EQUITY 360: Grantmaking

In 2016, Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts, will develop EQUITY 360: Grantmaking, a suite of resources to inform and support grantmakers seeking to improve programs and evolve practices to create and sustain more equitable cultural ecosystems. 


Why EQUITY 360: Grantmaking?

Arts funding and policy cannot perpetuate inequity and discrimination while at the same time promoting the arts as bridge builders and agents for equity in communities. To achieve cultural equity (fair and equitable access to cultural resources and support) as well as equity through arts and culture will require redesign or creation of funding programs, relevant eligibility and review criteria, and improved communications to reach new applicants, in addition to changes in evaluation practices. 

Public and private sector philanthropy must both step up to assess their grantmaking priorities, policies, and practices.  Americans for the Arts is positioned to engage both sectors.  First, the national network of Local Arts Agencies is a significant system of public support that is vital to creating conditions and policies that advance cultural equity. AFTA has long served local arts agencies as a core constituency and the Cultural Equity Preconference attached to AFTA’s 2015 Annual Convention demonstrated the appetite within that network for ideas, information, and pathways for action.  AFTA and Animating Democracy have also built relationships with private sector funders to increase resources for the arts and to highlight exemplars supporting arts and social change. EQUITY 360 offers one pathway for AFTA to exercise its commitment to advancing cultural equity internally and externally as expressed in a new Equity Statement and an actionable plan to support efforts toward equitable cultural ecosystems.


The Shape of EQUITY 360: Grantmaking

EQUITY 360: Grantmaking, in its initial phase, will take the form of an on-line set of resources that will include:


  • Designing or Redesigning Programs and allocations to address equity (with stakeholder input and engagement)
  • Strategic Options (guidance on organizational strategies to advance equity (e.g. revised grant programs; new targeted grants; grant alternatives; improved guidelines and review procedures; capacity building initiatives, etc.)


  • Communications Checklist (guidance on how to promote grant and other funding opportunities and services using multiple media platforms and employing specific strategies for reaching intended constituents, especially those who may be unfamiliar with arts funding opportunities)
  • Outreach strategies (to identify and support potential applicants new to grant writing)


  • Panels 4.0 (recommendations for shaping panels with diverse expertise and representation that are qualified and prepared to review proposals through equity lenses, covering panel identification, recruitment, and orientation processes) 
  • The Review/Points of View (key considerations for establishing and weighting review criteria and for conducting panel processes that support equity)


  • Equity Assessments (guidance for funders around how to assess the state and dynamics of equity in their communities)
  • Agency Self-Assessments (guidance for internal assessments re. how systems are supporting equity goals)
  • Data analysis tools (guidance re. the collection and analysis of demographic and other data in order to get a true picture of reach of and constituent access to resources)


  • An annotated online reference linked to funder resources addressing equity
  • Short Sheets & Digests (e.g. 5ways to succeed at …, 5 articles worth reading about…)
  • Documentation of issues, actions, reactions, field conversation summaries, and program and policy strategies in communities addressing equity in arts funding covered from multiple perspectives (ex. Denver, Dayton, and Des Moines)
  • Equity training models and resources
  • Consultants to assist organizations and grantmakers in equity

In 2016, we will engage field leaders to collect strong models, adapt and develop resources, and vet and refine them.  This work will include convenings and other opportunities for exchange and feedback from pioneering local arts agency leaders, private funders, and practitioners.  We will develop messaging and communication platforms and begin to activate a plan to disseminate and engage the field including: field education, dialogue, and exchange about policies and program initiatives that address equity issues.

The focus on equitable funding is one dimension of what will be a multifaceted set of resources and activities that support the field’s needs across a range of cultural equity concerns.  These include: organizational and program policies and practices related to diversity, inclusion, and equity; peer interest groups; workshops and training; and equity in cultural planning and creative placemaking.


Making a Difference 

EQUITY 360: Grantmaking would be successful if it helps Local Arts Agencies and private sector funders find resources that support their movement toward fair and equitable access to cultural resources in the form of: policy change; revised grant programs; new targeted grants; grant alternatives; improved guidelines and review procedures; and capacity building for previously under-resourced artists and cultural organizations as well as other sectors integrating arts and culture strategies.


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For further information contact Pam Korza, co-director, Animating Democracy, pkorza@artsusa.org.