The Massachusetts Cultural Council encourages local cultural councils to develop their own council priorities, in addition to the four state criteria that councils use for grant evaluation. Local councils that receive allocations greater than $20,000 from the MCC are required to develop council priorities. Identifying council priorities is an important step in attracting the applications for projects that best suit your community. Each town and city in Massachusetts is different, and putting into practice locally developed priorities can help councils to support projects that best meet the needs and priorities of their community.
What to Include in Council Priorities
A council's priorities should clearly communicate any local application instructions or restrictions. For example, if a council accepts paper applications or requires supplemental materials to be included with an application, that must be included in the council’s priorities and posted on their public web page.
Council priorities are a powerful tool in shaping the kinds of applications councils will receive and possibly accept. Even when requests far outstrip available funds, it is important to make sure that local priorities are not overly restrictive and result in too few quality applications to fund.
Councils may want to think about some of the following questions while crafting local priorities:
- Fully fund a few proposals or partially fund many? If partially funded, can the projects be successfully completed?
- Require that a revised budget (and project scenario) be submitted if the proposal is funded below a certain level?
- Limit the dollar amount awarded to any one applicant?
- Limit the number of applications that any one applicant can submit?
- Require applications to have cash or in-kind matches to maximize the grant dollars being distributed in the community?
- Set a ceiling on the percentage of a project that can be funded by your council (e.g., a maximum 50 percent of the project's cost)?
- Limit the number of years any one applicant can come back consecutively for funding for the same project or program?
- What aspects of field trips are eligible for funding? Tickets, travel, chaperones, guide fees?
- Allow capital expenditure requests?
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Creating Council Priorities
1. Gather community input.
Community input gives a council the information they need to make good grant decisions. Knowing what cultural activities the community values will help a council set their priorities. There are many different ways to conduct community input. Sample community input invitations, surveys, and agendas are available on the community input page.
2. Meet, draft, and vote on your council priorities.
Schedule a meeting during the spring or summer to discuss which local priorities to implement. Discuss the results of the community input. Draft council priorities and vote as a group to approve them. A sample draft of council priorities is available online.
3. Publicize your council priorities.
Publish council priorities to the council public web page through the Online Office no later than September 1. Councils may also choose to distribute hard copies at key locations in their community with instructions for accessing the application online.
4. Review your policies and priorities periodically.
If new issues come up during grant review, it is important to make notes in the minutes to discuss them later when reviewing the elements of the council funding philosophy. A council should not make policy decisions during a grant cycle; it is unfair to applicants if additional criteria are introduced after they have applied, and it could trigger a reconsideration request from an applicant who felt the rules were changed without public notice.
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