Hints for Panelists

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In forming grant advisory panels, the Tennessee Arts Commission seeks to identify and eliminate any potential conflicts of interest. We are aware that some may still exist. Therefore, if you are serving as a panelist for any of the Commission’s grant panels, we ask that you declare any conflict of interest with any applicant organization that you are reviewing. Conflicts include you or anyone in your household serving as a board member or employee of an applicant organization, or receiving funds from any proposed project or activity. Please contact staff if you have any questions about conflicts of interest. If a conflict of interest exists with a particular application, it will be removed from your work list and during the advisory panel meeting you will be excused from the panel room while that application is adjudicated. If you discover a conflict of interest, a potential conflict of interest, or have a question while reviewing an application contact your program officer.

What the Tennessee Arts Commission can fund:
• Projects that involve and promote Tennessee artists
• Visiting artists conducting master classes
• Specific aspects of workshops, festivals, and conferences
• Public performances, productions, and exhibitions produced by the applicant
• Exhibitions of art by Tennessee artists and artists from outside Tennessee
• Promotion, publicity, and newsletters
• Administrative and artistic staff support
• Consultancies and residencies for administrative and artistic activities

Exceptions exist. Please view individual grant guidelines for more information.

What the Tennessee Arts Commission cannot fund:
• Capital improvements (buildings or construction)
• Programs not open to the general public
• “Seed money”
• Elimination of an accumulated deficit
• In-school, curriculum-based projects except under Arts Education
• Applications for colleges or universities that do not involve community planning and implementation
• Applications to begin, match, add to, or complete any type of endowment campaign or program

Exceptions exist. Please view individual grant guidelines for more information.

• All Commission programs, services, and facilities are fully accessible to all Tennesseans
• No person on the grounds of race, color, national origin, disability, age, religion or sex shall be excluded from, participation in, or be denied benefits of, or otherwise be subject to discrimination of services, programs, and employment provided by the Tennessee Arts Commission and its contracting agencies

Things to make your participation easier and smoother
• Panel reviews typically begin at 10:00 a.m. CST, so please try to arrive early
• Base ratings on value, quality, and excellence – not on the organization’s perceived need for the money
• Panel meetings are open to the public. Applicants are notified of date, time, and place
• Please contact us during the process if we may be of assistance

General Evaluation Criteria
It is important to read the entire grant, but much of the information contained in the narrative section will help you when evaluating how effectively the applicant has met the evaluation criteria. Below are some helpful tips on where to locate the information you are looking for within each application. Again, the overall impression that the entire application gives you is important, but you may find most of the answers in the narrative section of the application.

When evaluating the following criteria, please consult this scoring rubric. Note that evaluation criteria may vary by grant program. Please consult the grant guidelines for more information.

Based on Evidence presented in grant application Little to no evidence of the stated guideline requirements for the criteria.  

Minimal or partial evidence of the stated guideline requirements for the criteria.


Average evidence. Meets stated guideline requirements for the criteria. Some evidence beyond stated guideline requirements for the criteria. Exemplary. Greatly exceeds stated guideline requirements for the criteria.

Scoring Scale



Does Not Meet Requirements
(0-1 point)
Somewhat Meets Requirements
(2-3 points)

Meets Requirements
(4-6 points)


(7-8 points)
(9-10 points)
Scoring Scale


Does Not Meet Requirements
(0-1 point)
Somewhat Meets Requirements
(2 points)
Meets Requirements
(3 points)
(4 points)
(5 points)

1. Evidence that the proposed project demonstrates artistic, cultural and/or educational value to the community being served

• Will be found throughout the application, but mostly in the narrative
• Relative worth, merit, or importance
• Imply intrinsic excellence or desirability • Value is unique to each community
• Quality and excellence has always been important in the review of Commission grant applications – value is also important as a determinant of time, money and energy
• Examples of value include:
– Contribute to education and development of children
– Stimulate creative thinking/thought provoking
– Benefit local economy
– Provide entertainment and enjoyment
– Increase cultural understanding
– Provide opportunities to socialize
– Inspire personal creativity
– Increase connection to community
– Promote diversity and understanding
– Improve quality of life
– Foster pride in community
– Support lifelong learning for adults
– Preserve cultural heritage
– Recognize local artists
– Outreach to underserved artists and communities

2. Evidence that the proposed project advances the organization’s mission to the community being served
• The mission statement for the organization is found under the Organization profile

3. Evidence that the organization understands and is responsive to the diverse interests and needs of the community it serves
• Ways to assess this include (though are not exclusive to) the diversification of the programming as described in the narrative, the diversification of the members of the board and staff of the organization, the types of partnerships the organization pursues and the audiences that the organization serves

4. Evidence that the proposed project supports the work of artists through payment of fees, services or appropriate benefits
• Ways to assess this can be found in the narrative of the application and the supplemental materials

5. Evidence that the organization understands and acts as an advocate for the public value of the arts in the community, and for operating support applicants effectively promotes the specialty license plate program.
• Application contains narrative portion where applicants address their commitment to arts advocacy on the state and local levels. (Examples include: membership in Tennesseans for the Arts, attendance at Arts Advocacy Day, legislative receptions, and letters to elected officials)

6. Evidence that planning procedures are comprehensive, inclusive and communicated
• Found throughout the application, but specifically in narrative questions

7. Evidence that the organization understands principles of documentation and evaluation and results are used to guide future planning and programming
• Evaluation is instrumental in developing and sustaining good work. Evaluation is for the organization’s benefit. Organization should plan to use evaluation methods that will help them improve their projects/organization in the future.
• Evaluation can be the most effective advocacy tool an organization can create – hard evidence in tangible form to place in the hands of legislators, policy makers, journalists, teachers, principals, parents and the general public.
• Example Evaluation methods include:
– Collect audience data for future marketing and promotional efforts (zip codes, home addresses, county names on license plates, etc.)
– Count website hits, use online survey tools (SurveyMonkey, SurveyGizmo, Zoomerang), etc.
– Collect verbal and written audience feedback, published reviews, comment cards, student thank-you letters, etc.
– Accurately count audience and/or participants for comparison
– Administer a pre- and post-test to participants (adults and children) to determine impact
• May be found in the narrative of the application in project planning

8. Evidence that the organization understands and demonstrates the value of public and private partnerships
• Throughout the narrative

9. Evidence that the organization demonstrates financial stability and a broad base of financial support
• Varied funding sources (i.e., contributions from individuals, corporate donations, earned income (such as ticket sales), fundraisers, rentals, grants from varied sources.
• Grants from sources in addition to the Commission; organizations should not become too dependent on one source of funding.

10. Evidence of the organization’s ability to carry out proposed project based on history of Commission funding
• A TN Arts staff member will report on this during the panel session

11. Evidence that the organization’s application is well planned, addresses all questions, and is correct and complete in all information provided

Thank you for serving as a panelist and don’t hesitate to call the program director associated with your panel meeting if you have any questions.