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2015 Request for Proposals for Planning Grants


Established in 2014, the New York City Cultural Agenda Fund is a donor collaborative that aims to:

  1. Strengthen Advocacy – Fortify and connect the network of arts and culture advocates in New York City;
  2. Influence Policy – Promote a cohesive and equitable cultural policy and integrate culture into City policies across multiple sectors; and
  3. Advance Equity – Ensure small, community arts groups, groups led by people of color, and culturally and economically diverse artists are as valued for their contributions to the City’s cultural ecology as larger institutions.
Donors to the Fund include the Booth Ferris, Lambent, Stavros Niarchos, Robert Rauschenberg, and Robert Sterling Clark foundations, the David Rockefeller Fund, and The New York Community Trust.

In April 2015, the Fund launched its Cultural Advocacy & Equity Program to afford a cohort of arts advocates the space, time, and resources needed to collectively generate ideas to improve advocacy coordination and foster a more equitable cultural ecosystem in New York. The four-part workshop series included:

  • A training on racial justice leadership, facilitated by Race Forward, to develop a shared understanding of racial equity and encourage equity-driven collaborations and projects;
  • A training on communications framing and messaging, facilitated by The Opportunity Agenda, to imagine new, values-based narratives to increase public will for arts and culture and deliver more resources to the sector; and
  • Two design charrettes, one each facilitated by i2i Experience and Hester Street Collaborative, to encourage iterative design of collaborative projects that advance the Fund’s advocacy, policy, and equity goals.

Now, the Program will move into its next phase to help bring advocates’ ideas to fruition. The Fund’s stated intention always was to make grants to develop and implement the very best of the ideas that emerge from these charrettes. This RFP for planning grants will help groups further develop their ideas into actionable project plans.

Qualifications and Priorities

To support further development of ideas generated in the Cultural Advocacy & Equity Program (the Program), the Fund invites proposals for 3-6-month planning grants of up to $15,000 each from participating groups (see page 5 for list of eligible applicants). Projects must be supported by at least two organizations participating in the Program (a lead applicant and a partner) but may include additional organizations beyond the Program as partners, which is encouraged. Planning grants are intended to support staff time and small-scale pilot/prototyping activities that will result in a detailed project work plan.

Applicants must be New York-based, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations and assume full responsibility for the grant on behalf of itself and its partner(s). An organization may submit only one proposal as lead entity through this RFP but may take part in additional collaborative projects as a partner.

Projects should be aligned with the Fund’s advocacy, policy, and equity goals (see page 1 for Fund goals), and priority will be given to projects that fall into at least one of the following categories:

  • Building Advocacy Infrastructure: developing innovative tools, mechanisms, and systems to organize constituencies, engage in civic and electoral processes, and effectively advocate for arts and culture, inclusive of African, Latino, Asian, Arab and Native American (ALAANA) organizations and persons with disabilities. Projects should be sustainable, have citywide reach, and may include but are not limited to:
  • Mergers and strategic alliances to streamline advocacy efforts;
  • Development of campaigns to deploy timely messages, educate voters about the legislative process and policy issues affecting arts and culture, mobilize constituencies, and increase public will for arts and culture; and
  • New research or application of existing research to help guide policymakers and develop concrete policy proposals.
  • Cultural Organizing: field-based, cross-sector, and/or neighborhood-based organizing to motivate involvement in issues related to arts and culture, ensure inclusion of diverse perspectives, including historically marginalized groups, and build a base to influence public policy. Activities may include: canvassing, public forums, voter education, workshops on organizing tactics, and other means of promoting civic engagement and activism. Cross-sector organizing (the creative sector and other sectors such as housing, criminal justice, and immigration) is encouraged.
  • Cultural Leadership Development: developing the full pipeline of professional leaders in arts and culture, including emerging and transitioning leaders, using innovative means to diversify the pool of artists, arts administrators, board members, and policy influencers. Projects may address pertinent issues in the field, such as lowering barriers of entry, leadership transitions, and helping leaders work more intentionally with an equity lens. This may also include developing meaningful ways to promote inclusion and encourage more active roles of non-executive staff and program beneficiaries in institutional decision-making processes. Projects in this area should be non-duplicative and seek to fill a specific void.

Grants will not support general operations, capacity-building activities, or audience development or diversification programs at any singular institution. Grants are intended to benefit the arts and culture sector as a whole. Priority will be given to collaborating groups seeking to advance equity in arts and culture. The Fund expects to award 3-5 planning grants of up to $15,000 each.

At the end of the 3-6-month grant period, groups will be required to submit a detailed, one-year work plan. Up to three of the most compelling, feasible projects will be invited to apply for competitive one-year implementation grants of up to $150,000.

Proposal Specifications and Support Material

Proposals should not exceed seven pages (exclusive of support materials) and should cover at least the following:

  1. An overview (1-2 pages) of each collaborating organization’s mission, core programs, and constituencies, highlighting any experience groups might have working in one or more of the Fund’s three focus areas: advocacy, policy, and equity. This overview should also address why partnering organizations have decided to work together, what assets each organization brings to the collaboration, and why the lead organization was selected to submit this application.
  2. A description (2-3 pages) of the project, including:
    a.    The need and anticipated goal or outcome;
    b.    Description of planning activities;
    c.    How the project will help the City’s arts and culture sector;
    d.    How the project might contribute to the cultural policy landscape;
    e.    What obstacles you anticipate having to overcome to be successful; and
    f.    How you plan to measure your success, if selected to implement the project.
  3. A timeline (one page) of activities.
  4. A project budget (one page) that includes expenses and income. If additional income is to be provided, please indicate if it is projected or confirmed.

Proposals will be evaluated on a competitive basis using the following criteria:

  • Clarity of potential project description;
  • Realistic timeline with achievable outcomes;
  • Demonstrated understanding of equity and how the project will address it;
  • Experience working in at least one of the Fund’s three focus areas: advocacy, policy, and equity;
  • Demonstrated knowledge of the arts and cultural sector and its trends;
  • Organizational capacity to complete the project, including staffing and leadership; and
  • Ability to leverage existing resources and capacities in the field and develop creative, adaptive strategies.

To submit a proposal, applicants must:
1. E-mail the proposal, project budget, and all supplemental materials as a single PDF to:

2. Mail or hand-deliver a complete proposal to:
NYC Cultural Agenda Fund c/o
The New York Community Trust
909 Third Avenue, 22nd Floor
New York, NY 10022

Both an electronic and printed copy of the application are required. All proposals (electronic and hard copies) must be received by Friday, October 23, 2015 at 12 noon EST. Please note this is NOT a postmark deadline. No late or incomplete proposals will be considered. Questions about the proposal process should be directed to The New York Community Trust at (212) 686-0010, ext. 658 or

Support materials from the lead organization should include:

  • Cover letter requesting support, on stationary and signed by the director from the lead organization.
  • New York Community Trust proposal cover sheet (available here). We recommend completing the coversheet at least one day before you intend to submit the proposal.
  • 501(c)(3) letter.
  • Annotated list of Board of Directors.
  • Agency operating budget for the current year.
  • Affirmative Action Policy and/or Equal Opportunity Employment policy.
  • Most recent audited financial statement.
  • Letter(s) of support from project partner(s). Reminder: in addition to the lead applicant organization, at least one other partner must have participated in the Cultural Advocacy & Equity Program, as listed on page 5.

Award Information
The 3-6-month grants are expected to range up to $15,000. Matching funds are welcome but not required. All applicants will be notified of grant decisions in December 2015.

Eligible Applicants
●    Alice Austen House
●    Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts
●    Artist Volunteer Center
●    Arts & Democracy Project
●    Asian American Arts Alliance
●    Asian American Writers’ Workshop
●    BRIC
●    Bronx Council on the Arts
●    Bronx Museum of the Arts
●    Brooklyn Academy of Music
●    Brooklyn Arts Council
●    Brooklyn Children’s Museum
●    Brooklyn Museum
●    Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute
●    Center for Arts Education
●    Chamber Music America
●    Children’s Museum of the Arts
●    Dance/NYC
●    El Museo del Barrio
●    El Puente de Williamsburg
●    Elders Share the Arts
●    The Field
●    Flushing Town Hall
●    Gibney Dance
●    Groundswell
●    Friends of the High Line
●    Harlem Arts Alliance
●    Harlem School of the Arts
●    Harlem Stage
●    HB Studio
●    Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy
●    Lark Play Development Center
●    The Laundromat Project
●    Lewis Latimer House Museum
●    Lower Manhattan Cultural Council
●    Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
●    Museum of Chinese in America
●    Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts
●    National Museum of the American Indian –New York
●    Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts New York
●    New York City Arts Coalition
●    New York Foundation for the Arts
●    One Percent for Culture
●    Park Avenue Armory
●    People’s Climate Arts
●    Printed Matter
●    The Public Theater
●    Queens Museum
●    Spaceworks
●    Staten Island Museum
●    White Columns

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The New York Community Trust is a 501(c)3 public charity.