Legal Requirements

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All applicants must read this section. It discusses what is required of applicants by law and by the rules of the Tennessee Arts Commission and will help you understand how to apply for funding. You must meet these requirements to enter the Commission funding process. However, because all Commission programs are competitive, meeting these requirements does not ensure your activity will be funded. Applications are scored and ranked according to how well they meet the criteria listed in the guidelines under each program area. Refer to information about the program from which you are requesting funds.

For Individuals
Individual Artist Fellowship (IAF) and Professional Development Support (PDS) applicants must be at least 18 years of age and be legal residents of Tennessee at the time of application with a permanent Tennessee mailing address. The Commission will accept as evidence of such residency a Tennessee voter registration card or a State of Tennessee driver’s license. Applicants must supply their social security number on the application and may be requested to submit a copy of their most recently filed Federal Income Tax — Form 1040, if there is a question concerning legal residency.

Those not eligible to apply include: minors (individuals under 18 years of age), full-time State of Tennessee employees (other than instructors on the faculties of state-supported educational institutions); members of the Commission, its staff, and members of their families; full-time, registered students.

For Organizations
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:

1.) The group is a chartered nonprofit organization in possession of a determination letter from the Internal Revenue Service declaring the organization exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.

A copy of the organization’s current by-laws must be on file in the Documents section of the Organization profile in the online grants account. All applicants must provide a valid IRS Employer Identification Number that is issued in the name of the applicant organization. Note that organizations may be asked to provide determination letter from the IRS if the Tennessee Arts Commission cannot verify nonprofit status within the “select charity check” process within the online grants system.

2.) The organization is a public or private educational institution (such as an elementary or secondary school), a school board, a governmental agency or a college or university. Private educational institutions must be not-for-profit and meet the tax-exempt requirements explained above. Colleges and universities are eligible only for activities that clearly serve the needs of surrounding communities or the State and are designed to involve a broad audience. Activities that are credit-producing or are oriented primarily to students and the academic community are not eligible.

“Making Changes to your project or activity: Organizations MUST carry out projects as described in the original grant application. However, circumstances beyond your control may arise. If this happens, submit an email to the program director with a detailed explanation of why you are seeking approval to change the scope of services as outlined in your application or grant contract, what those changes are, and the perceived impact on the project. Be sure to include the grant application or contract number in the email.  You will receive an email notification in response to your request.”

All applicants must provide a valid IRS Employer Identification Number that is issued in the name of the applicant organization.

Nonprofit organizations and groups that plan to come to the Commission for funding can obtain a number by picking up an SS-4 application from the nearest IRS office or calling the federal tax form warehouse (1-800/829-3676) and requesting one. Tax form information also is available at The Commission uses the EIN number to process funding when grants are awarded.

Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) : All applicants are required to have a UEI number. Information and application instructions can be found here.

Application Requirements

Requests for grants must be submitted via a current online application and published guidelines. In some cases printed applications, documents, and/or materials may be required by the deadline to complete the application process. Specific requirements and deadlines can be found within the guidelines of each grant category.

Applicants should note that submission of a signed grant application to the Commission constitutes a verification that the applicant has read and understands all the information contained in the guidelines, and an assurance that the applicant will comply with all rules, regulations, laws, terms, and conditions described on the assurances page of the application.

Organizations submitting more than one (1) application must submit each application under separate cover. Do not include more than one (1) application and its attachments in a single envelope.

Regional Funding

Arts organizations located in states bordering Tennessee must request permission to apply to the Commission for funding, if the project or programming for which funds are being requested significantly serve Tennesseans. Arts organizations applying for funding must meet all eligibility requirements of Tennessee-based organizations including being chartered in the state. Additionally, residents of Tennessee must be appropriately represented on the organization’s governing board. Requesting permission does not guarantee that an out-of-state organization will be permitted to apply for TN Arts funds.

This policy does not apply to individuals. Individuals applying for funding must be a Tennessee resident. (Must submit proof of residency.)

General Matching Requirements

All grant categories require at least a one-to-one (1:1) dollar match of Commission funds with the exception of most Arts Education and Rolling Grant categories. The Individual Artist Fellowship category is an award and therefore does not require any dollar match.

“One-to-one dollar match” means the applicant must cover at least half the cost of a project or program. State dollars cannot be used as a match for projects funded by the Commission. In-kind contributions cannot be used for the one-to-one (1:1) dollar match requirement, but the Commission wants to know about such contributions. Most of the Financial Profile pages of the Commission’s application forms provide a space for estimating the value of in-kind contributions. Such contributions should include those services and supplies for which the applicant under normal circumstances would have to pay, but are being donated without charge for the program. The value of volunteer time should be estimated and included only when the time is directly related to the program. Calculate volunteer time at the current minimum wage level. In general, board membership is not considered an in-kind contribution.

To monitor the grant matching requirements, an applicant that receives Commission funds must maintain accurate support records for all revenue. Questions regarding matching requirements should be directed to the appropriate staff member.

Panel Review Meetings

Panel review meetings are open to the public per Tennessee’s Sunshine Law. Panel meetings generally are scheduled within three months after a deadline. Panelists meet to evaluate and score applications in each program area. Commission staff members compile a list of applications, ranked by score from highest to lowest, and present that list to the Commission Board for final funding approval.

Commission Board Meetings

Commission Board meetings are open to the public per Tennessee’s Sunshine Law. Funding recommendations in all programs are reviewed by the Commission Board before funds are awarded. Applicants are informed by letter of the Commission Board’s decision following the June Board meeting.

For Organizations and Individuals
Nondiscrimination – Statement of Assurances

As a part of the grant award contract agreement, grantees must give assurance to the Commission that it complies with all applicable Federal and State laws, rules and regulations regarding use of public funds. These include, but are not limited to, assurances of compliance with Federal and State statutes relating to nondiscrimination which provide in part that no person in the United States shall on the ground of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age be excluded from participation in Commission funded activities. Depending on the particular program, additional assurance may be required regarding compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000d et seq.), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (19 U.S.C. 5101 et seq.), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12101-12213) and, where applicable, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. 1681 et seq.) as well as all regulations of the National Endowment for the Arts issued pursuant to these statutes and that it immediately will take any measures necessary to comply. See accessibility page for more information.

Debarment and Suspension.

Grantees are required to sign contracts certifying to the best of its knowledge and belief, that it, its current and future principals, its current and future subcontractors and their principals are not presently debarred, suspended, proposed for debarment, declared ineligible, or voluntarily excluded from covered transactions by any federal or state department or agency.

Reduction in Grants

Because of unanticipated shortfalls in revenue annually collected by the State of Tennessee, the Commission may be required to reduce the agency’s budget at any time during a fiscal year. It is possible that required budget cuts at the Commission could potentially reduce matching grants made early in or during the fiscal year. The Commission, therefore, reserves the right to reduce matching grants commensurate with requirements set forth by the State of Tennessee.

Appeals Process

An applicant has a right to appeal any decision that denies funding to the proposed program or project either in whole or in part. This appeal should be directed in writing to the Executive Director of the Commission.


The Commission does not own, collect royalties on or hold copyrights to artistic products resulting from its grants nor will it take any action on behalf of the grantee to protect the grantee’s intellectual property rights. The Commission does, however, have legal authority to reproduce and use documentation of such products for educational, promotional, official or noncommercial purposes, both electronically and in print.

Credit and Publicity Responsibilities

All notices, informational pamphlets, press releases, research reports, signs, and similar public notices prepared and released by the Grantee shall include the Tennessee Arts Commission logo. Example(s) of Commission support must be included in grant management documentation including the use of the Commission logo (see logo usage for more information) and Specialty License Plate promotion on websites, newsletters, programs, print, broadcast and online advertising, etc.

Funding Restrictions

Arts organizations which receive revenue from a “new specialty earmarked plate” under T.C.A 55-4-301 (a) (1) are ineligible for TN Arts Commission grant funding.

Debarment and Suspension. Grantees are required to sign contracts certifying to the best of its knowledge and belief, that it, its current and future principals, its current and future subcontractors and their principals are not presently debarred, suspended, proposed for debarment, declared ineligible, or voluntarily excluded from covered transactions by any federal or state department or agency.

No Commission funds may be used for capital improvements (buildings or construction), for equipment purchase or for elimination of an accumulated deficit. Expenditures that relate to the proposed project may be used as matching funds.

All events sponsored in part or whole with Commission funds must be open to the general public.

No Commission funds can be used for planned fundraising activities.

Commission funds cannot be used for projects that have implicit religious content, express a particular religious view, or advances a religious purpose.

Funds from the Commission may not be used as “seed money” for starting new organizations. A track record of previous arts programming may be requested when evaluating the merits of the proposal.

Applications from colleges or universities or other institutions of higher education, whether public or private, must emphasize non-academic community involvement in the planning and implementation of the project. The final product, if any, of the project must include members of the community. Colleges or universities must agree to all terms before entering into a Commission generated contract.

No Commission funds may be used for in-school, curriculum-based projects, except funds awarded through the Arts Education grants category. Tours to schools by performing arts groups and similar are encouraged, however.

Applications from “statewide” organizations may only be made by membership service or single-discipline arts organizations whose board of directors and officers geographically represent the entire state and whose statewide mission can be legally demonstrated in the language of their bylaws. Geographic representation means that at least half of the organization’s board, membership, and officers reside outside the grand division in which the statewide organization is based.

No grant funds may be used for out-of-state travel expenses, except travel associated with Arts Education grants (which may allow such expenditures for required workshops), and travel associated with Professional Development Support grants (if it meets with guideline requirements). No Commission funds may be used to travel outside of the United States.

The Commission will not make grants to an organization with a standing deficit unless a plan to reduce that deficit is submitted with the application.

No Commission funds may be used to begin, match, add to or complete any type of endowment campaign or program.

Additionally, the following are examples of activities and expenditures not fundable by the Commission for arts projects. Exceptions exist for the TN Nonprofit Arts & Culture Recovery Fund.* Please contact your program director for questions.

• Insurance premiums
• Office space rental*
• Janitorial service and general physical plant maintenance*
• Food and hospitality
• Vanity publications
• Scholarly arts-related research and writing
• Cash awards
• Legal fees
• Payments to members of the organization’s board

Grants awarded by the Commission to organizations that receive programmatic budget amendments (“earmarked funds” or “line items”) from the Tennessee General Assembly shall be reviewed by the Commission, and any proposed grant award from the Commission shall be adjusted as necessary prior to actual payment of the grant in order to prevent overlapping state funding of the same program or project. The same is true of applicants who receive funds from a proposed project under another Commission grant program in the same fiscal year.

The TN Arts Commission reserves the right to deny or withhold, in whole or in part, public funds for projects, programs, or other activities deemed inappropriate by the Commission.

Know what your board members need to know by law. A guidebook for Tennessee nonprofits is a publication of the Tennessee Secretary of State, Tennessee Attorney General and Center for Nonprofit Management. Get it here.