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ToolkitLCC Program Information

Your Municipality

Local Cultural Councils are municipal entities comprised of volunteers appointed by the community's chief elected official. This network of local agencies is unmatched anywhere in the country. Each council works to ensure that it funds cultural projects that benefit their community to the greatest extent. Working with its municipality, councils can build a relationship that can be beneficial in many ways – from improving the reimbursement and financial reporting process to providing additional funding for your cultural council.

Municipal Support

Local Cultural Councils are a part of local government and should be supported with the same access to basic resources afforded other government bodies. Mass Cultural Council has developed the Municipal Guide to Local Cultural Councils (PDF). This guide is meant to acquaint appointing authorities with the LCC Program. Each year it is emailed to municipal fiscal officers across the state. Councils may also download it and print a copy to use as a resource with their city/town officials. Mass Cultural Council encourages municipalities to support their LCC with in-kind or reduced cost services and resources whenever possible. Dance performers in dragon masks Municipalities may be able to support council work in the following ways:

Liaison: Many municipalities assign an official municipal liaison to the LCC, such as a member of the select board, a city council member, or other official. The liaison might periodically attend LCC meetings, assist by providing access to other town officials when needed, help address issues and be a general advocate for the LCC. Such a liaison can also promote the LCC as a participant in larger civic discussions.

Administrative resources: Along with the need for public meetings and filing space, the LCC benefits from access to a phone, computer, photocopier, and other office equipment. Many municipalities assume photocopying costs at free or reduced rates through in-house services; municipal privileges are often extended to cover mailing costs. Basic supplies may be available at reduced or no cost through the town's procurement officer.

Staff support: Because an LCC is an all-volunteer body whose members may be working during the day, it can be a great service to the community to have a town phone number that people can call regarding basic questions (e.g., deadlines, where to find council priorities, etc.)

Publicity and promotion: In-house bulletins, newsletters, and other communication vehicles may be available for routine and special announcements about LCC activities. Press contacts may also be shared.

Program support: Some municipalities pitch in to assist councils in mounting special programs. For example, public works departments have assisted with trash removal, electrical wiring, or hanging banners for festivals; town engineers have helped ensure structural soundness of outdoor public artworks, and police have helped with traffic control for an outdoor event.

MembersThe combined expertise and teamwork of the LCC and other town leaders can increase the impact the LCC has on the community. The fewer expenses the LCC must cover from its allocation, the more it can invest in the community's cultural programs. The more the municipality knows about the LCC, the more likely it will be to offer support for council work. Keeping the municipality informed about council activities can help to develop a good working relationship with them, and it can also help when problems arise.

Occasionally a problem can arise between council members and local government officials. This is usually because officials don't understand how councils operate. It may help to give the municipality a copy of the Municipal Guide to the LCC Program (PDF). If problems do arise, use the following procedures:

  • Put a grievance in writing and date all correspondence.
  • Work through the system - start with the person responsible and give them the opportunity to understand and resolve the conflict.
  • If unsuccessful, contact the person’s supervisor and explain the situation. Refer to correspondence that documents the grievance.

Feel free to ask Mass Cultural Council staff for assistance to think through a solution or to intervene on the council's behalf, particularly if the steps above have not resolved the situation.

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Municipal Funding

Another form of support is that the municipality may provide cash to support staff, program or other expenses to enable the LCC to better serve the community. Before contacting the municipality, familiarize yourself with the municipality's local officials, community needs, and the impact that the council has or could have on the community. It may also be helpful to familiarize yourself with town meeting processes and procedures. The Secretary of the Commonwealth offers a Citizen's Guide to Town Meetings.

Over time the council can build a relationship with the municipality. Council members need to be able to convince the town or city official that investing in the council's cause will help them advance their agenda. Find out if the city/town has a strategic plan and learn what role arts and culture play in the plan. This will help the council understand how its work can support their city/town's goals. If the plan does not address arts and culture specifically, think about how the council's work supports other areas of focus, whether it is providing after-school programming for at-risk youth, or supporting the local economy by creating community events.

A few years back, Mass Cultural Council hosted a webinar on this topic. Watch the video to hear more from MASSCreative about local advocacy and to hear success stories from Medford Arts Council and Medfield Cultural Council.

Below you will find guidance to help prepare a request for municipal funds to support your local cultural council. However, the exact method you end up following will depend on what works best for your council and community.

Pitch the idea to your fellow LCC members.
As it is when starting any council project, it is a good idea to have the whole council on board at the beginning. If one of the council members already has a contact person with the town, it might be a good idea to have them set up a meeting to talk about your council's goals.

Provide information to the city/town about LCC Program statute.
The first step in advocating for municipal funds is to educate town officials. The town may be unaware that the council is allowed to fundraise, so it is important to provide the town with the enabling statute and other regulations. Mass Cultural Council has created a Municipal Guide to Local Cultural Council Fundraising for this purpose. It was created to provide the relevant statute and regulations and answer some common questions or concerns that municipalities have had in response to an LCC's interest in fundraising.

Pull together a fact sheet to make your case. Include stats from your grant making process and stories from grantees.
You can edit the LCC Fact Sheet with personalized grant information and be sure to include any stories from grantees your council may have collected. Medfield Cultural Council also provided a comparison of other municipal funded LCCs to make their case to their Board of Selectmen.

Meet with key individual decision-makers to pitch your idea. This may be the City/Town Manager or City/Town Administrator or a supportive Selectman or City Councilor.
There are two different processes councils can pursue municipal funding, an appropriation in a budget line-item or through a warrant article. There are pros and cons to each method, and the first step in determining what process to peruse is to talk to the key figures for the town. Early and clear communication is critical for both methods to succeed.

  • Line-items "close out" at year end, meaning the spending authorization ends on June 30 and any remaining appropriation balance flows to undesignated fund balance and potentially to free cash. So, if money is appropriated for a project and the project is not completed by June 30, it could lose its remaining money. Department heads customarily decide what line-items to include in their budget request. An LCC should meet with the city/town administrator and related town departments to get their support and to determine under whose departmental budget a line-item request would be placed. Because the LCC would oversee the project and have spending authority, the LCC itself is typically the department/board that the line item would go to.
  • An article is essentially a stand-alone appropriation. Its language must describe the purpose of the appropriation, the amount to be appropriated and the funding source (usually the general fund). Funds appropriated through an article remain available to the project until it is completed or abandoned even if the project crosses fiscal years. The most common way for an article to get on the warrant is for a department/board to present a request to the Board of Selectmen. As a practical matter, the town manager or administrator are involved in the decision. For an LCC to go this route, conversations to gain support of a city/town manager or administrator and department head are necessary. Once an LCC feels confident that they have their support they can present the request to the Board of Selectmen/City Council.

Garner support from the community. You can gather individual stories, circulate a petition, and write letters to the editor of the local paper.
MedfordIt is important to involve grantees, legislators, town officials, and community members in your local advocacy efforts. Spread the word with a press release and a local petition.

Make a presentation to the decision -making body. It may be the Select board, Finance Committee or the Town Council. The goal is to have a favorable recommendation from this decision-making body.
This is your opportunity to present all the materials that you’ve collected to make your case but more importantly, you can speak directly about the impact of the funding in your community and why it is important for the town to support the local cultural council's efforts funding arts and culture locally.

Depending on your local form of government, the decision either goes to the Mayor or to Town Meeting for approval. You want to continue to make your case using facts and showing support from the community.
If you are interested asking your town for funding, contact Lisa Simmons at 617-858-2707. If you would like backup and supporting materials on how to effectively ask your town or city for increased allocations to arts and culture in your community, please contact Tracie Konopinski, Senior Campaign Organizer with MASSCreative. You can reach her at tkonopinski@mass-creative.org or 617-350-7610. Also, please feel free to share any success stories or strategies with your Mass Cultural Council staff contact or on the LCC listserv.

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Building Relationships

Over time the council can build a relationship with the municipality. Council members need to be able to convince the town or city official that investing in the council's cause will help them advance their agenda. Find out if the city/town has a strategic plan and learn what role arts and culture play in the plan. This will help the council understand how its work can support their city/town's goals. If the plan does not address arts and culture specifically, think about how the council's work supports other areas of focus, whether it is providing after-school programming for at-risk youth, or supporting the local economy by creating community events.

One of the best-attended programs at a local cultural council convening was a panel discussion about maintaining good relationships with municipal leaders. Below are the main ideas and tips that were surfaced during the panel conversation.

Tips for working successfully with your municipality and community:

  • Heighten your council's visibility: Hold open workshops at high-profile venues, announce council actions publicly, and establish a presence at other community events and activities.

  • Give the town a stake in your work: Collect input about your work from individuals and various town organizations and respond to the needs they identify.

  • Create partnerships: Think strategically about which community members and organizations might benefit from your efforts and vice versa - then look for collaborators.

  • Solicit feedback: Collect evaluations about your work at council-sponsored events. Pass out surveys. Talk to neighbors and constituents. Listen to what they have to say.

Tips for working with elected officials and city/town government:

  • Keep at it: It might be difficult to track down the mayor, the town planner or a city council member, but don't get discouraged, keep trying. These folks have a lot on their plates. The people who tend to get their attention are the ones who keep at it.

  • Don't be afraid to speak your piece: Your municipal contact might not seem sympathetic to your cause or project at first, but remember there are many demands for city resources and you must convince him or her that your activities warrant support. You must speak compellingly and with passion about the projects your council carries out.

  • Demand a spot on the docket: Talk to the town secretary to learn how to get on a town meeting agenda.

When you do meet with municipal leaders, keep these tips in mind:

  • Be prepared: Have an agenda prepared ahead of time. Be specific about the purpose of your meeting and what the intended results are. Be ready to account for how you spent local and state funds. Read local newspapers and go to public events in your town or city to learn the issues your officials care about. Think about how you can tie the value of local cultural programming to issues that the mayor, town finance committee or Board of Selectmen are already committed to.

  • Acknowledge previous actions: Begin the meeting by thanking municipal officials for their previous and ongoing support of local cultural programming. Supplement the privately expressed "thank-yous" with public ones - thank officials at town hall meetings or in letters to the editor.

  • Be inspiring: The most successful ways to inspire others are to display your own passion and commitment, and share success stories about LCC-funded programs. Talk about projects that contributed to the quality of life in your town or city. Think about projects that provided services where none existed, that celebrated or showcased community assets, or that used art to address important social or civic concerns.

  • Demonstrate your strength in the community: Show a clear plan for your council based on feedback from the community. Describe activities that highlight or promote a sense of vision or pride in the community. Talk about services provided and hours volunteered through LCC activities and projects. Mention other community groups you've worked with.

  • Keep the conversation going: Remember, it's the relationship between people that develops trust and fosters a willingness to take action on your behalf. Keep the relationship with your municipal official ahead of your goal. Acknowledge any concerns he or she has. Direct the conversation back to the value of supporting local cultural programming. At the end of every meeting, review your discussion, clarify next steps on the requests and make specific arrangements to follow-up.

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