Tips & Hints


Get Organized: Create a folder in which you keep any grant-related materials that are not saved within the online grant system.

Document Expenditures: You must provide documentation for grant funds and the match (if required), so keep up with check or invoice numbers and the date each check or invoice was written.

Don’t Procrastinate: Mark your calendar with deadlines such as when Revised Budget forms, grant contracts, and closeout documents are due. Sign and return your grant contract immediately. Submit Request for Funds forms on a timely basis. Be prepared to closeout the grant no later than 30 days after the project ends or by June 15, whichever comes first.

Spending Grant Funds: Grantees should make every effort possible to complete projects according to the application. This includes using your grant award in full. Failure to complete projects, returning unused funds, and/or canceling a grant may impact future funding.


What is an organization of color?

An organization of color is defined as an organization whose board composition is 50% or more people of color.

Who do I contact if I have questions about my grant?

You may contact the director of the program area for which you are applying. You can find this information on the staff directory or by looking under the Programs tab for a specific area. If you aren’t sure what area your application falls under, contact the Associate Director for Grants, Ann Brown.

What happens if I don’t use all of the grant funds?

Grantees are encouraged to use the entire amount of a grant award. If for some reason this cannot happen, all unused funds must be returned to the Commission. Returning unused funds may be reported to the panel the following year as a problem with grant compliance, so it is best that your organization spends the allotted money as planned.

What do I do if the date or other aspects of my project change after funding has been awarded?

If circumstances beyond your control require that you change key aspects to your project such as date, artist line-up, or venue, contact your program director immediately to request approval for these changes in an email. Be sure to include the grant application or contract number in the email. You will receive an email notification in response to your request.

What does it mean to make my project/program accessible?

Make an honest assessment of these issues: Is the program accessible to individuals with disabilities? Is the program accessible regardless of race? What kind of ADA accommodation is available to insure access to your program? How is your organization planning to improve access? If you have questions about how to address these requirements, contact the Director of Arts Access, Kim Johnson.

Who do I contact if I cannot login to the online grant system?

If you cannot log onto the online grant system, please contact your program director, Lee Baird, or Mike Chambers for help.

Are there resources available to my organization to help with grant writing?

Program directors are happy to review drafts and answer questions about grant opportunities and grant writing. Grant workshops are held every fall, please sign up for our online newsletter to receive information about them and other TN Arts activities.  Review all the information on the Tennessee Arts Commission website under the Grants tab.

How to Apply

The first step in using the online system is to register either as an individual or as an/on behalf of an organization. Individuals who or organizations that have not registered in this system will need to do so to receive a username and password. Individuals who represent organizations should get their own, individual accounts and not share or “pass down” the username or password among staff.

Registration may take between 1-7 days to be approved. Please register prior to any grant opening or deadline to avoid missing a potential funding opportunity. 

Once you or your organization has registered, you will have created an online profile and account. You can log on anytime to apply for funding opportunities, review active grants, view past submissions, request funds and submit final reports. Simply enter your username and password and click “Sign In.”

After you have registered, you should change your password.

Before filling out an application, you should also complete your “organization” and “people” profile.

NOTE: The online grants system works best with the Chrome browser. If you have not installed Chrome or need to update your version, click here.


Admissions, Memberships, Subscriptions– revenue from the sale of tickets, subscriptions, memberships, etc., for events attributable or prorated to the organization.

Applicant– the organization whose Federal Employee Identification Number or the person whose Social Security Number is associated with the submitted application. The applicant assumes financial responsibility for administering a funded grant even if funds are passed on to another organization or individual.

Applicant Cash– funds from the applicant’s accumulated resources.

Applicant Cash Match– the amount of eligible hard cash that is required to match funds of a grant proposal and subsequent award. An example of a one-to-one or 1:1 match is when the Commission grants an organization $5,000 and the organization matches the grant with an additional $5,000. Generally, Commission grants require a 1:1 match, though some grants are available that do not require a match. See specific guidelines for details.

Artist– an individual with a serious career commitment and some degree of peer acceptance either as an emerging artist of outstanding promise or established artist with a body of work. In the case of a folk artist, the individual must be a skilled practitioner of a traditional art form that has been learned by virtue of belonging to the culture or folk group the tradition comes from (see folk artist for more detail).

Artist Statement– a short statement of one page or less, written by the artist, that provides background information and influences on the artist’s body of work, overall artistic philosophy, and a brief history of the artist’s development.

Artists Participating– the number of artists directly involved in providing art or artistic services specifically identified with a grant activity; including the number of individual artists of a company, troupe, or touring group.

Arts Organization– an organization whose mission statement clearly states that the majority of its goals and activities are arts-focused, and whose budget clearly demonstrates arts-focus in the majority of the organization’s annual activities. The Tennessee Arts Commission’s definition of art encompasses the fine arts as well as ethnic, folk and traditional forms.

Capacity Building– organizational development that improves management, performance ability, or other essential capabilities.

Capital Fund– a pooled investment usually used for building projects.

Chief Authorizing Official– the person with authority to legally obligate an organization, usually the president of the board of directors.

Contact Person– the person to contact for additional information about an application, usually the director or person responsible for implementing proposed activities. All official correspondence from the Commission will be addressed to this person.

Contracted Fees and Services– payments to firms or persons who are not considered employees of the applicant organization.

Contracted Services Revenue– revenue derived from fees earned through sales of services (for example, sale of workshops to other community organizations, government contracts for specific services, performance or residency fees, tuition, etc.).

Corporate Support– cash support from businesses, corporations, or corporate foundations.

Current Fiscal Year– an organization’s present, active fiscal year at the time of application. Current year financial figures are estimated amounts based on active budgets.

Deficit– the spending of more dollars than the organization takes in.

Development– the cost of fundraising expenses. This includes the cost of soliciting donors and costs associated with fundraising events.

Discipline– the primary focus of an arts activity as defined among the following fields: literature, folklife, music, theater, dance, visual arts, craft, media, design, etc.

Employee Identification Number (EIN)– an account number identifying an applicant for purposes of reporting wages and taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. The organization’s name on an application must match the name associated with the organization’s EIN number.

Endowment Funds– restricted or unrestricted funds which are invested by the organization and secured for purposes which extend beyond the organization’s annual operating cycle. Interest income or dividends from investments may be used by the organization for its annual operations and should be classified as such.

Evaluation Criteria– the standards by which an application will be evaluated by the grant panelists or adjudicators.

Evaluation Methods– the specific procedures, instruments, schedule, and personnel used to evaluate the applicant’s proposed activity/activities.

Exempt Organization Verification Check– the search engine available on the Internal Revenue Service’s website that allows an organization to verify that it still retains legal nonprofit status.

Expenses (Expenditures)– the costs required to implement the grant activity.

Federal Government Support– the cash support derived from grants or appropriations given by agencies of the federal government.

Fiscal Agent– an eligible organization, with either 501(c)3 or governmental status, that applies for project funding on behalf of a non-eligible organization. Under this arrangement, the sponsored organization carries out the project activity while the fiscal agent, as the legal applicant, is responsible for grant management and the use of grant funds. All financial activity for a grant secured under a fiscal agent, including payments for matching expenditures, must be managed and reported under the budget of the organization serving as fiscal agent.

Fiscal Year– any 12 month period used for financial record keeping and reporting suited to the organization’s operating cycle or programming season.

Folk Artist– an individual practicing a traditional art form learned informally (orally or by example) within the artist’s own traditional culture rather than formally through educational institutions or books. Folk arts encompass a wide range of genres including oral narrative, dance, music, theatre, calendar customs and games, and material culture such as textile arts, woodworking and foodways.

Foundation Support– grant funds given by private foundations.

Goals/Objectives– statements defining the desired outcome of proposed activities and identifying the persons to be served. Goals or objectives should be attainable, measurable, and limited to a specific time period.

Grantee Race– the race of a majority of an organization’s board members (50% or more), if such a racial majority exists. For example, if your board is 20% Caucasian, 12% Hispanic, and 68% African American, the grantee race is African American. The codes used for racial self-identification are A=Asian, B=African American, H=Hispanic, N=Native American/Native Alaskan, W=White and 99=No Single Group.

Income– revenues that are earned.

Individuals Benefiting– the estimated total number of individuals directly benefiting from the proposed project. This may include actual participants in the project as well as audience members (family, friends, and community members) who may attend a performance or exhibition as part of the proposed project. If the project generates published materials or media (such as radio shows) which reach a much larger audience than those who directly attend the event, please estimate the audience for that media.

In-Kind Contributions or Donations– the monetary value of donated services. An applicant, another organization, business, or individual may provide in-kind contributions. In-kind contributions must be relevant to the project.

Inter-disciplinary– an inter-disciplinary artwork or project integrates more than one art discipline into a single work or program. Examples might be a) dance integrated with text, an on-stage musician, and a media collage in one work, or b) an installation involving visual arts, film, and sound art. The Commission’s “Inter-arts” grant panel reviews applications for projects or organizations that present multiple artistic disciplines.

Interest Income or Dividends– income derived from investments. May be used by the organization for its annual operations and should be classified as such.

IRS Letter of Determination– A letter the Internal Revenue Service sends an organization to acknowledge that the organization has successfully applied for and has been awarded tax-exempt status. The name of the organization and EIN number listed on this form must match the name and EIN on all grant applications submitted by the organization. The letter does not guarantee that this status is still active. For verification of tax-exempt status see Exempt Organization Verification check.

Letter of Determination– See IRS Letter of Determination

Letter of Intent– a signed document indicating an intent to contract with individuals, groups or organizations to provide services. A letter is usually generated in cases where a formal contract is a contingent upon availability of funds. A Letter of Intent should include terms that will become a part of the contract (for example, specific services to be performed, fees for each of those services, dates of said services, locations, persons or organizations to perform the services) and should be signed by both parties.

Local Arts Agency Support– funds from your local arts agency.

Local/County Government Support– funds (grant awards or appropriations) from city, county, or other government agencies.

Marketing– publicity or promotion costs. Inclusive of the costs associated with newspaper, radio, and television advertising; printing and mailing of brochures, flyers, and posters; and publicity or advertising.

Most Recently Completed Fiscal Year– an organization’s most recently completed fiscal year at the time of application. Prior year financial figures are not estimates, but actual figures from a completed organization budget year.

Objectives/Goals– statements defining the desired outcome of proposed activities and identifying the persons to be served. Objectives or goals should be attainable, measurable, and limited to a specific time period.

Organization Budget– all funds budgeted for an organization’s operations, activities, programs, and services during a fiscal year. Operating funds do not include capital funds, endowment funds, reserve funds or any other funds not allocated to the annual operating cycle of the organization.

Organization of Color– An organization whose board is 50% or more people identified racially as “Asian,” “Black/African American,” “Hispanic/Latino,” “ American Indian/Alaska Native,” and/or “Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.”

Other Applicant Cash– cash revenue derived from sources other than those specifically listed in the budget.

Payroll Taxes– taxes which an employer is required to withhold from an employee’s pay or the taxes directly related to employing a worker paid from the employer’s own fund.

Postage and Shipping– the cost of mailing envelopes and packages.
Presenter- an organization which contracts with an artist to present that artist’s work to the public. The presenter provides the space and technical support, promotes the event to the community, and pays the artist a fee.

Project/Program Narrative– A series of questions, unique to each funding category, which the applicant answers as part of the application form. When the answers are displayed to the staff and advisory panelists, it forms a descriptive narrative of the project for which funding is requested.

Project Race– the projected targeted race of the audience for which the project/program is intended to serve. For example, if the project is a Native American Pow Wow then the projected race is N, Native American. The codes used for racial self-identification are A=Asian, B=African American, H=Hispanic, N=Native American/Native Alaskan, W=White, and 99=No Single Group.

Production– production refers to the expenses involved in producing events, mounting exhibits, or other artistic efforts.

Professional Development– the training required for maintaining a career path or any professional continuing education.

Reserve– an amount of capital held back from investment in order to meet probable or possible demands.

Rural– For purposes of grant applications requiring self-identification, organizations that exist in Tennessee counties other than Anderson, Blount, Bradley, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Maury, Montgomery, Putnam, Rutherford, Sevier, Shelby, Sullivan, Sumner, Washington, Williamson, and Wilson. For information pertaining to underserved individuals, people who reside in any county but outside of a metropolitan city limit.

State Fiscal Year– July 1 of any year through June 30 of the following year. Projects and activities funded through grants must fall within these dates.

State/Regional– On the grant budget PDF, this category should include any funding from state or regional sources other than the grant request from the Tennessee Arts Commission. That request should go under Arts Commission Funds Requested on the grant budget PDF in the income section.

Statewide Organization– Applications from “statewide” organizations may only be made by membership service or single-discipline arts service 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.

Surplus– an excess of dollars at the end of a fiscal year.

Technical Assistance– professional advice and assistance provided in the areas of organizational development, gaining nonprofit status, long-range planning, professional
development, grantsmanship, project design, planning, evaluation, specific arts programming, etc.

Tour– two or more engagements at different sites, in different communities, contracted through any number of presenters included in one trip away from the artist’s home base. Travel to perform a series of engagements in communities outside a home base.

Underserved Populations– people who genuinely lack access to arts programs, services, or resources for geographic, economic, cultural, social, physical, or other demonstrable reasons. The term “population” can refer to a group of people with a common heritage, regardless of whether they live in the same area. Populations include people of color, children, seniors, people living with disabilities and/or people living in rural areas or isolated settings.

Unique Entity Identifier (UEI)– The federal government requires organizations to provide a UEI as part of their grant applications to more easily track arts grants. All applicants are required to retrieve a UEI from the website and input it in the Organization profile of their online grants account. There is no fee for registering for a UEI. The UEI needs to be updated annually.

Urban– For purposes of grant applications requiring self-identification, organizations that exist in the following Tennessee counties: Anderson, Blount, Bradley, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Maury, Montgomery, Putnam, Rutherford, Sevier, Shelby, Sullivan, Sumner, Washington, Williamson, and Wilson.

Work Sample– a selection of an individual or organization’s body of work, usually produced within the past three years.

Budget Line Item Definitions

The following is provided as guidance for expense and income explanations.

Expense Definitions


1. 2 Salaries, Benefits & Taxes Compensation, fees, salaries and wages paid to officers, directors, trustees and employees.   Benefits include the organization’s contributions to pension plans and to employee benefit programs such as health, life and disability insurance; and the organization’s portion of payroll taxes such as social security and medicare taxes and unemployment and workers’ compensation insurance. Permanent staff expenses, provide pro-rated estimates—based on the amount of time in the project—for salaries, wages, fees, and benefits of individuals who are employees of the applicant organization. In the space provided give details, i.e. job titles, number of individuals under that title, and annual salary or percent of salary devoted to the project. Note that board of directors may not be paid by TN Arts Commission grants.
4, 15 Professional Fee, Grant & Award 2 Fees to outside professionals, consultants and personal-service contractors, including individual artists or technical contractors.   Also, any awards, grants, subsidies and other pass-through expenditures to individuals or other organizations (like ABC subgrants).   Include allocations to affiliated organizations. Include scholarships, tuition payments, travel allowances and equipment allowances to clients and individual beneficiaries. Contracted personnel expenses, provide estimated payments to firms or persons for the services of individuals who are not normally considered permanent full-time employees, but consultants or part-time employees who are serving your organization on a contractual basis. In the space provided give details, i.e. job titles, number of individuals under that title, and annual salary or percent of salary devoted to the project. Note that board of directors may not be paid by TN Arts Commission grants.
5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Supplies, Telephone, Postage & Shipping, Occupancy, Equipment Rental & Maintenance, Printing & Publications Office supplies, housekeeping supplies, food and beverages, and other supplies.

Telephone, cellular phones, beepers, telegram, FAX, email, telephone equipment maintenance and other related expenses.

Postage, messenger services, overnight delivery, outside mailing service fees, freight and trucking, and maintenance of delivery and shipping vehicles.

Expenses for use of office space and other facilities, heat, light, power, other utilities, outside janitorial services, mortgage interest, real estate taxes and similar expenses.

Expenses for renting and maintaining computers, copiers, postage meters, other office equipment and other equipment, except for automobile expenses, reportable on line 11

Expenses for producing printed materials, purchasing books and publications and buying subscriptions to publications.

Include estimated expenses for consumable supplies and materials, script or music purchases, sets and props, catalogs, equipment rental, electricity, telephone, shipping, etc. Costs associated with food, refreshments, receptions, etc., may not be included.

Estimated payments identified with rental of rehearsal spaces, theaters, halls, galleries, etc.

Estimated costs for marketing that includes costs of printing and mailing of brochures, fliers, posters, etc.  (Do not include payments to individuals or firms, which belong under Salaries, Benefits & Taxes for permanent Staff or Professional Fee, Grant & Award for contracted personnel. Do not include advertising fees which belongs in Other Nonpersonnel Expenses)

11. 12 Travel, Conferences & Meetings Expenses for travel, including transportation, meals and lodging, and per diem payments.  Include gas and oil, repairs, licenses and permits, and leasing costs for company vehicles. Include travel expenses for meetings and conferences.   Include vehicle insurance.

Expenses for conducting or attending meetings, conferences, and conventions. Include rental of facilities, speakers’ fees and expenses, printed materials and registration fees.

Estimated costs for travel directly related to the individual or individuals. Include any fares, hotels, food, transportation, per diems, mileage, and other lodging expenses. Grant funds cannot be used for out-of-state travel (some exceptions apply), but such expenses are permissible as applicant match.
18 Other Nonpersonnel Expenses Allowable expenses for advertising, bad debts, contingency provisions, fines and penalties, independent research and development, organization, page charges in professional journals, rearrangement and alternation, recruiting and taxes. Include the organization’s and employees’ membership dues in associations and professional societies. Include other fees for the organization’s licenses, permits, registrations, etc. Marketing payments for advertising (print, media, social media), payments of royalties for theatrical, dance and musical performances.
20 Capital Purchase 2 Purchases of fixed assets. Include land, equipment, buildings, leasehold improvements, and other fixed assets. (These expenses are not allowable for arts grant funds, only for match). Funds cannot be used for capital expenditures (purchase of buildings or real estate, renovations or improvements involving structural change, etc.) except for certain Creative Placemaking expenses; however, capital costs up can be used as the applicant cash match.
22 Indirect Cost Must be made in accordance with an allocation plan approved by your cognizant state agency.
25 GRAND TOTAL Sum of all expenses above.

Income Definitions

Please itemize all income sources that support the proposed fiscal year under the appropriate categories. Note: these figures can be projected figures assuming the project is approved.

Admissions Revenue derived from the sale of admissions, tickets, subscriptions, memberships, etc.
Contract Services Revenue derived from fees earned through the sale of services like workshops, consulting, etc. to other community organizations, government contracts for specific services conducted by your organization, performance or residency fees, tuition, etc.
Corporate Contributions Revenue derived from contributions given by businesses and corporations, etc.
Foundation Support Revenue derived from foundations.
Other Private Contributions Revenue derived from cash donations. Do not include corporate, foundation, or government contributions and grants.
Federal Government Funds Government sources, such as federal grants.
State/Regional Funds Grants and Funds from other state agencies cannot be used to match TAC funds, but you may include as revenue.
Local Gov’t Funds City or County support, grants from local governing entities or regional agencies.
Applicant Cash (Existing Funds) Funds from the accumulated resources that the organization has budgeted or has reasonably anticipated needing. Do not include any funds already listed under the above income line items.
Cost Allocation

If your agency receives grants from other state or federal agencies in addition to the Tennessee Arts Commission and plans to split costs among different grants, you must provide an approved cost allocation plan to the Tennessee Arts Commission. If you need to develop a cost allocation plan or have questions, please review State of Tennessee Accounting Policy 3: Cost Allocation Plans for Subrecipients of Federal and State Grant Monies at and/or contact

Project vs Contract End Dates AND Grant Closeout

Q. Why am I asked to closeout my grant “within 30 days of the project end date or June 15 whichever is sooner” when contract clause C.7 Disbursement Reconciliation and Close Out says I have 30 days after the contract end date?

A. This is a known problem. It’s a conflict between state accounting policy and state procurement policy. The state central accounting office requires that state agencies finish payments for the fiscal year ending June 30 by a deadline that varies but is generally July 7. Requests for payment received after that date must be “accrued” which from a practical perspective means that the payment is delayed for several weeks.

The Tennessee Arts Commission manages more than 1,000 grants annually with a staff of less than 20 people. To review final closeout reports from that many grantees in the month of June and resolve issues that arise is a major undertaking, truly impossible if everyone waits until the last minute. That’s why we ask every grantee to submit their closeout report and final request for payment within 30 days of the project end date or June 15, whichever is sooner.

Q. What should I do with Contract Attachments B and C related to Audit Requirements and Parent-Child Information?  

A. Not much, unless you get more than $750,000 in state and federal funds annually.

These TN Central Procurement Office required attachments relate to standard contract clause D.19. Audit Report. Unless your agency receives $750,000 or more in state and federal grants in FY17, check the box that says NOT required to have a special audit subject to Comptroller requirements per D.19. However, Tennessee Arts Commission requirements for MCI and PS audits still apply. Attachment C is only required if your organization is subject to the special audit.

To be fully compliant with state policy, your organization should scan a copy of Attachment B indicating not subject to audit and email it to the Central Procurement Office at least 90 days before the end of your organization’s fiscal year.