Grantmaking Guidelines

group of teens at nasher art museum class

Grantmaking Guidelines

We are committed to fostering creativity, innovation, and learning in the Triangle region. To ensure a transparent and efficient grantmaking process for arts organizations and PreK-12 education partners, we have established guidelines and eligibility criteria.

Our Grantmaking Goals

PreK-12 Education
  • Support PreK-12 organizations that work to close the academic opportunity gap, prepare students for careers and college, and/or foster social and emotional learning for students’ growth and success.
  • Support arts education organizations that provide opportunities for under-resourced students to engage directly in high-quality arts instruction, particularly in which students actively participate in making art.

Across both PreK-12 education interest areas, MDBF seeks to address and challenge inequities that limit student success, learning, and arts experiences.

The Arts
  • Support and strengthen cultural organizations that demonstrate artistic excellence and elevate the profile of the Triangle’s art scenes, both locally and nationally.
  • Support new, emerging, or grassroots cultural organizations.
  • Support arts-focused organizations that work directly with artists to deepen and expand talent, develop professional and business skills, and/or create new works.

 

Multi-year Grants

Each year, we will award 5-7 general operating support grants to nonprofit organizations that further our grantmaking goals. Grant amounts range from $15,000-$50,000 a year for each organization. MDBF has a finite budget and may not be able to fund the full amount requested. If your application moves forward, MDBF staff will work with your organization to determine the actual requested amount. Please know that there is no penalty for requesting the maximum amount at the LOI stage.

Multi-year grants are only available to organizations that MDBF has funded in the previous five years (2019-2023). All organizations must have an explicit focus on the arts or PreK-12 education and primary programming must take place in Chatham, Durham, Orange, and/or Wake Counties, NC.

We focus our multi-year grants on two types of organizations:

Developing organizations

These organizations have identified a clear need or opportunity, have strategic goals, and have already begun offering programming. Our goal in supporting developing organizations is to help them solidify their programs and operations as they build a strong and sustainable foundation for long-term success.

Organizations at this stage may have limited or no board of directors with staff who are primarily volunteers. Or, their boards may have expanded beyond “friends and family” to focus more on governance and less on day-to-day operations, with staffing in place beyond an Executive Director and volunteers.

Funding sources are likely not diversified at this stage of development, but the organization may be starting to formalize financial management, volunteer management, program evaluation, fundraising, board development, marketing, and strategic planning as they grow.

Established organizations experiencing pivotal moments

These organizations have more maturity and stability; programs/services are solid and well-recognized with strong and effective leadership. Paid program and administrative staff are in place and the board’s focus is primarily policy and oversight. These organizations may have a well-demonstrated model and data that shows outcomes or is currently executing a plan for evaluation, continuous learning, and improvement.

Through the years, MDBF’s experience has illuminated the importance of strategic alignment. We have learned that certain types of organizations tend to thrive more within our grant support framework. The reality of our resource constraints necessitates a thoughtful and selective approach. Thus, we concentrate our efforts on established organizations that are experiencing inflection points in their lifecycle, when leaders face big decisions about how to ensure progress towards the organization’s vision.

These organizations are in moments of transition, challenge, and opportunity and are seeking additional help, resources, and expertise to ensure they’re positioned for success and heading in the right direction to achieve their goals and mission. This could include organizations that have an opportunity to expand programming, capacity, and/or locations.

Additional Eligibility Requirements 

Developing organizations must have:

  • 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status or be sponsored by a qualified fiscal agent. If this organization or initiative has a fiscal sponsorship, it must have an advisory board working with the founder.
  • A mission, goals, and programming directly related to at least one of MDBF’s grantmaking goals (see above) and programming must be currently offered. The organization must have at least 2-3 strategic goals that are demonstrably feasible and realistic.
  • A demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in its governance, staffing, and participants (students or artists).
  • A current or expected budget between $20,000 and $300,000 (fiscal sponsors are exempt from this stipulation).
  • Public schools and charter schools are not eligible to apply.
  • Public school foundations are eligible to apply.

Established organizations must have:

  • 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status or be sponsored by a qualified fiscal agent.
  • A mission, goals, and programming directly related to at least one of MDBF’s grantmaking goals (see above). Programming is currently being offered, has demonstrated efficacy, and is in demand by community members.
  • A current or expected budget under $3,000,000 (fiscal sponsors are exempt from this stipulation).
  • Clearly defined strategies and is at a pivotal moment (see above) that proves to be an important opportunity for increased investment to prepare for the organization’s future.
  • A demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in its governance, staffing, and participants (students or artists).
  • The ability and capacity to implement changes, with notable staff and board buy-in and participation.
  • Public schools and charter schools are not eligible to apply.
  • Public school foundations are eligible to apply.

LOI Application Assessment Categories

  • Strategic goals (Developing Organizations):
    - Relevance of 2-3 strategic goals to organization's continued development
    - Strategies to address goals are well-defined and feasible
  • Pivotal moment (Established Organizations)
    - Significance of the pivotal moment to the organization's future
    - Strategies for addressing the moment are well-defined and feasible
    - Board buy-in
  • Role in the ecosystem
    - Addresses a need in the Triangle's Arts or PreK-12 Education ecosystem
    - Provides a distinctive approach
  • Demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in its governance, staff, and participants

Grantmaking Timeline

January 8, 2024 — Begin accepting open-submission letters of inquiry (LOI) from organizations that meet all of our eligibility criteria (see above) via an online form on our grant portal. Information requested in the LOI form may be previewed here.

January 8 - February 9, 2024 — Pre-LOI advisory meetings with staff are available. Use this Calendly link to schedule 30-minute phone or Zoom meetings.

January 18, 2024  — Virtual webinar. To view a recording of the multi-year operating support information session, click here.

February 15, 2024 — Deadline for all LOI submissions

April 2024 — Follow-up calls with ~15 selected organizations. All applicants will be notified about the status of their application.

June 2024 — All approved grants will be awarded.

One-Year Grants

Each year, we will typically award 5 general operating support grants to nonprofit organizations that further our grantmaking goals. Grant amounts range from $5,000-$10,000 a year for each organization.

One-year grants are available to organizations that have not received an MDBF grant in the past five years or have never received a grant from us. Both emerging nonprofits and more established organizations are eligible for these grants.

Organizations must have an explicit focus on the arts or PreK-12 education and primary programming must take place in Chatham, Durham, Orange, and/or Wake Counties, NC.

Additional Eligibility Requirements and Selection Criteria

  • 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status or be sponsored by a qualified fiscal agent.
  • A mission, goals, and programming directly related to at least one of MDBF’s grantmaking goals (see above) and programming must be currently offered.
  • A current or expected budget under $3,000,000 (fiscal sponsors are exempt from this stipulation).
  • A demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in its governance, staffing, and participants (students or artists).
  • Capacity to achieve its goals: staffing and experience (including volunteers), board governance, and financial resources.
  • Individual artist projects are not eligible, nor are fiscal sponsorships of individual artist projects.
  • Public schools and charter schools are not eligible to apply.
  • Public school foundations are eligible to apply.

Grantmaking Timeline

April 18, 2024 — Virtual webinar for anyone interested in learning more about one-year grants (Register here)

April 25 - May 8, 2024 — Pre-application advisory meetings with staff are available. Information on how to schedule a pre-application meeting will be made available in early March.

May 1, 2024 — Begin accepting open-submission letters of inquiry (LOI) from organizations that meet all of our eligibility criteria (see above) via an online form on our grant portal.

May 15, 2024 — Deadline for all LOI submissions

June 2024 — After conversations with select organizations, we will extend invitations for proposals from well-aligned applicants. All applicants will be notified about the status of their application.

September 2024 — All approved grants will be awarded.

 

Grantmaking Considerations

 

In our selection process for both grant cycles, we seek diversity and representation so that our grant portfolio mirrors the richness of our community. Some of the criteria we use to prioritize and weigh grant applications to reflect this aspiration include:

 

- Programming in all four counties in our geographic focus—Chatham, Durham, Orange, and Wake

 

- Organizations that are led by people of color and leaders with lived experience (on staff and/or board leadership)

 

- Organizations that advance the well-being of rural communities and that acknowledge their unique challenges and contributions

 

- Organizations at different life stages: emerging, developing, and established organizations