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Grants to Massachusetts Nonprofits and Schools
for Ensemble-Based Youth Music Programs

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Massachusetts Cultural Council

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Grants of up to $15,000 per year to Massachusetts nonprofit cultural organizations and schools to support youth music programs. Applicants should contact program staff prior to applying. Proposals are invited for both new and existing ensemble-based music programs that promote youth development.

The goal of SerHacer is to support the growing number of intensive, creative youth development ensemble-based music programs that use music instruction as a vehicle for youth development and social change. Inspired by the work of El Sistema, SerHacer brings together public schools, private schools, charter schools, community music schools, conservatories, orchestras, community organizations, universities and social service organizations to work together to expand access to social and artistic music-making opportunities for the 193,000 children living in poverty and countless more without access to the arts in the Commonwealth.  Through technical assistance, grants, and convenings, SerHacer is focused on working with partners around the Commonwealth to support music-making that measures success not only in ticket sales, but in children and communities as well.

SerHacer supports new or existing, innovative, ensemble-based music programs that:
-Provide safe and healthy youth spaces
-Are assets-based
-Are youth driven
-Foster the development of positive relationships and social skills
-Set high expectations for growth and learning
-Address the broader, cross-sector context in which creative youth development exists

Multiple Sites:

A Program Site operated by an organization is a separate SerHacer program located at a physical location where services are delivered to a unique set of young people who are predominantly not engaged at the organization’s other Program Sites and conducted by separate staff. Multiple physical locations for the same program at an organization which serve the same young people in all locations is not considered separate Program Sites for the purposes of this section. Mass Cultural Council will determine it is sole considered discretion the eligibility of separate Program Sites.

Review Criteria:

Community Need and Participation:

Documented need among the young people for whom this program is designed and documented lack of access to similar opportunities within this community for these young people. Quality programming may include:

1. Application documents that the participants are culturally underserved and at particular risk because they face challenges such as violence in their homes or neighborhoods, poverty, immigration status, disability, incarceration or mental illness.
2. Beyond the proposed program, participants lack support and resources in their homes, schools and communities; few other arts or social service resources are accessible to this target population.
3. Documentation proving there are no barriers to program participation for at-risk youth such as prohibitive participation fees or lengthy or intimidating application or audition processes. Solutions have been found to address transportation and turf issues. Participation is not limited to highly talented or easily engaged youth.

Evidence that the broader community is involved in responding to the needs of the participating young people.

1. The program is working to change the way the community views and thinks about vulnerable young people and the ability of the music to build a more positive and livable community.
2. The project coordinates appropriately with other youth-serving, cultural, and community organizations along with other efforts within the community.
3. Appropriate partners or collaborators are actively recruited and involved in meeting the needs of the young people

Quality of Program Design:

Evidence that the staff, collaborators, and program design will provide young people with in-depth, high-quality ensemble music experiences that are designed to encourage the pursuit of artistic excellence. Quality programming may include:

1. Ensemble music making is the main vehicle for learning
2. Instructors have strong credentials in their discipline and as educators
3. Instructional design of the program fosters accomplishment and excellence in music through rigorous intensive ensemble work
4. Youth are given high-quality materials and space
5. Youth develop their own creative, analytical, and artistic voice
6. Youth learn to effectively mentor other students
7. Program design includes frequent performances for a broad range of audiences
8. Program design includes opportunities, partnerships, or planning around multi-year participation from young people
9. As a result of the program, young people excel as musicians

Evidence that staff, collaborators, and program design will meet the developmental needs of participating young people.

1. Program operates as part of a holistic community of support for young people rather than isolated from other programs and services. Program recognizes the multiple needs of the participating young people and integrates its efforts with those of other providers.
2. Program is based on participating young people’s assets rather than on deficits. Program identifies participants' strengths, builds on them, and cultivates additional assets young people need to become successful adults. Such assets might include skills (interpersonal, communication, decision-making, conflict-resolution, problem-solving, academic, or workforce skills), knowledge, attitudes, and/or behaviors.
3. Staff have received adequate and appropriate training to meet students' developmental needs and have access to appropriate resources within or outside the organization to address issues beyond current program or staff capacity.
4. Program takes place in safe and healthy spaces (i.e., physical safety is taken into consideration regarding program location, equipment, activities, and staffing; adequate adult supervision is provided; personnel are knowledgeable regarding procedures for dealing with emergencies; program creates an emotional safety in which participants are able to develop a sense of belonging and membership).
5. Program fosters the development of positive relationships with adults and peers.
6. Program encourages sustained, long-term involvement by participating young people and offers them expanding opportunities as they progress.
7. Youth participants, artists, and appropriate collaborators play a meaningful role in the planning process both in designing the program and throughout its implementation.
8. Young people have a true voice in shaping their projects, the program and, when appropriate, the organization - beyond program feedback forms. Young people set and monitor goals for their own achievement and assess their own progress and may be involved in decision-making.
9. Adults set high expectations for participation, growth, and learning.
10. If stipends are offered, they are connected to specific, consistent performance expectations and not merely to attendance.
11. Recruitment and implementation plans are realistic given program goals, staffing, and resources.

Program Evaluation:

Effectiveness of plans to document and evaluate the program's impact on participating young people. Quality program evaluation may include:

1. Program evaluation measures the young people's progress toward program goals; systems are in place to monitor and document the changes in skills, knowledge, attitude, or behavior that the program intends to promote.
2. Staff regularly analyzes evaluation data and uses it to improve the program. When appropriate, students are included in this process.
3. Student assessment and program evaluation systems are manageable and adequate time, staffing, money and other resources are in place to implement them.

Fiscal Management:

Soundness of fiscal management, including diversity and reliability of financial support.
1. Match is met by a reasonable margin.
2. Budgeted expenses align with the proposed activities, staffing, and schedule.
3. Organization is in good financial health and has good track record of financial management and fundraising.
4. Projected funding is sufficiently diverse; the proposed program's fate is not reliant on any one funder.
5. Income projections are sound and reasonable; specific sources have been researched and projections are reasonable, based on both the track record of the funder and their history with the applicant.
6. Staff responsible for fiscal administration is skilled and experienced.
7. There is evidence of long-term planning for the proposed program's stability and sustainability.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 154218

Estimated Size of Grant:

Applicants should request grants of $15,000/year. Actual grant amounts will be determined by the money available and the number of projects recommended for funding.

In an effort to support the growth of Creative Youth Development work throughout the Commonwealth in the most efficient way possible, organizations that are operating in multiple Program Sites, may request up to an additional $5,500 for each additional Program Site where services are being delivered to young people. For example, if an organization were currently working in 3 sites they would be eligible to request a grant of up to $31,000 ($20,000 for the initial Program Site and $5,500 for each additional Program Site).

Term of Contract:

Consideration will be given to second-year funding.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

The primary applicant for a SerHacer grant must be:

-A cultural organization or an organization with a strong programming history in music incorporated in Massachusetts as a nonprofit organization and current in its tax-exempt status under IRS Section 501(c)(3).


-Any school (public, charter, parochial, or independent) in Massachusetts holding a valid DESE number.

Programs currently funded by YouthReach are not eligible to apply for SerHacer.

Pre-proposal Conference:

Mass Cultural Council staff will run a webinar overview of the program as well as tips for preparing a competitive application.

Please register for either information session below.

-Wednesday, October 18 2017, 12:00 - 1:00 PM
-Wednesday, November 15 2017, 12:00 - 1:00 PM

For those who are not able to join, program staff will be available for one on one conversations.

More information may be found here:

Pre-Application Information:

All SerHacer grants must be matched based on the criteria below. First-cycle grants can be matched with cash and in-kind support. However, in-kind goods and services may not exceed 50 percent of the match. "In-kind" refers to a donation of goods or services. Any goods or services that you do not have to pay for are considered in-kind. Free rehearsal space, donated supplies or pro bono consultant work are examples of in-kind goods and services. Staff time on this project paid for by the primary applicant should be listed as cash match; staff time on the project paid for by a collaborating organization is an in-kind donation. Funds raised by a collaborating organization specifically for the project constitute a cash match.

Match requirements will vary in future cycles according to how long a project has been funded through SerHacer as follows:
-First-cycle projects (Years 1-3 of SerHacer funding): 1:1 (up to 50% in-kind)
-Second-cycle projects (Years 4-6 of funding): 1:1 (cash)
-Third-cycle projects and beyond (Year 7+ of funding): 2:1 (cash)

Before you begin an application contact Rodrigo Guerrero, Program Manager to discuss your proposal.

The deadline for all applications is February 15, 2018.

Deadlines and Timeline:
-February 15, 2018: Application Deadline
-March 2018 - May 2018: Site visits for applicants seeking SerHacer funding
-June 2018: SerHacer panels review proposals
-July 2018: Governor signs new fiscal year budget
-August 2018: Mass Cultural Council reviews panels’ funding recommendations
-September 2018: Funding decisions announced
-November 2018: 80 percent of fiscal year 2018 award issued
-July 2019: Final Reports Due, remaining 20 percent of fiscal year 2018 award issued
-August 2019: Mass Cultural Council reviews staff recommendations for second-year funding
-September 2019: Funding decisions announced
-November 2019: 80 percent of fiscal year 2019 award



Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Register for the October 18 information session:

Register for the November 15 information session:

Apply Online:

Rodrigo Guerrero, Program Manager

Mass Cultural Council
10 St. James Ave., 3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02116

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Massachusetts

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