Grant FAQS

Frequently Asked Questions

For frequently asked questions about General Operating Support II, go to the FAQ tab in the GOS II grant category page.
What is a Local Arts Agency?

Americans for the Arts defines a local arts agency (LAA) as a community organization or local government agency that supports cultural organizations, provides services to artists or arts organizations, and/or presents arts programming to the public. LAAs endeavor to make the arts part of the daily fabric of community living. LAA activities commonly fall into three areas: programming, services, and grantsmanship. Most LAAs combine and carry out activities in all three areas and also engage in some advocacy work. To address differences in local and state goals, AHCMC’s practices and polices differ from that of a state arts agency.

At the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County (AHCMC), we say that we raise tadpoles!

What do we mean by that? What do we do? How and why do we do it?

Considering that local arts agencies are often community organizations or local government agencies, AHCMC supports cultural organizations, provides organizational development, professional development, and technical assistance services to local artists, scholars, and/or arts organizations to help them achieve their greatest potential. We focus on best practices in the main nonprofit organizational components—strong financial oversight, strong leadership and administration, and strong community connections—to develop strong foundations for artists, scholars, and organizations countywide. While programming is important, AHCMC’s goal to develop strong foundational structure for artists, scholars, and organizations countywide is organizationally, rather than programmatically, focused.

Best practices and research in arts and humanities grantmaking have shown that guidelines that reward strong organizational capacity, financial stability, and grant-seekers’ relationships and partnerships with the community they serve are most effective at developing organizational capacity. While the quality of programming is important, it may be less so when oriented toward the goal of developing organizational capacity at the local level.

State arts agencies (SAAs) increase public access to the arts and work to ensure that every community in the U.S. enjoys the cultural, civic, economic, and educational benefits of a thriving arts sector. The Maryland State Arts Council supports artists and arts organizations in their pursuit of artistic excellence, ensures the accessibility of the arts to all citizens, and promotes statewide awareness of arts resources and opportunities.

By developing guidelines that reward strong organizational capacity and financial stability, as well as recognize grantseekers’ relationships and partnerships with the community they serve, as a local arts agency AHCMC increases the ability for local artists, scholars, and organizations to compete for funding opportunities that reward artistic excellence at the state and federal level.

Does AHCMC work with the community to increase overall arts funding in Montgomery County?

Yes! We will continue to advocate for increased funding at the local and state level. We look forward to working with MCAA and the newly formed Montgomery County Government Grants Office to seek additional funds.

How is funding being allocated?

Grant category allocations are based on both county designations and demand from the field.

If I want a grant, how do I get started?

Use the grant opportunities generator to determine which funding opportunities you may be eligible for. Carefully read the grant guidelines for categories that appear to match your needs and goals.

Think about the following questions:

  1. Do I (we) meet the eligibility requirements for the grant?
  2. Does my project or program appear to be eligible for funding?
  3. Do I have all of the materials that are required to be submitted or can I get them assembled in time to apply?

If you are uncertain about the answers to any of these questions or would like to discuss your eligibility for a grant with a staff member, please do not hesitate to call our grants staff at (301) 565-3805.

Applicants can receive additional guidance during our grant preparation webinars. Workshops and webinars are scheduled prior to the deadline for each grant category. During each workshop and webinar, staff will explain how to fill out the application, what constitutes a competitive proposal, and how your application will be evaluated.

I am an individual artist or humanities scholar. Am I eligible for a grant?

Yes! To be eligible for an individual artist/scholar award, you must be a resident of Montgomery County for at least the past 12 months, and be at least 21 years old. You also must be a practicing artist or scholar with demonstrated ability in the art or humanities discipline of your proposed project.

We are a group or organization. Are we eligible for a grant?

We offer grants to groups and organizations based in Montgomery County.  Several types of organizations/groups are eligible, as follows:

  • 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations whose primary mission incorporates arts/humanities discipline(s).
  • Groups of affiliated individual artists/scholars who regularly work together but are not incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
I am interested in Wheaton Cultural Project Grants. Where is the Wheaton Arts and Entertainment District?

Wheaton Cultural Project Grants (WCPG) support projects that stimulate Wheaton’s creative economy and provide professional opportunities for artists/scholars to work in Wheaton. Montgomery County based nonprofit arts and humanities organizations, groups, and artists/scholars are invited to apply for grants of up to $10,000. All public activities must take place in Wheaton. Please find a map of Wheaton and the Arts & Entertainment District under the “Guidelines + Eligibility” tab of the WCPG webpage.

Is it okay to call your office with questions?

Yes! It is always safest to ask questions instead of making assumptions, and our grants staff are happy to answer questions. We realize that you may be applying for a grant for the very first time. Even if you have applied for grants before, different questions may arise each time that you apply. We do ask that constituents read the grant guidelines thoroughly before contacting staff with funding inquires. Please call (301) 565-3805.

How do you decide which applications to fund?

All eligible applications are evaluated by a panel of arts, humanities, or cultural professionals in an open panel review process. AHCMC staff review applications for eligibility and completeness, but do not score. AHCMC staff use the applicant’s panel score to calculate and recommend grant award amounts to AHCMC’s Grants Committee. The Grants Committee reviews and revises the grant awards as necessary and forwards their recommendations to the AHCMC Board of Directors. The Board of Directors has final authority to approve or decline all grant awards. For a more detailed explanation, visit our Review Panel Process page.

Why doesn’t AHCMC allow video or audio recordings of panel meetings?

AHCMC polled panelists for every funding opportunity for two years to inquire about panelist’s comfort regarding the taping and recoding of meetings. The majority of panelists asked that they not be recorded citing concerns about audio/video manipulation that could misconstrue statements. To ensure that AHCMC honors their requests, applicants must attend the panel meetings and abstain from using audio/video recording devices to ensure that panelists feel comfortable speaking honestly in a safe environment.

Will organizations be provided with feedback that directly states why they received their scores and how to improve their scores in the future?

Panelists evaluate all eligible applications based on published AHCMC Evaluation Criteria. All grantees and applicants are encouraged to schedule feedback appointments with AHCMC staff after grant awards are publicly announced. During feedback appointments, AHCMC grants staff summarize the panel’s assessment of the applicant’s proposal and offer suggestions for how to improve scores, enhance organizational operations, and better-align programs with an organization’s mission, target demographic(s), and the funding evaluative criteria.

When are grant applications due?

All AHCMC grants applications must be submitted online though AHCMC’s grants portal. Please consult the grant guidelines to verify the time and date that your application is due.

How long does it take to find out if I have received a grant?

The timeline for each grant is different. It can take several months as grants are reviewed by a panel, and recommendations must be approved by the Grants Committee and AHCMC Board of Directors. Refer to the grant guidelines for an estimate of when grant awards are announced.

If I receive a grant, do I have to tell you what I did with the grant money?

Yes. All grantees are required to fill out a final report, submitted online through AHCMC’s grants portal. Some funding opportunities require grantees to submit both a mid-year report and a final report. Refer to the grant guidelines for additional information about reporting requirements.

How can my organization measure impact?

AHCMC believes that impact can and should be measured. Measuring the difference in our work involves knowing what to look for as indicators of change and how to collect that evidence. Whether an organization is just starting to explore foundational terms and frameworks or wants to dive right into evaluation tools and case studies, the Impact Section of Animating Democracy’s website is a storehouse of resources to help advance evaluation work.

Looking for ways to build evidence of your organization’s impact? The Social Impact Indicators section of Animating Democracy’s website provides examples to help express common social and civic outcomes and demonstrates how to translate outcomes to measurable evidence. At that site, organizations can also learn different data collection strategies including how to effectively collect and analyze qualitative data.

With the increased number of criteria, will there be additional space provided to answer questions on the application?

Updates to AHCMC guidelines are iterative and developmental. Word limits are imposed on application questions to encourage grantseekers to summarize relevant and salient information essential to the application to ensure that organizations are not unduly burdened in completing applications, and that panelists are not asked to absorb more information than is reasonable.

What are the benchmarks for the Community Impact evaluation criteria? How will organizations be adjudicated on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access (D.E.I.A)?

Montgomery County is a very large, multicultural geographic region. Organizations and individual artists and scholars reside in vastly different communities within the county, and AHCMC provides multidisciplinary funding opportunities to a diversity of constituents. In doing so, AHCMC recognizes that one community impact plan or model will not benefit all applicants and communities, because applicants do not necessarily have the same target demographic(s) for their public activities.

AHCMC anticipates that each organization and artist/scholar will address this criterion based on the specificities of the region where the applicant is located and the needs of that applicant’s unique target demographic(s). We encourage grantseekers to set internal benchmarks, describe D.E.I.A goals within proposals, provide a timeline for the implementation of D.E.I.A. goals, track progress made, and honestly describe lessons learned within the proposal. AHCMC is cognizant of the fact that it takes time to implement D.E.I.A initiatives. We always encourage grantseekers to contact AHCMC staff for guidance before the application deadline if it is unclear how an applicant can involve the community in their planning and operations.