Partnership Support
Fiscal Year 2020
Deadline: Monday, January 14, 2019, by 11:59 p.m. (CST)

First time applicants to this category must submit a letter of intent to apply by October 30. The letter should describe how the applicant meets the eligibility requirements and the evaluation criteria for the category. Include a staff list with current annual salaries and fringes and your most recent audit, 990, or year-end financial statement. Address this letter to Hal Partlow, Associate Director for Grants and do not exceed three pages. TN Arts will contact you to discuss your eligibility to submit a full application on January 14, 2019 and funding potential in this category.

FY2020 Arts Specialty License Plate Promotion Requirements


Partnership Support (PS) provides operating support for qualified arts organizations chartered in Tennessee. Funding will depend upon an organization’s rating in the review process and upon the total amount of funds available to the Tennessee Arts Commission for grant allocation. This category is competitive.

Organizations may request 12 percent of their total cash operating expenses in their most recently completed fiscal year at the time they submit their application, up to but not exceeding the maximum grant of $40,000.

The total cash operating expenses, verified by an audit submitted by the applicant, will be determined by the sum total of personnel, outside fees and services, space rental, travel, marketing and remaining operating expenses. The following are not allowed as operating expenses: capital expenses, endowment funds, penalties payments, in-kind expenses, bank penalties, or furniture and fixture expenditures exceeding $2,500.

Most PS recipients are organizations operating with an annual budget below $1 million. However, the category is open to arts organizations with budgets in excess of this level, but who do not qualify for the Major Cultural Institution or Cultural Education Partnership categories (see guidelines for those categories for further information).

Applicant organizations are reviewed every other year by a peer advisory panel, although organizations must submit a complete application every year. Those organizations new to the PS category must be reviewed for two consecutive years prior to beginning the biennial review rotation process. Commission staff will contact all current PS recipients and inform them of their review status and, if appropriate, schedule.

The grant period for this application is July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020. Applicants are expected to submit final evaluations no later than June 15.

Affirmative Duty to Report Major Organizational Change

If funded, all grantees must promptly notify the Commission in writing of any significant changes in the organization’s structure, leadership or financial circumstances that could affect services provided under the grant contract resulting from this application.

Eligibility Requirements

Applicant must be a free-standing arts group independent of any other organization. Therefore, applicants must be an established arts organization responsible for its own programming.

An organization is eligible to apply for funding if the organization is legally chartered in Tennessee and has its headquarters and home season, or activities equivalent to a home season for non-producing organizations, in Tennessee, and meets either of the following qualifications: active IRS 501(c)3 status or public arts council that serves a broad population and interacts with local arts organizations. A significant amount of year-round public activity and programming must be evident that significantly impacts Tennesseans and their communities. Organization must have a board approved long-range plan covering at least the current and next fiscal years.

Government units that are local arts agencies are eligible for Partnership Support funding. Colleges, universities and other government units are not eligible for funding in this category.

Applicant must have received a minimum of three years of Commission funding during the last five years in the following grant categories: Partnership Support, Arts Access, Arts Project Support, Rural Arts Project Support, Creative Placemaking, Arts Education Community Learning, Arts Education Teacher Training or Funds for At-Risk Youth.

Applicant must have at least one full time, year-round paid professional administrator at the time of application. Employees cannot be paid by a subsidiary entity. In general, “full-time” means the individual is paid for a minimum of 37.5 hours of work per week.

  • Applicant must demonstrate ongoing fiscal responsibility through a single entity audit conducted externally by a certified public accountant (CPA) for its most recently completed fiscal year at the time the application.
  • The audit cannot be submitted as a subsidiary of another organization.
  • Organizations with budgets over $100,000 annually must use an accrual accounting system.
  • Organizations with annual budgets under $100,000 may use a cash or accrual accounting system and must submit a one-year audit and management letter every two years.
  • For fiscal year 2020, submit an audit for either the organization’s fiscal year 2018 or 2017.
  • If the audit is not available at the time of application, a letter from the organization’s CPA explaining why the audit is unavailable and when it will be completed is required. Under this circumstance the audit must be uploaded to the application no later than 3 working days in advance of the advisory panel meeting.

Note: Failure to submit a single entity audit of the most recently completed fiscal year will jeopardize eligibility and funding.

Organizations must have a board approved long-range plan covering at least the current and next fiscal years.

Arts organizations that receive revenue from a “New Specialty Earmarked Plate” under T.C.A 55-4-215 (a) (1) are ineligible for Commission grant funding.

PLEASE NOTE: An organization should not apply in this grant category if at the time of application, it is aware they cannot meet all of the above stated requirements.

The Tennessee Arts Commission reserves the right to deny any application or withhold funding in whole or in part, if the applicant organization programming and activities are outside of the scope or spirit of the Commission’s mission, purpose, or this grant program.

Evaluation Criteria & Panel review

The Tennessee Arts Commission reserves the right to deny any application or withhold funding in whole or in part, if the applicant organization programming and activities are outside of the scope or spirit of the Commission’s mission, purpose, or this grant program.

Advisory panels reviewing grant applications under this program use the following evaluation criteria citing evidence that the:

  • proposed programs/projects demonstrate artistic, cultural and/or educational value to the community being served (10 points)
  • proposed programs/projects advance the organization’s mission and artistic vision (10 points)
  • proposed programs/projects support the work of artists through payment of fees, services or appropriate benefits (10 points)
  • organization understands and acts as an advocate for the public value of the arts in the community (10 points)
  • organization understands and is responsive to the diverse interests and needs of the community it serves (10 points)
  • planning procedures are comprehensive, inclusive and communicated (10 points)
  • organization understands principles of documentation and evaluation and results are used to guide future planning and programming (10 points)
  • organization understands and demonstrates the value of public and private partnerships (5 points)
  • organization demonstrates financial stability and a broad base of financial support (5 points)
  • organization’s ability to carry out proposed programs/projects based on history of TAC funding (10 points)
  • organization’s application is well planned, addresses all questions, and is correct and complete in all information provided (10 points)
Deadline & How to Apply
  1. Register to use the Online Grants System. You are strongly advised to register well in advance to the application deadline.Anyone registering close to the deadline date can expect delays in the processing of their grant application.
  2. Log in to the Online Grants System to complete your “Organization” profile and begin an application for a MCI grant.
  3. Use the “Organizations” tab on the left-hand menu to ensure that the profile is complete and accurate. This information is as important as the application itself. Incomplete or erroneous data will impact your chances for funding. To edit the profile, click the “Edit” button at the top of the Organization screen.
  4. Update the Policy Statements in the organization’s online grants system profile annually. Do this prior to submitting annual grant applications.  With particular regard to past successes and future plans, address:
    1. the Arts Advocacy Statement, and
    2. the Specialty License Plate (& Gift-A-Tag Voucher) statement. Explain how the organization has met, or exceeded, the contractual requirements for FY 2020. Beginning with FY 2021, reviewers will evaluation how an organization promotes, beyond contractual compliance, the Arts Specialty License Plate program.
  5. Use the “People” tab on the left-hand menu to ensure that your “People” profile is complete and accurate. This information will also be used in the review of the application. To edit the profile, click the “Edit” button at the top of the screen.
  6. When both your “Organization” and “People” profiles are complete and accurate, select the “Apply for Grants” tab again and choose the MCI grant application link.
  7. Complete all of the application fields.
  8. Create and upload required attachments.
  9. Submit by Monday, January 14, 2019, by 11:59 p.m. (CST).

NOTE: The forms in this portal do not auto-save. Always click the “Save” button before navigating away from the form you are editing to save your work.

Beware that clicking the back navigation button on your web browser will exit you from the system and you will lose your work.

Association or Connection to Multiple Organizations: If you are associated with more than one organization, the organization that you were originally associated with will prepopulate in the organization name field on any newly opened application. To change to another associated organization, simply delete the prepopulated name and type in the correct organization. 

Required Documents

You will be prompted to create and upload the following documents in the Required Documents section of your Annual Application in the Online Grants System.

  1. Proof of Arts Advocacy. Advocacy is educating and communicating to the public, including public officials, the importance of the arts and how public support of the arts can and has impacted your community. Examples of arts advocacy proof may include membership in Tennesseans for the Arts, copies of recent letters to legislators and other elected officials, photos of elected officials at the applicant’s arts events, newspaper articles that create awareness about public support for the arts through the organization’s activities (news articles that primarily market events are not acceptable), promoting the Specialty License Plate program and other pertinent print materials. Proof of advocacy must be demonstrated by the applicant organization. Applicants may not submit advocacy efforts conducted by contracted personnel. Multiple examples of arts advocacy will strengthen the application, but only one example that proves advocacy is required.
  1. Bios & Job Descriptions. Short, biographical statements and job descriptions of administrative and artistic personnel including those contracted who are involved in the grant activities. Full resumes should only be included with the supplementary materials.
  1. Long-range Plan. Plan should cover at least the current and next fiscal years.
  1. Financial audit and management letter (from an independent CPA). For the most recently completed fiscal year, at the time of application.
  1. Audit Response Form. Locate the audit response form in the Document Library, located in the left hand menu after logging in to the online grant account. Fill out any information pertinent including appropriate signature, save, and upload into your application.
  1. List of Board of Directors. Only nonprofit organizations with 501(c) 3 status will be prompted to upload this document. The board list (at the time of application) must include the following:
    • Full Name
    • Occupation
    • Address
    • Phone number
    • Email address
    • Number of years on the board
    • Length of term(s)

    NOTE: Other biographical information about individual board members should NOT be included on this list. Legal requirements state that Commission funds granted to an organization may not be used as a payment of any kind, for any purpose, to members of an organization’s board.

  2. Corporation Annual Report: Only nonprofit organizations with 501(c) 3 status will be prompted to upload this document (as required to be filed annually with the Secretary of State’s Office). In lieu of the report, you may also submit a copy of the email verification issued by the Secretary of State’s office or a copy of the online verification sheet maintained by the Secretary of State’s Office found here. Entities of government do NOT submit.
Additional Documents

You will NOT be prompted to upload these documents in the system, but these documents may be required based on your applicant type.

Optional Materials. These include proof of advocacy, project examples. These documents can be uploaded in the “Documents” section below the “Required Documents” section of your application.

Accepted file types include .pdf, .jpg, or .png. For video and audio samples, provides links to projects in the section labeled “Optional Material Link(s)” below the “Documents” section.

  1. In preparation of the FY 2020 contractual requirement, operating support recipients are strongly encouraged to start a promotional campaign in FY 2019 that meets the basic minimum as detailed here. Organizations can upload documentation of those efforts beginning with the FY 2020 application.


Bylaws: Only nonprofit organizations with 501(c) 3 status need to upload this document. Upload the most recent copy of the organization’s Bylaws into the “Organization” profile where prompted, not into the grant application.

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