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FY19 Upstart Program (UPS) - Project-Based Grant

Grants to Washington, DC Arts and Humanities
Nonprofits for Organizational Stability

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Funding Source:

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District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities (CAH)

Conf. Date:


Deadline Date:

06/15/18 4:00 PM ET


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Grants of up to $50,000 to Washington, DC arts and humanities nonprofits for projects to support programmatic and organizational sustainability. Applicants are required to attend a workshop on May 10 or May 22.

The UPS grant program provides capacity building support to established DC-based arts and humanities nonprofit organizations that face operational and infrastructure challenges inhibiting their organizational and programmatic sustainability.

Upstart is designed to support arts organizations with intensive technical assistance through consulting and funding for core administrative systems, leadership development and operating reserves. Projects funded through Upstart may include consulting services for information technology, communications or fundraising strategy, organizational development, executive coaching, financial management, strategic planning and governance. Each grantee’s participation is overseen by external consultants who are contracted by CAH to administer the organizational assessments and work directly with participants on planning and implementing their capacity building projects.

By making its UPS grant awards, CAH endeavors to meet the following goals, and an applicant’s submission should offer consideration to these goals:

-Advance organizational sustainability by supporting effective strategies to assist in successful mission fulfillment;

-Provide an in-depth organizational assessment to focus on strengthening on organization’s operational capacity to achieve manageable strategic initiatives; and,

-Cultivate a peer-leadership network among Upstart program grantees that encourages mutual professional development.

Description of UPS Grant Projects:

The Upstart program has four structured components that are mandatory for each participant:

1. CAH’s Upstart consultants assess the participant’s operations and finances to produce a written report outlining the organization’s most urgent challenges;

2. From the assessment report, organizational leadership and the Upstart consultants develop a project work plan with goals, milestones and associated project budget, which is sent to CAH for approval;

3. Upstart grant funds are expended on capacity building projects as outlined in the CAH-approved work plan and budget; and,

4. Organizational leadership attends up to three Upstart-specific peer learning sessions throughout the grant period.

Funding Amounts and Special Requirements:

Upstart grant amounts are determined once Upstart consultants assess the organization, identify capacity building projects and work with the organization’s leadership to develop work plans and budgets for CAH approval. CAH, in consultation with the Upstart program consultants, will make a recommendation for a final grant amount to support the capacity building projects. The final amount will be determined by CAH’s Board of Commissioners.

Funding may only cover costs associated with capacity building projects that directly relate to the work plan developed in collaboration with the Upstart consultants. Funds may not be used to support: salaries for new or existing permanent staff positions; general operating expenses; purchase of land or property; technology and equipment not pertaining to capacity building needs; or funding of pre-existing debts, expenses or obligations incurred by the organization. More information about allowable costs can be found in the “Funding Restrictions” section.

Examples of allowable costs for Upstart:
-Consultants working on time-limited capacity building projects;
-Collateral materials relating to implementation of approved work plan projects;
-Hardware and software related to operations;
-Professional development trainings; and,
-Operating reserves.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 171481

Estimated Size of Grant:

Organizations may request up to $50,000

Up to $15,000 of the Upstart award may be used to create or expand a board-approved operating reserve fund. Grantees are not required to have an operating reserve in place prior to receiving an Upstart award. If a grantee has an operating reserve policy in place, the organization must be in good standing with its own policy.

Term of Contract:

Grants funds are applicable only to expenses incurred during CAH’s Fiscal Year 2019, which occurs from October 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Eligibility Requirements of Applicants:

Upstart Specific:
-Operate with a budget of between $250,000 and $1,249,999 in cash, as evidenced on the organization’s most recent IRS Form 990;
-Employ at least one full-time, salaried administrative staff member earning at least DC’s minimum wage, subject to IRS Form W2 verification;
-No recipient may receive more than two (2) consecutive years of Upstart funding before taking at least three (3) fiscal years off from applying; and,
-Have senior leadership attend one Upstart workshop, occurring in person on either May 10 or May 22, 2018, or online. (Recent Upstart recipients may contact Grants Programs Manager Benjamen Douglas for additional information regarding workshop attendance.)

CAH Specific:
-Be incorporated as a nonprofit with a federally designated tax exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) code, as evidenced by an IRS determination letter that is dated at least one year prior to the application deadline date;
-Demonstrate that one hundred percent (100%) of the project deliverables occur within the District of Columbia;
-Register and comply with the regulatory requirements of the following agencies: 1) District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) - Corporations Division (indicating an “active” business license status at the time of application, and agreeing to maintain such status throughout the grant period);
2) District of Columbia Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR); 3) District of Columbia Department of Employment Services (DOES); and 4) United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS);
-Obtain certification of “Citywide Clean Hands” (CCH) from the District of Columbia Office of Tax and Revenue;
-Be in good standing with CAH. (Note that applicants with incomplete or delinquent reports from any prior funding program, as of October 15, 2018, are ineligible to receive additional funds from CAH in FY 2019); and,
-Have a principal business office address that is located in the District of Columbia, subject to on-site visit. (Note: CAH will not allow post office boxes or the addresses of a board member or volunteer as evidence of the principal business address).

Applicant Restrictions (non-eligibility):
-Organizations that require “fiscal agents”;
-For-profit (commercial) entities;
-Tax-exempt organizations other than 501(c)(3) designated entities;
-Private foundations;
-Political organizations;
-Foreign governments;
-Colleges or universities;
-District of Columbia Government or Federal Government agencies, including DC Public Schools; and,
-Organizations submitting an application whose content is combined with the application of another organization. Proposed projects must be “stand-alone” projects.

Examples of unallowable costs for Upstart:
-Salaries for permanent positions;
-Programming expenses;
-Overhead and maintenance;
-Food and beverages;
-Re-granting (also known as “sub-granting”);
-Tuition and scholarships;
-Costs related to fundraisers and special events;
-Travel not directly related to the execution of the project;
-College tuition; and,
-Funding for universities, foreign governments, or DC government agencies, including DC Public Schools.

Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access:

CAH believes that all District residents should be able to access arts and humanities experiences for their benefit. To facilitate this vision, CAH has adopted a cultural equity policy known as I.D.E.A. (inclusion, diversity, equity, access). By incorporating I.D.E.A. across grants programs, CAH seeks to help grantees develop programs that are inclusive of diverse populations and provide equitable accessibility to those populations.
In addition to detailed plans for its compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, each applicant must demonstrate how the project will be inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible throughout the District of Columbia, beyond participants with disabilities. Successful applications will consider a broad definition of “accessibility” by addressing financial, geographic, demographic, cultural and developmental access.

Pre-proposal Conference:

*Participating in an Upstart workshop (either May 10 or May 22) is mandatory. If an applicant is unable to attend a workshop, they must contact the UPS program manager for information on how to view the training online.

Technical Assistance and Workshops:

CAH staff members are available to assist grant applicants through group or individual technical assistance. CAH staff members will not write applications for applicants. However, CAH staff members are available by appointment (up to thirty (30) minutes) to review application drafts on government business days from application release date through one (1) week prior to the grant application deadline.

CAH conducts free workshops for participants to learn useful information about the agency’s funding opportunities and how to submit a grant application. Workshop dates, times and locations listed below are subject to change. All workshops are free and open to the public; however, participants are strongly encouraged to register to attend the workshop. Valid photographic identification is required to enter DC government offices.

Workshop calendar may be found here:

The DataArts Profile is required for application to the Facilities and Buildings, General Operating Support and Upstart grant programs.

First-time applicants are encouraged to learn the basics of DataArts by participating in the webinar for an orientation to the DataArts platform. The orientation will walk applicants through the process of completing their profile, applying to participating grantmakers and generating profiles. This orientation is recommended for organizations that are new to entering data into the DataArts system, or as a refresher on using the website.

If you have any questions about entering your data, please contact the DataArts Support Center. The Support Center is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am – 8:00 pm ET, and can be reached at 877-707-3282 or

Pre-Application Information:

Cash-Match Requirement: None for capacity building projects; 1:1 (dollar to dollar) for operating reserve funds.

The reserve fund amount requires a 1:1 match of new and/or increased donations, designed to help grantees leverage Upstart funds to increase contributed revenue. In-kind contributions, CAH, or other District Government funds may not be used to satisfy the match requirement of this grant.

CAH utilizes an online grant portal to receive grant applications. All applications must be submitted online by 4:00 PM ET, Friday, June 15, 2018.

CAH will notify applicants of this grant program as to the results of their application by Monday, October 1, 2018 via (1) letter of conditional grant award, (2) letter of intention to award, (3) letter of ineligibility or (4) letter of denial.

-Release Date: Monday, April 30, 2018
-Application Deadline: Friday, June 15, 2018 at 4:00 pm ET
-Grant Period: October 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019

Contact Information:

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

Benjamen Douglas

Government of the District of Columbia
Commission on the Arts and Humanities
200 I (Eye) Street, SE, Suite 1400
Washington, DC 20003

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Washington, DC