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2017 Request for Proposals to Support City-Based Advocacy Coalitions Using Culture as a Strategy to Advance Policy


In early 2014, a small group of funders convened the City’s arts and cultural advocates to learn how groups were mobilizing in a moment of mayoral transition. A number of advocates were engaged in individual efforts to inspire and drive policy. Many believed a comprehensive cultural policy could improve advocacy coordination, but the field first needed to address inequity by developing a shared understanding and aligned community building. The funders created the New York City Cultural Agenda Fund in The New York Community Trust 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, immigrant arts groups, 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 now include the Booth Ferris, Lambent, and Stavros Niarchos foundations; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; and The New York Community Trust. 


The Cultural Agenda Fund defines equity as fairness in opportunity for all cultural organizations, artists, and participants. This means adequately understanding and addressing inequities as they relate to race/ethnicity, country of origin, disability status, gender identity, sexuality, and other aspects of identity. The Fund defines advocacy as activities that seek to generate public support for a particular issue. When advocacy specifically calls for action on a specific piece of legislation, it constitutes lobbying.


The months ahead present unique opportunities and challenges for communities engaged in cultural strategies. The arts have taken on a prominent role in recent demonstrations and rallies, proving once again that culture is a key ingredient to any movement for social change. Recent advances in research show that arts contribute to overall social wellbeing, social cohesion, and community development.  In July, New York City will have its first-ever comprehensive cultural plan, which aims to guide City policy on a number of issues, including affordable workspaces, arts education, and cultural preservation and neighborhood character. The national cultural sector is currently grappling with a proposal to eliminate key cultural agencies from the federal budget. In response, the sector and its supporters are advocating that Congress preserve funding for these agencies. The City’s varied political context requires a more vibrant and savvy cultural ecology as we face a municipal election this fall and a gubernatorial election in 2018.

In line with its goals to strengthen advocacy and advance equitable cultural policy, the New York City Cultural Agenda Fund is requesting proposals for six-month grants of $10,000 to $25,000 to support advocacy activities among networks of arts agencies, cultural producers, and/or individual artists, including but not limited to:

  • Organizing advocacy activities (e.g., legislator education, litigation, non-partisan voter education, non-partisan research) that make the case for arts and culture in government policy and cross-sectorial efforts (including, for example, the environment, community development, and technology sectors); and
  • Using arts-based advocacy and community organizing strategies to promote policies across multiple sectors in New York City.
Priority will be given to existing networks, collectives, and coalitions working to ensure arts and culture are meaningfully present in local policy. 

Projects seeking solely to increase the Department of Cultural Affairs budget, support lobbying efforts, or provide organizational operating support will not be considered. 

All projects will take place between June and December 2017.

Qualifications and Priorities

Applicants must be New York-based, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations (or fiscally sponsored groups) that apply on behalf of a cohort or network of other arts agencies, cultural producers, or individual artists. The lead agency must 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. Priority will be given to existing coalitions and groups with demonstrated experience in arts and culture-related advocacy and/or organizing strategies. Projects must take place in New York City.

Proposal Specifications and Support Materials

Proposals should not exceed three pages (exclusive of support materials) and should cover the following:
  1. A brief overview (1 page) of the lead organization’s mission, programs, and constituencies, which would highlight any experience the group might have working in one or more of the Fund’s three focus areas: advocacy, policy, and equity. This section also should include why partnering groups 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 (1 page) of the project, including:
    a. The need and anticipated goal or outcome;
    b. Description of advocacy activities;
    c. What obstacles you anticipate having to overcome to be successful; and
    d. How you plan to measure your success.
  3. A timeline (half a page) of activities.
  4. A project budget (half a page) that includes expenses and income. If additional income is to be provided, please indicate if it is projected or confirmed and identify the source.
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;
  • Demonstrated knowledge of arts and culture; and
  • Organizational capacity to complete the project.
  • Support materials should include: 

  • Cover letter requesting support, on stationary and signed by the organization’s director.
  • Letters of commitment from partnering agencies (if applying on behalf of a network, coalition, or consortium).
  • A copy of the New York Community Trust proposal cover sheet that you have submitted online via the “Respond to an RFP” tab in the Grant Portal. We recommend completing the cover sheet at least one day before you intend to submit the proposal.
  • Annotated list of Board of Directors (for 501(c)(3) organizations; if fiscally sponsored, submit your fiscal sponsor’s Board list).
  • Agency operating budget for the current year (for 501(c)(3) organizations). 
  • Most recent audited financial statement (for 501(c)(3) organizations; if fiscally sponsored, submit your fiscal sponsor’s most recent audited financial statements).

To submit a proposal:

  1. E-mail the proposal, project budget, and all supplemental materials as a single PDF to by Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017 at 12:00 noon and
  2. Mail or hand-deliver a complete proposal, received by the same deadline, to:
NYC Cultural Agenda Fund
c/o The New York Community Trust
909 Third Avenue, 22nd Floor
New York, NY 10022

Questions about the proposal process should be directed to The New York Community Trust via email to program associate Michele Kumi Baer ( Applicants will be notified of grant decisions in early June 2017.

909 Third Avenue | New York, NY 10022 | P (212) 686-0010 | F (212) 532-8528 |
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The New York Community Trust is a 501(c)3 public charity.