Know the Facts: What's Next for Cuyahoga Arts & Culture's Grantmaking

Thank you to everyone who has written or called concerning our recent communication about our General Operating Support (GOS) grant program in 2018-19. It is heartening to receive the support so many of you have expressed for the tough decisions we must make to help sustain a vibrant arts community that stretches across geography, race, age and interest.

We want to address two very important issues in this communication. First, we have heard loud and clear the need for CAC to devise a better and more consistent mechanism for community input, ideas and questions.

To that end, we will hold a regular series of community meetings throughout 2018 at locations around Cuyahoga County. We will work with local partners to design these meetings so we can have better dialogue, create a more consistent feedback loop, and offer space to share ideas and talents. The first meeting, in late January, will be focused on how we make our program allocation decisions. We will continue to work in the best interests of the arts and cultural community in Cuyahoga County. 

Second, we know that misinformation is spreading in the community about CAC and the funding process. Frankly, that effort threatens to fracture our arts community. We cannot allow funding to be used as a wedge to drive us apart when it is meant to help all of us connect to the arts and each other

One of our cultural partners in a recent conversation echoed this sentiment: "Now is not the time for infighting [small vs. large organizations, operating vs. project support]. We need to work together to think about what's next." We couldn't agree more.

We are excited that CAC's board will be asked to approve nearly $12 million in grants to more than 250 organizations at its November 13 meeting. As we do at this time every year, we will make grants through our General Operating Support and Project Support programs. Even in times of declining revenue, CAC remains one of the largest funders of arts & culture in the nation and the largest in Northeast Ohio.

Ahead of that meeting, we want to again share the facts behind the numbers. We know many of you have seen this information from us in recent days, but we believe it is important we emphasize the reality of the declining revenue situation we all face:  

Pay some now or pay more later. We’re taking a bigger budget hit now to prepare for leaner times ahead – and give arts organizations more funding security for the next several years.
  • The $10.2 million for General Operating Support in 2018-19 is about 20 percent less than the $12.7 million allocated in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The average reduction in grants to individual organizations is about 14%.
  • In this pool of grants, even with these cuts, there are several organizations receiving $1 million or more next year. We know funding times are about to get tougher. Dollars from the cigarette tax are expected to decline 25 percent over the next 10 years.
    • By taking this financially prudent action now, we will keep GOS funding at $10.2 million for the next two years and perhaps the next four years. That’s the kind of funding stability arts organizations have told us they need.
    • By making this budget adjustment now, we can ensure that these public funds are available to all who qualify for the next 10 years.
This arts money is for everyone. Fighting over a declining pool will only hurt the overall arts community. 
  • Our board committed that GOS organizations will continue to benefit from the majority of CAC funding. Many GOS organizations are getting smaller grants. Some are not. 
  • Besides the GOS grants, the CAC board approves Project Support grants, as well as support for artists and special events. A few people have suggested that we cut the Project Support program to keep the GOS organizations whole. CAC remains committed to Project Support and support for artists and special events because they provide alternative ways for Cuyahoga County residents to connect to the arts – something our residents have consistently told us they want.
We all knew this was coming and we talked about it openly. It is painful. But it’s not a surprise.
  • CAC is a government agency that discusses its budget in public meetings. Detailed meeting minutes are posted online at cacgrants.org.
  • Besides the public meetings, public statements and posts on our website, CAC staffers have been in direct contact with dozens of cultural partners about these looming financial challenges for years. 
  • The amount of money given to GOS programs has not been adjusted since 2014, meaning organizations have received the same grant for 2015, 2016 and 2017. We knew that couldn’t continue, and CAC communicated that the 2015-17 allocations would be larger grants than they’d receive in 2018-19. We’ve received many letters and phone calls in recent days from organizations who told us they weren’t surprised.
We operate with a small team and lean overhead expenses – about 8% of the total budget. 
  • Now: CAC, an independent government agency, currently has a staff of 7 and we plan to fill two openings to get to 9 staffers. This year, we’re funding 241 organizations who are delivering arts and culture to the community: 58 through operating support and another 183 through project support.
  • Then: CAC started with a staff of 5 serving approximately 65 organizations.
  • Our overhead of 8% percent of total expenses may actually grow a little – because we know our revenue from cigarette taxes will continue to shrink. But that 8% overhead is well under the 10-15% benchmark for overhead that many organizations use – and our staff size is smaller than many of our local arts agency peers around the country.
  • We take pride in our financial stewardship and in receiving clean audits from the auditor of state in each of the past 10 years. In addition, CAC received the highest award from the auditor of state in 2016, an award given to only 5% of public agencies in Ohio.
We welcome questions and feedback. We invite you to join us any of our upcoming meetings, including our November 13 meeting where we will announce grants. To contact us, please call 216-515-8303 or email info@cacgrants.org.

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