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Michigan Council For The Arts Write Your Own Grants

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(Part Two of a Four-Part Ser

People who work for funding organizations like to joke that applying for grants for arts projects is an art in itself. This use of the artist's creativity is one that he or she probably never thought of when they first started playing piano, dancing, or making sculpture- but it often is a necessary part of the modern artistic process.

In last week's article on public funding of the arts, we looked at where artists and arts organizations can get funding and how much money is available. The two major sources are the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Michigan Council for the Arts (MCA). This week we'll see how to go about getting a grant from the MCA.

The Michigan Council for the Arts was established as a temporary commission in 1960 and was made a permanent organization by the Michigan legislature in 1966. According to an MCA brochure, it was set up "to develop and encourage projects at a local level that will make the arts available to the people of Michigan, regardless of their age, location, background, or economie status."

There are some broad guidelines for activity that is eligible for funding from MCA. Your current project (or one that you would like to start) must do at least one of the following: introduce arts to new audiences, serve disadvantaged areas, involve minorities in the activity. at ail levels, involve one or more arts organizations working together, present an innovative dea, preserve and enrich the cultural resources of Michigan, encourage excellence in the ; arts, or include professional artists in school activities.

Another thing to consider is that the activity you are trying to get funds for cannot duplicate what somebody is already doing in your specific geographic area. The MCA wants to encourage growth and new activity in the arts, so your project has to be different in some way, serve an area that isn't being dealt with, or have its own unique approach to a problem.

Generally, MCA will never provide the entire budget for a project. There are certain aspects of your work that MCA may not fund at all, and you: will have to find money elsewhere to get those things.

The restrictions are designed to prevent artists, particularly writers and musicians, from using MCA funds to set up a business that can later be used for profit-making ventures. They also prevent MCA grant MHBk money from being used as scholarship funds.

MCA will not fund: an outstanding debt; "capital improvements" (such as construction, renovation, purchase of machinery or equipment); publication or recording work; permanent personnel not related to the funded activity;and schooling for students in the process of getting a diploma or degree.

If you've gotten this far and it still sounds like you're eligible for help from the MCA, the next step is to check the organizational status of your project or activity.

Unlike NEA (which has funding programs for individuals as well as organizations), the MCA funds only non-profit organizations. If your group is not registered with the state as "nonprofit," it is a fairly simple matter to do so (if you aren't set up like a profit-making a business, that is ). Your group or project qualifies if the money that comes in from your activity is used a to pay the expenses of the organization and start new projects, rather than going into an owner's pocket.

There is a relatively simple two-page form (get it at the State of Michigan Securities Bureau, 5511 Enterprise, Lansing, Mich. 48913 or call 517-373-0493) that you have to fill out and return to the state. On this form you type a simple statement of purpose, supply the names of at least three principals who can be listed as officers of the corporation, give the address for your office, attach a list of by-laws (rules of running the organization's business), and pay a $40 filing fee.

After you get your non-profit certificate, an annual report (basically your budget for the year) is to be filed at the end of each fiscal year (any 1 2-month period of business operation).

In filing these forms, and the other forms for grant applications, contracts, and reports, it will be helpful to have some knowledge of accounting and business procedures. If you don't, get in touch with a friend who does and will give you advice- or you can hire an accountant or an attorney to assist you. Most of the forms are self-explanatory and can be filled out by "non-experts," but any advice you get from experienced people will probably be quite useful, and the staff at the MCA office in Detroit can help you get through the stiff language.

What grants can your organization apply for at MCA? The Council has several different funding programs, but they can be broken down into two basic categories: funding for well established Community Arts Councils, schools, training centers, or arts organizations; and funding for relatively new projects or organizations with specific interests and limited budgets.

The MCA is basically set up to fund up to 20% of the budgets of well-established organizations; but, since those kind of groups already have a thorough knowledge of funding procedures, we need not deal with them here. We should mention that these organizations do have to have tax-exempt status as well as being non-profit- to get it you need to apply to the federal government, and that is not nearly as easy as filing your nonprofit status with the state.

There are two MCA programs useful to smaller groups and projects:' the Community Action Program (CAP), and the Special Arts Projects program.

CAP grants do not exceed $1,000 each, and they are specially suited to the most basic, simple programs such as: to help finish one existing project in need of funds; to set up arts conferences; and to set up artists-in-residence for up to four weeks.

Like most grants, CAP funds must be "matched." This means that the funded organization has to come up with an amount of money equal to the size of the grant. In the case of CAP, grants can be matched with cash money or "in-kind services," which are things that are donated to your project which have a value equal to the size of your grant. One of the more common types of in-kind services is volunteer help, which can be counted as being equal to money as long as some accurate value s placed on it and you keep track of it.

This means, in other words, if your organization applies for a $1,000 CAP grant, you have to show that you can come up with another $1,000 or some other resource equal to it. The total budget of your project then would have to be at least $2,000.

Unlike most grant programs, there is no specific deadline for filing CAP grant applications, except that the application must be turned in four weeks before the project is scheduled to start. Since they are being considered on a first-come, first-serve basis starting Oct. 1 ,the sooner you file now, the better chances you have of getting the money. Special Arts Projects grants can be much bigger than CAP grants- the ceiling on Special Arts is $10,000. The basic rule of eligibility for these grants is that the funded activity responds to cultural need in one specific area. MCA guidelines specify that Special Arts Grants have to be matched with cash only, but, according to staff at the MCA office, exceptions are made in special circumstances. A common way of providing matching funds for an arts project is to seek a matching grant from another source, such as the NEA, a foundation, or a corporation.

The filing deadline for the next series of Special Arts Projects grants that will be considered is February 11, 1977. This and other details pertaining to MCA grants are explained in the MCA Program Guidelines booklet, which is available at the MCA office on the fourth floor of the modernistic State of Michigan office tower at 1200 Sixth near Howard, Detroit 48226.

Now that you've got some idea of how your activities relate to the Michigan Council for the Arts and how you can frame them for grant proposals, you are ready to tackle the job of filling out an application.

Application forms and an instructional packet are available from the MCA office for the asking. The same application is used for both CAP and Special Arts Projects grants, and it is divided into four parts. Each section takes up roughly one side of a regular sheet of paper, and the whole form uses four sides of a regular sheet. The application is there is no need to attach a separate budget sheet or any other addition unless you wish to.

Section One is simply general information on the name, address, the administrator, and the kind of organization that is applying. Section Two is a statement which the applicant must sign that reaffirms that the application is sincere and that the money will be used only for the purposes outlined in the application.

Section Three asks for information on the projects which seek funds: in general, what activities will take place and which artists will participate, where will it take place, how will it be implemented, who will be reached, and what overall purpose do you hope to accomplish with this activity. Be creative here, artists.

Section Four of the application is for your project's budget. This, like the other sections, is explained in detail in the instructions. Put simply, your expenses and revenues should be listed to show a deficit (lack of funds) in your overall budget -this deficit is the amount of funding you are asking for.

MCA staff say that most of the mistakes they see on applications are in the budgetary section. The assistance of an accountant is most useful here (and MCA people can help, too) but the main thing to remember is that you have to list your real costs and realistically project your revenues in the form provided by MCA.

If everything is in order on your application, MCA decides whether to approve it or turn it down- based on its own merit, available funds, and other grants applications for the same area.

If you are approved, congratulations!

You will be sent a contract, which is an agreement between your organization and MCA that you will provide the exact services that you are being funded to provide. You receive your grant monies upon the signing of the contract.

The contract stipulates that you will credit MCA whenever you present your project, and it also requires that you report on the use of the funds at the end of the funding period. Another form is supplied and you need to report on the actual use of the funds in the same way that you made your projected budget on your original application, along with giving your observations on the successes and failures of the funded project.

Next week, we'll see what it's like to go for the big money, as we look at: How to apply for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.