MAC banner logo


Content Layout


Sample Cultural Trust Guidelines


Who is Eligible to Apply

Any person, association, group, or a governmental agency may submit an application for funding.

Individuals may apply to special projects using a fiscal agent, which is a 501 (c) 3 incorporated nonprofit tax-exempt organization that is eligible to apply for Cultural Trust grants. You must contact the Montana Arts Council prior to submitting a grant application if you intend to use a fiscal agent. A copy of the IRS letter of acknowledgment that an application for tax-exempt status has been filed must be submitted to the MAC prior to receiving a grant. The fiscal agent is the recipient of the grant award. The fiscal agent becomes the legal applicant of record, redistributes the grant funds to the project coordinator and is responsible for all the requirements of the specific grant category. This includes contracts, fiscal records and final reports. Acting as a fiscal agent makes the organization ineligible to apply for Cultural Trust funding in another application.  The Montana Arts Council is not able to act as a fiscal agent for an individual applying to the Cultural Trust.  It would be a conflict for MAC to sponsor one individual over all others. 


Cultural Trust Grant Categories

You may only apply for a grant in ONE of the four categories listed below.  (Challenge Grant for Endowment Development are a grant category in the law, but, they have not been funded since 1997 due to economic circumstances.  Until these conditions change, this category is not available for application.)

If your organization has paid staff of at least one half-time position, apply under special projects or operational support EVEN if you are requesting $4500 or less.


Special Projects Requesting $4,500 or Less These requests may be submitted by organizations that are all-volunteer or employ no more than one half-time person and are well suited for small requests. These applications will be reviewed knowing the applicants have less grant-writing experience.


Special Projects These grants are for specific cultural and aesthetic activities, services or events of limited duration.  This category is for the expansion of ongoing programs, adding staff or increasing staff time.

Many applicants express confusion as to why they must apply under Special Projects to expand ongoing programs or operations.  Section 22-2-309 states the operational support category as: “operational support for cultural institutions that have been in existence for at least two years and whose budgets reflect only the costs of continuing their current program.”  Any costs above and beyond the continuation of the current programming (new or expanded staff, for example) must be in Special Projects for the first year.


Operational Support These grants are for operational support for cultural institutions that have been formally organized for at least two years with an ongoing program and with paid professional staff and whose budgets reflect only the cost of continuing their current program.  This category is not for staff or program expansion (see Special Projects).  Operational support grants are not intended to reduce the applicant’s fund-raising efforts.


Capital Expenditures These grants are for additions to a collection or for acquisition of works of art, artifacts or historical documents; historic preservation; purchase of equipment over $5,000; or the construction or renovation of cultural facilities.  Applications must include renderings, working drawings or photographs of the facility to be renovated, improved or constructed or the artifacts or artwork to be acquired.  No more than 25% of the total grant funds appropriated by the Legislature may be used for capital expenditure grants.


Overview and Important Information

The grant period is July 1, 2019-June 30, 2021. All grant activities MUST occur and grant and matching funds must be spent and/or encumbered during this grant period. If the grant activities do not occur, or if the grant and matching funds are not spent or accrued during the grant period, the grant award will revert. There are no exceptions.

Applications must be for cultural and aesthetic projects, including but not limited to the visual, performing, literary and media arts, history, archaeology, folklore, archives, collections, research, historic preservation and the construction or renovation of cultural facilities. Applications are encouraged for applicants serving rural communities, racial and ethnic groups, people with disabilities, institutionalized populations, youth and the aging.

Although the legislature encourages applications for arts and cultural education projects, they will NOT support projects created to meet school accreditation standards or other mandated requirements or supplant other funds for current or ongoing programs operated by schools, colleges or universities. 

There are more applicants every biennium and there is less money available due to reduced interest rates. You must submit an application that will sell your organization or project to the advisory panel and the legislature. Assume the reviewer has no prior knowledge of your organization, program or activity. Do not assume that a past funding record will assure future funding.

MAC and staff have no decision-making authority over any application. The agency only provides administrative services for the advisory committee and the legislature. The advisory committee will make funding recommendations to the legislative panel and legislature who make the final decisions.

Applicants are requested to refrain from contacting committee members, individually or as a group, before or during the committee meeting process.  Applicants attending the advisory committee meeting as observers will not be allowed to address their application, thereby not having an unfair advantage over those who are not in attendance.

The lowest grant for this program is $2,000. The average award for the current two-year grant cycle is approximately $6,000.  These amounts are the total award for the entire two-year period.

Funding Strategy Cultural Trust grants are derived from interest earnings on the Cultural Trust.  During the past several years, earnings have been the lowest in history.  If past funding strategies were used this biennium, the average grant would be $2,500 total for the two-year grant period.  Grants will be awarded at three different levels based on outreach, facility operation/ownership, budget size and paid staff in a range from $2,000-$15,000.

Hard-copy applications will not be accepted.  You must apply online.  Please contact the staff if you have technology challenges. 

Contact Kristin Han Burgoyne (kburgoyne@mt.gov or 406-444-6449) with any questions or concerns.

This legislative program follows state law and state administrative rules linked to below.



Cultural Trust Evaluation Criteria

From Administrative Rules Section 10.111.707

Committee recommendations to the Legislature of those projects which meet the evaluation criteria to the extent possible also must address the following considerations:

(a) taken as a whole, grants should assist the entire state;

(b) recognizing the special needs of access to cultural and aesthetic projects and services and the unique perspective, skills, talents and contributions of the wide variety of the people of Montana, the grants recommended, taken as a whole, should reflect and affirm that diversity, and as such, provide enrichment to the population at large. These projects should encourage the expansion of opportunities for all Montanans to create, participate in, and appreciate the wide range of all cultural and aesthetic activities regardless of age, sex, race, ethnic origin, income, physical and mental ability, or place of residence; and

(c) a variety of different interests and disciplines within the eligible projects should be served and which also may include, but not be limited to, the following:

(i) service to local communities or counties, multicounty regions, and the state;

(ii) service to urban and rural populations;

(iii) special projects, operational support, and capital expenditures and

(iv) single sponsors and those representing coalitions of a number of organizations.

Applications will be reviewed based on: 

  1. Unique value or service provided to people who attend and/or support the work of the applicant.
  2. Services appropriate and of value to people who attend and/or support the applicant.
  3. A cohesive, complete, well-thought-out application.


Narrative Questions

  1. Describe the unique value or service that you provide to people who attend and/or support the work you do.
  2. What is your most significant accomplishment of the last year and why was it significant?
  3. How would this funding contribute to or improve the cultural life or development of your community or the area you serve?
  4. What is your proof that the people who attend and/or support your work value what you do?
  5. Define your audience and the geographic area you serve.


Matching Requirements

Matching funds are funds other than Cultural and Aesthetic Project grants allocated or received by the grantee during the two fiscal years of the grant period and used exclusively for the application receiving Cultural and Aesthetic Project grant funds. The signed contract must be received by June 30, 2020 (the end of the first year of the grant period).

Special Projects $4,500 OR Less, Special Projects and Operational Support: Each grant dollar is matched with one dollar in cash or in‐kind goods and services.  Capital Expenditures: Each grant dollar is matched with three dollars in cash or in‐kind goods and services.






Montana Arts Council | 830 N. Warren Street, Helena, MT 59601 | P.O. Box 202201, Helena, MT 59620-2201 | P: (406) 444-6430 | F: (406) 444-6548 | mac@mt.gov 

"State of the Arts" Newspaper | eNewsMontana's Arts Calendar | Montana's Cultural Treasures Guide

The Montana Arts Council is funded by the State of Montana and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
Up arrow

NEA Logo
Facebook     Twitter     Instagram icon     YouTube     RSS    Wheelchair icon  Large print icon