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The funding process for MCACA arts and cultural projects begins with the development of guidelines for all the Council's programs. MCACA staff shape the guidelines based upon MCACA priorities and industry needs. They work with stakeholders to update and/or revise guidelines. The Council reviews the guidelines and provides expertise. Focus group meetings are conducted for public input on the programs and subsequent guidelines.
Conducting public grant assistance workshops is the next step in providing information and guidance to those interested in applying to the Council for grant funds. Workshop notices are broadly disseminated and press releases are issued. Workshops are conducted throughout the entire state. MCACA often partners with other service organizations to provide additional information on grants writing, grants making and improved project management. Staff continues providing technical assistance, consultation to applicant organizations until the grant application deadline.
Improved guidelines, successful grants assistance workshops, a fair and independent application review process and the Council's support of statewide distribution of arts and cultural resources to organizations and communities have resulted in applications for outstanding projects.
In order to provide an open environment in which to review applications for funding, MCACA utilizes a panel application review process. The peer panel process places great importance on the review of applications by professionals in the arts, arts and cultural management and related fields. Peer professionals from the state and nation evaluate, score and rank the grant applications based upon published program criteria found in the guidelines. They provide the Council with the depth of experience and expertise that is the foundation of their informed funding decisions.
Recommendations for panelists come from the Council, clients, colleagues from other state arts councils, the public and staff. Recommendations are reviewed and approved by the Council Chairman with the advice of the full Council as needed.
The Council convenes peer review panels in each grant program. Panelists are selected based on the following criteria:
Panelists review each application. Further, each application receives a primary and secondary review. Primary reviewers conduct in-depth reviews, report their findings to the panel and lead panel discussion. Panelists objectively apply their knowledge and expertise to the review. Panelists use a score sheet to individually record their comments and score for each application. The application score is the average of all panelists' scores.
Council members are invited to facilitate or audit the peer review meetings. Council staff facilitate process, provide information and adhere to policy and procedures to ensure fair and equitable treatment of all grant applicants. Only the peer panel reviewers participate in the application discussion and scoring.
The Council reviews applicant requests, panel scores and recommendations and determines fiscal year funding parameters (i.e., grant program allocations, geographic distribution, maximum number of grant awards per applicant and program issues and priorities). The parameters include: merit scores and funding benchmarks; awarding one grant per applicant organization in the Program for Operational & Projects Support. For organizations with two or more applications typically the highest qualifying score receives the award. From these parameters, staff develops a range of possible formula-based funding scenarios, which are subsequently reviewed in depth by all Council committees. By consensus, committees provide final recommendations for presentation of the tentative funding plan that is considered for approval by the full Council.
The funding plan represents a proportionate distribution of funds to each program based on merit scores, Council priorities, geographic, cultural and disciplinary distribution, technical support and the available funding. All MCACA grants require matching funds.