Revised Measure P guidelines that would boost potential grants for ‘entry level’ arts organizations face key Monday evening vote
By Doug Hoagland
Update 9 p.m. Oct. 16: The Parks, Recreation and Arts Commission voted to recommend revised grant guidelines to the Fresno City Council for consideration and adoption. The City Council is scheduled to consider the guidelines at its Nov. 2 meeting.
Measure P money dedicated to “emerging” arts and culture organizations with small budgets is the centerpiece of revised grant guidelines for distributing badly needed money generated by the initiative. The Parks, Recreation and Arts Commission will consider the revised guidelines on Monday, Oct. 16.
The revisions reflect feedback from the community and Commission members. There is a desire “to eliminate barriers” in accessing Measure P arts grants by creating “entry level” categories of funding, said Laura Ward, a Commission member who worked on the revisions. The original guidelines – released in late September – did not specifically address the needs of emerging organizations.
The revised guidelines also offer the potential for the city’s larger arts and culture organizations to secure more funding than would have been possible under the original guidelines.
The question now becomes whether the revised guidelines will satisfy three audiences:
• Leaders in the Fresno arts community, some of whom complained that the original guidelines maintained “the status quo,” while others advocated behind-the-scenes for the interests of the larger organizations.
• The eight members of the Fresno Parks, Recreation and Arts Commission (there is one vacancy). The Commission must recommend grant guidelines before they go to the Fresno City Council for final approval.
• Members of the City Council, who could vote on the guidelines on Nov. 2 if the Parks, Recreation and Arts Commission takes action at its Monday meeting. Even if that happens, application and adjudication periods would follow, and the first round of Measure P grants would not be awarded until the spring of 2024.
“If there continues to be a delay [with the guidelines], we won’t be able to open the application period in November, and there are arts and culture organizations in the city right now that are raising their hands and saying they are in desperate need for funding support,” Ward said. Last week, Michele Ellis Pracy, executive director of the Fresno Art Museum – citing a cash flow crisis – said the museum needs to come up with $100,000 in October to keep operating.
“Unfortunately, Measure P wouldn’t be able to meet a request for October, but we’re hoping this spring that organizations will start accessing significant and meaningful funding,” Ward said.
For now, though, attention turns to the details of the revised grant guidelines. They are numerous and complicated, but critical to how at least $5 million in Measure P grants would be awarded for the first time. In 2018, Fresno voters approved the 30-year, 3/8-cent sales tax increase, with 88% of the millions generated going to parks and 12% to arts.
Here are key points in the revised guidelines, with calculations based on $5 million:
• The $5 million would likely be split 50/50 between two grant categories: operations support (covering expenses such as nonprofits’ rent, utilities and staff salaries) and projects (covering expenses such as artists’ fees, supplies, materials and equipment, venue costs and technical expertise).
• Of the $2.5 million available for operation support, $2 million would be available to organizations based on annual income reported to the IRS. Those with less than $250,000 annual income could apply for up to 70% of their income; organizations with more than $251,000 annual income could apply for 30% and would be capped at $300,000. The percentages and the cap were increased from the original guidelines.
• In a new guideline, the remaining $500,000 for operation support would be available to emerging nonprofit arts and culture organizations with revenue of less than $50,000. They could apply for 100% of their income for operation support.
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Of the $2.5 million available for project support, $2 million would be available to organizations in grants ranging from $2,000 to $200,000. That range is unchanged from the original guidelines.
In a new guideline, the remaining $500,000 for project support would be available to emerging organizations with less than two years of arts/culture programming and financial history. Those grants would not exceed $50,000 each.
Stephen Wilson, president and chief executive officer of the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra, was among the culture leaders who asked the Parks, Recreation and Arts Commission on Sept. 25 to revise the guidelines. He told The Munro Review on Saturday, Oct. 14, that the revisions are a “definite improvement” and he appreciates the Commission’s Arts Subcommittee working on the new guidelines.
Wilson said he’s pleased that established organizations could receive larger grants under the revised funding formula for operation support. He also called the new guidelines for emerging organizations a good idea. “That seems to think through how Measure P could work to build up the capacity of smaller organizations.”
The Parks, Recreation and Arts Commission will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 16, at Fresno City Hall.