The Math Behind Arts Funding

Hope McMath, the director of The Cummer Museum of Arts 
 & Gardens, said she’s grateful the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville awarded the museum a $322,200 grant and knows it could have been much less.

The grant to the Cummer was the largest of 21 approved by the Cultural Council as it distributed $2,416,453 in city tax money under the Cultural Services Grant Program for fiscal year 2013-’14. This year’s grants are $48,797 less than last year’s grants of $2,465,250.

“We are always grateful for what we get,” said McMath. The museum’s allocation was cut $19,510 this year, but McMath knows it could have been a bigger reduction.

When a City Council committee first looked at the program back in August, it appeared the cultural organizations would face a 14 percent, or $345,000 cut in funding, when compared with this year. When the city finalized its budget in October, the cut was only about 2 percent less than last year

The grants help fund a variety of organizations from fine arts and music to children and history.

A total of 21 of the 22 entities receiving funds this fiscal year also received money in the last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. Only one organization, the Florida Ballet, which received $2,354 last year, did not seek funding this year, said Amy Palmer, director of grants administration, for the Cultural Council.

If the total had been decreased 14 percent, McMath estimates it would have cost the Cummer about $50,000, resulting in a loss of some employees. She said the Cultural Council grant now represents about 8 percent of her total budget.

She said the money is primarily used for programming and its arts education programs.

“It is a very rigorous process. Since we are receiving tax dollars, we must meet high expectations, measuring the impact of those dollars and producing high quality arts,” McMath said.

“I’m still raising the other 92 percent of the budget,” she said.

Lynette Woods Young, executive director of the City Kids Art Factory, received a small bump in this year’s funding, increasing from $6,542 to $6,789, the smallest grant awarded by the Cultural Council.

The money represents about 9 to 10 percent of her budget and is used for everything from supplies to administration.

“There is no dedicated source for the money. We are small. When we get it, we spend it,” Young said.

“It is extremely helpful. We are a micro-nonprofit trying to grow into a medium nonprofit,” Young said of the out-of-school fine arts program for students aged 8 to 17.

The grant allows Young’s organization, formed in 1999, 
to leverage that money to raise more money, Young said,
noting that many foundations supporting the arts and nonprofits want organizations to prove they have money
to match a grant.

The funding from the Cultural Council “is a stamp of approval from the city. We are pleased and thrilled,” Young said.

Mandie McKenzie, executive director of Friday Musicale, said city dollars are important.

“It represents a commitment by the city and its leaders,” she said.

“Without it, you can’t produce the programs and provide scholarships,” McKenzie said. “The organization is able to produce so much more with the funding.”

The organization, which puts on 25 free concerts each year and has other music outreach program, has seen its city grants go up and down, depending on its other funding, she said.

This year, the Cultural Council grant of $37,671 is $2,073 more than it received last year. Friday Musicale uses its grant primarily to fund administrative salaries, McKenzie said. She said it represents about 15 percent of the total budget.

Organizations wanting grants must apply in the spring and undergo a rigorous review from the 10-member Cultural Services Grant Review Committee, which includes five Cultural Council board members and five community volunteers.

The review committee scores eligible grant applications, and each applicant organization also is assigned to a committee member who makes an on-site visit and writes an evaluation report. The reports are shared with other members prior to public grant hearings, Palmer said.

The committee looks at the quality of programs, the exploration of innovative ideas and programming, the community impact, the need for the organization in the community, community service to culturally diverse populations, and management capability of board and
staff, she said.

The money is designed to support general operations, Palmer said. The requests may not exceed 24 percent of the average of three years of actual operating revenues of an agency, which must match the remaining 76 percent from other funding sources.

The Cultural Council was founded in 1971 as the Arts Assembly and serves as the local arts agency for Duval County, Palmer said.

Since 1979, the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville has served as the official regranting administrative agency for the city. It added the Cultural Service Grant program to its responsibilities in 1990, Palmer said.

Setting the amount of grants is a complicated process using humans and a computer model based on the one used by the Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs.

The organizations are divided into three funding pools based on the size of their annual budgets. Level One is for organization of more than $1 million. Level Two is for those with an annual budget between $250,000 to $1 million, and Level Three is for those with a budget of $250,000 or less, Palmer said.

The amount of funding from year to year varies because of information determined by the computer iteration model, which factors in average score, requested amount and the total amount of funding available for each level, Palmer said.

“Changes in awards are usually due to score, especially relative to other scores in the funding level group, or growth/decrease in an applicant’s budget and therefore the eligible request amount,” she wrote in an email.

In the case of Don’t Miss A Beat, which increased from $2,624 to $10,663, the additional money was based on the fact that it was a first-time applicant last year and those applications are capped at $5,000.

“We need to do our due diligence throughout the process because we are the stewards of the taxpayers’ dollar,” she said.

In addition to the Cummer, six other Level One organizations received funding:

The Museum of Science and History, $321,274; WJCT Public Broadcasting, $304,373; The Florida Theatre, $299,195; the Jacksonville Symphony Association, $285,791; the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, $206,607; and the Cathedral Arts Project, $147,296.

Theatre Jacksonville received the largest Level Two grant at $92,541, followed by Players by the Sea, $73,592; Jacksonville Children’s Chorus, $65,803; Theatreworks, $49,523; Beaches Museum & History Park, $43,834; Jacksonville Historical Society, $40,739; and Ritz Chamber Players, $25,547.

Friday Musicale received the largest Level Three grant at $37,671, followed by Riverside Fine Arts Association, $33,721; Beaches Fine Arts Series, $29,955; Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre, $11,931; Don’t Miss A Beat, $10,662; Mandarin Museum & Historical Society, $7,389; and City Kids Art Factory $6,789.

McMath said having a committee separate from the City Council deciding the granting of the arts dollars
”de-politicizes the process.”

“I am a believer in the process,” she said.

Art dollars go a long way in Jacksonville. In a recent study, the Northeast Florida Center for Community Initiatives at the University of North Florida found that the economic impact of organizations receiving grants through the program during the fiscal year 2011-’12 was $58 million.

“We are very pleased with the city leadership’s commitment to art in the community,” McKenzie said.