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Cultural Fund Grant Program

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2020-2021 Application Cycle is CURRENTLY SUSPENDED in response to COVID-19. Applications are not being accepted at this time.

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Important Dates

February 1, 2020 - Grant Cycle opens

February 19, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. to 6 p.m. -  Cultural Funds Grant Workshop; Morton Civic Center, Room 2402

February 27, 2020 at 9:00 a.m. to 11 a.m. -  Cultural Funds Grant Workshop; Morton Civic Center, Room 2404

April 1, 2020 - Submission Deadline

May 9, 2020 - Judging Panels meet; Morton Civic Center, Rooms 2404 and 2402 

June 9, 2020 - Arts Council allocates funds to grant recipients


Apply for Grants to General Operating Support and Special Programs and Projects

You may also view a preview of the cultural fund grant application narrative questions.

Guidelines and Eligibility


The Evanston Arts Council was established by mandate of the Evanston City Council in 1975 to provide leadership and advocacy for the promotion, development, and accessibility of the arts and to create opportunities for artistic excellence in our community. The goal of the Cultural Fund Grant Program is to sustain and advance our community’s arts industry. Evanston’s vision for its Cultural Fund Program is to activate the extraordinary assets of the community to nurture arts programs and events that benefit all Evanstonians.

By providing financial assistance to not-for-profit arts organizations, the Cultural Fund supports artistic excellence throughout the community. The Arts Council strongly encourages the development of broader participation by Evanston’s diverse cultural community.

Cultural Fund Grant Categories

There are two granting categories in the Cultural Arts Program. Applicants may only apply for one grant and must specify the category. The maximum grant request is $5,000, although the actual grant award may be less than that. Please be sure that you are filling out the correct application.

The categories are as follows:

General Operating Support – Funding is awarded to Evanston nonprofit arts organizations for operating support or capacity-building efforts.

Special Programs and Projects – Funding is awarded to nonprofit arts organizations for projects or programs that serve residents in the City of Evanston. The organization may be located outside Evanston, but the organization must clearly demonstrate that the program or project service area is within Evanston’s borders.



All grants will be paid in full upon receipt of all required agreements and documentation of insurance coverage.

All grant fund expenditures must be incurred between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.


  1. Each applicant organization must be located in the city of Evanston and registered as a not-for-profit corporation with the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State.
  2. All grant recipients are required to submit a written final report, due no later than July 31, 2021, as a condition of grant award.
  3. Any grantee not completing a grant as approved by the Arts Council will not be eligible to apply for a grant in the year following notification of unsuccessful grant completion.
  4. Organizations should place a high priority on community access. Wherever possible, grant applicant should demonstrate strategies for outreach to underserved or at-risk members of the community.
  5. Applicants must comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and assure the Arts Council that no person will be excluded from participation or be denied the benefits of any program or service on the basis of sex, race, sexual orientation, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, or ability.
  6. All applicants are advised that litigation with or indebtedness to the City of Evanston may preclude the applicant’s ability to receive grant funds.


  • Capital improvements or construction costs
  • Organizations whose activities occur in non-accessible venues
  • Purchase of permanent equipment
  • Grants in excess of 25% of the organization’s prior year operating income
  • An existing deficit from a previous year or project
  • Activities not open to the general public
  • Scholarships or fundraising events
  • Personal expenses such as child care and unrelated wages lost due to proposed project commitment
  • Applicants that submit incomplete applications
  • Applicants that are taxing bodies (including schools, libraries and park district)
  • Organizations that are not located in Evanston or whose project service areas are not Evanston


The applicant organization must demonstrate their efforts to realize the Equity in the Arts Goals set by the Arts Council. The goals are to:

  • Promote equity and inclusion throughout the arts in Evanston, regardless of gender, race, ethnic background, age, ability or sexual orientation.
  • Ensure that the cultural arts programs the Council supports reflect the diversity of the Evanston community.
  • Make the arts accessible to all people, including those with disabilities.

According to state and federal law, every recipient of public funding must place itself in the position of being able to provide reasonable accommodations when persons with disabilities make requests for services. Accessibility involves both the location and the content of the proposal. In accepting a grant from the Evanston Arts Council, organizations agree to make every attempt to ensure that the proposed project is accessible to persons with disabilities.


The applicant must complete the following application process to be considered eligible for a Cultural Fund grant:

  • Complete the online application with an electronic signature of the authorizing official on the Statement of Assurances.
  • Upload the support materials requested.
  • Upload the appropriate proof of not-for-profit status.
  • Submit the application by the April 1, 2020 deadline.


Organizations that apply to the Evanston Arts Council Cultural Fund Grant program must be an Illinois not-for-profit organization currently registered with the Secretary of State.

Applicant organizations must submit one of the following as proof of not-for-profit status:

A copy of the current Annual Report to the Secretary of State (signed and dated less than one year ago)

Organizations incorporated prior to 1943 should submit a certificate of good standing from the Office of the Secretary of State or a copy of enabling legislation.

*Do not send Internal Revenue Service documents or Annual Reports.

Criteria for Panel Review

Applications will be reviewed by peer advisory panelists who are arts professionals in a variety of disciplines. Panelist recommendations will be reviewed by the Arts Council in May. The Arts Council will then present its recommendation to the City Council for final approval in June. The advisory panel reviews and evaluates applications. The evaluation includes both a scoring system and written panel comments. The bullets under each criterion are examples of issues the advisory panel may consider. These bullets do not represent the only means of evaluating the criteria but are provided as a guide to the panelists. They may not apply to every application and do not individually have a specific point value. Each application is individually rated and the resulting score determines the application’s ranking. Applicants will be welcome to attend the reviewing panels and answer clarifying questions from the panelists; however, oral presentations or summaries will not be accepted.



Quality of Artistic Goals and Impact:  25%

  • The artistic quality of the work, programming or services
  • The aesthetic or cultural impact of the organization on its constituents
  • Demonstrated movement toward artistic challenges, artistic mission and vision expressed with clarity and purpose

Organizational Capacity:  15%                 

  • Evidence of sound management
  •  Qualifications of the Board and Staff
  • Ability of the organization to formulate and implement plans
  • Adequacy of facilities and equipment,
  • Evidence of volunteer support, including the Board.

Community Engagement: 20%

  • Arts programming and services accessible to all people
  • Programming and services enhancing the social health of the community of Evanston
  • Evidence of collaboration and/or community support.

Finances: 15%

  • Efforts to obtain a mix of earned revenue
  • Efforts to obtain a mix of contributed revenue
  • Ability of the organization to control expenses and stay within budgets
  • Financial reports provided presenting meaningful and useful information about the organization’s activities and results.

 Strength of Programming: 25%

  • Programming and services consistent with stated mission
  • Quality of implementation plan
  • Attractiveness of programs to diverse audiences and audiences new to the arts
  • Evidence of measurable outcomes and outputs for programming and services.


Quality of Artistic Goals and Impact: 25%

  • Artistic quality of the work, programming or services
  • Aesthetic or cultural impact of the program or project on its audience  
  • Artistic mission and vision of the program or project expressed with clarity and purpose 
  • Quality of the program or project goals

Organizational Capacity: 15%      

  • Qualifications of the Board and Staff,
  • Ability of organization to formulate and implement plans
  • Evidence of volunteer and Board support

Community Engagement: 15%

  • Arts programming or projects accessible to all people
  • Programming and services enhancing the social health of the community of Evanston
  •  Evidence of collaboration and/or community support.

Program Finances: 20%

  • Sound and realistic program or project budget
  • Ability of organization to control program or project expenses and stay within budgets
  • Financial reports provided presenting meaningful and useful information about the organization’s  activities and results

Strength of Programming: 25%

  • Programming and services consistent with stated mission
  • Clear and logical description of the implementation plan
  • Reasonable timeline for program or project
  • Evidence of measurable outcomes and outputs for programming and services

Judges Forms

View judges forms for General Operating Support and Special Programs and Projects



  1. Is there any tutoring or assistance offered for the Cultural Fund Grant process?
    Yes.  There will be two optional workshops for the Cultural Fund Grant, which that will take place on Wednesday, February 19, 2019, 4:00 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursday, February 27, 2020, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Morton Civic Center, 2100 Ridge, Room 2402 and 2404 respectively. Attendees will receive general information and tips for applying to the grant and will have a chance to ask questions.
  2. Do I need to download any software or documents in order to apply?

    No. We use Formstack, which has online forms with fields. You will be asked to upload various files, but will not need to download anything. NOTE: Formstack does not seem to work as well with Safari as other browsers.  We recommend Google Chrome. If you are having trouble submitting, it is most likely a conflict with your browser.

  3. What happens if my program, project, budget or plan changes after I have applied or received a grant?

    We understand that the application demonstrates your intent, and that there are factors that may force you to alter your plan a bit!  If you have to make small adjustments to your project or budget, you can simply proceed and note them in your final report. If significant changes are necessary, please outline those changes and submit to for assessment and re-evaluation.

  4. The grant application will not let me go to the next page until the current page is complete.  How do I see the questions ahead of time?  Also, can I start it and then finish it at a later time or date?
    You may type in a few characters to the fields. The form will read that as "answered" and will allow you to move on. When you save your document, the program will send you an email with a link to go back and edit your application. You may do that as many times as needed until you "submit", at which time your application is final. Make sure you check your filter if you do not see the program-generated link to go back.  

2019-2020 Grant Recipients

Chicago Sculpture International
Evanston Symphony Orchestra
Evanston In-School Music Association
Northlight Theatre
The Musical Offering
Evanston Art Center
Music Institute of Chicago
Mudlark Theater
The Actors Gymnasium
Mitchell Museum of the American Indian
Open Studio Project
Evanston Dance Ensemble