Application deadline. All applicants must submit completed applications by the statewide postmark deadline, generally on October 15. In years when October 15 falls on a weekend or holiday, the statewide deadline is the Monday immediately following October 15. Late applications cannot be accepted.

Types of grants. A council may approve grants for projects, operating support, ticket subsidy programs, artist residencies, fellowships or other activities, based on council priorities and needs. Each LCC should determine its own council priorities based on a community input process. These council priorities should be published to the council's profile.

Local councils may also choose to fund cultural field trips for children, grades pre-K through 12, by subsidizing the cost for children to attend programs in the arts, humanities, and interpretive sciences (including performances, educational tours, and exhibits). Applicants can request funds for field trips for groups of children affiliated with schools (public, non-profit, religious, and home schools), afterschool and out-of-school programs, neighborhood/community centers, or civic organizations. Based on community input, each local cultural council may determine whether or not they accept requests for field trips, and if so, what types of expenses are eligible (student ticket cost, transportation, chaperone tickets, guide fees, etc.).

Program eligibility. Applicants may apply for grants for programs that take place during an 18 month window of eligibility between July 1, preceding the application deadline in October through December 31 of the following year. This means that applicants may apply for projects that have already happened or which happen prior to LCCs' grant announcements, with the knowledge that funding is not guaranteed. Local councils are authorized to establish a smaller window of eligibility; if they do so, they must publish the eligible dates in their council priorities.

Applicant eligibility. Applicants must reside or be located in Massachusetts. The applicant, or person leading the project /program, should have been engaged in the kind of activity for which funds are requested for at least one year. Local councils may accept applications from anyone included in the list below.

  • Individuals. Individual applicants must show that a public benefit results from the project for which they are applying. A public presentation of an individual's work may provide the needed public benefit.

    Individual members of local councils may apply for funding from a local council, but must observe all conflict of interest laws and regulations in the granting process. Local councils may also establish their own guidelines regarding applications from council members as long as these are consistent with the state's conflict of interest laws (see Appendix B).

  • Incorporated private nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit preschools, elementary schools, middle schools and high schools are subject to the same criteria and restrictions as public schools.
  • Unincorporated associations that can establish a nonprofit objective. A group of individuals coming together with a common purpose (e.g., local community band, theater group) that do not have nonprofit status.
  • Public schools, libraries, other municipal agencies and the local cultural council itself. Municipal agencies are eligible to apply for funding, but are subject to the No Substitution criteria. Capital expenditure requests for public agencies are not eligible.
  • Religious organizations. Religious organizations or groups with a religious affiliation are eligible to apply for funding of cultural programming that is available to the general public. Religious schools are also eligible for LCC funding and are subject to the same criteria and restrictions as public schools. LCCs can only approve applications that are primarily cultural in their intent and do not have the effect of advancing religion. Capital expenditure requests for religious organizations are not eligible.

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The first four rules listed below must be followed in the review of all funding decisions by local councils. All four rules are equally important. Additionally, councils have the option of developing council priorities and may decide how to weigh their importance:

  1. Arts, Humanities, and Interpretive Sciences
  2. Public Benefit
  3. No Substitution
  4. Non-Discrimination
  5. Local Criteria

Arts, Humanities, and Interpretive Sciences. Local council funds may only be used to support programs in the arts, humanities, and interpretive sciences in Massachusetts. This definition includes the study, pursuit, performance, exhibition, and appreciation of cultural activities in the broadest sense.

How does Mass Cultural Council define the arts, humanities, and/or interpretive sciences?

  • Arts refer to the creation of work in the crafts and performing, visual, media, folk, design, literary, and inter-disciplinary arts. In addition, they also include the presentation and preservation of, and education about works in these disciplines.
  • Humanities are types of learning that deal with human values and aspirations, human thought and culture, language, and creativity. Examples include, but are not limited to, history, social studies, philosophy, criticism, and literature.
  • Interpretive sciences are types of learning that deal with nature, science, and technology in ways that explain how they relate to people's lives. Some organizations that conduct this type of activity include aquariums, botanical gardens, nature centers, natural history museums, planetariums, and science centers.

Public Benefit. Local council funds must be used to support activities that contribute to the cultural vitality of the community as a whole, rather than benefiting any private individual or group. However, this does not mean that a large crowd of people needs to participate in order to satisfy the public benefit requirement. For example, an artist working with a small group of teens is a valid public benefit. Whenever possible, activities funded by local councils should be available to the general public by exhibit, performance, demonstration, reading, or other means.

No Substitution. To prevent LCC funds from substituting for or replacing other public funding that the city or town should be responsible for, LCCs may not fund:

  • Salaries or stipends for employees of the school system, library, parks department or municipality.
  • Capital expenditures for schools, libraries, LCCs or other municipal agencies. A capital expenditure is defined as an item, or group of items, with a life expectancy of more than three years and a total cost of more than $500. Examples may include books, audio visual materials, equipment, uniforms, musical instruments, etc.

LCCs can fund salaries or stipends for outside artists, humanists, or interpretive scientists to lead cultural activities at schools, libraries and other municipal agencies (field trips, artist-in-residency programs, lectures, performances, etc.).

Non-Discrimination. In accordance with state law, local councils may not discriminate against applicants on the basis of race, gender, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, sexual orientation or age, nor may they fund projects that discriminate on the basis of these attributes.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that persons with disabilities have access to public programs or services on an equal basis with the rest of the general public. Furthermore, federal law mandates that any programs or service that receives federal or state funding must be accessible to persons with disabilities. Therefore, all events and programs funded by the LCCs must be accessible to persons with disabilities, including the facility or event location as well as the content of the program.

Local Criteria. Local councils are authorized to develop additional council priorities and may give different weight to their criteria in order to reflect local concerns and community cultural needs. Because local council funding is not intended to be used as the sole source of funding for projects of a continuing nature, local councils are encouraged to formulate local policies regarding matching funding or funding limits over time in order to ensure that funding remains broadly available to the widest range of community cultural needs. Council priorities must be posted on an Council's profile by September 1 each year.

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Grant Restrictions

Refreshments. Grant funds received from a local council may not be used to purchase food or beverages.

Scholarships. Although individual students are not eligible to apply for scholarships, an organization may apply to an LCC to sponsor a scholarship provided it shows evidence of an open and fair review and award process.

Capital Expenditures. Capital expenditures for schools, libraries, local cultural councils, municipal agencies, and religious organizations are ineligible. A capital expense is defined as an item, or group of items, with a life expectancy of more than three years and a total cost of more than $500. Examples include equipment, such as lighting or sound equipment, new construction or the renovation of a cultural facility.

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