The Board of United Arts of Central Florida approved the recommendations of three grant panels composed of 42 volunteer-reviewers to award $1,370,231 in operating support grants to 43 Central Florida nonprofit cultural institutions.

The Operating Support Grant program is one of more than six United Arts funding programs, including designated giving secured through the collaborative Campaign for the Arts and power2give.org; match dollars provided by United Arts’ Trustee; and corporate donors and contracts for services including educational programming. Ninety percent of today’s award is committed to Central Florida’s cornerstone cultural institutions. These include, in part, Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, Orlando Ballet, Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, Orlando Repertory Theatre, Orlando Science Center and Orlando Shakespeare Theater.

“The Board is extremely pleased to approve the recommendation of our grant review panels and to make these awards to such worthy cultural organizations,” stated Linda Landman Gonzalez, Chairwoman, United Arts Board of Directors. “Congratulations to the many Central Florida cultural leaders who work so hard to provide the best in art, theatre, dance, music, science and history.”

This year’s awards are the first following implementation of a new grant review process recommended by a Grants Task Force convened by United Arts during the summer and fall of 2012. Composed of representatives from cultural organizations, other area funders, Orange County Arts & Cultural Affairs Advisory Council members and United Arts board members, the Task Force studied prior best practices and recommended key adjustments.

Recognizing the need of most nonprofit institutions for operating support, the new tiered Operating Support Grant program is based on Operating Budgets: Small ($25,000 – $250,000), Midsize ($250,000 – $600,000) and Large (more than $600,000). Each tier had a dedicated panel of knowledgeable volunteer-reviewers. The new process also adjusts the timing of grant awards, aligning the awards process and total amount awarded with United Arts’ receipt of government funding in October.

The volunteer-reviewers featured artistic discipline experts, nonprofit experts, corporate and foundation funders, community leaders who attend the arts frequently and United Arts board members. Combined, they volunteered more than 1,500 hours to the review and awards process. A public call for recommendations of qualified panelists was issued by United Arts in December 2012 and applicant groups were also asked to identify potential panelists. Overall, full panels were designed to represent a range and balance of artistic disciplines as well as a broad knowledge about the programming of applicant groups, and they were approved by United Arts’ Executive Committee and Board of Directors in June 2013.

Each volunteer-reviewer was assigned two to three applicant organizations for in-depth study, including site visits. These required meetings with staff and board leadership and provided an opportunity to tour a facility and view performances, exhibits and other programming. It also provided opportunities for staff and leadership teams to address panelist questions beyond the formal application. Detailed reports for each applicant organization were presented at the full panel meetings and included a financial analysis by a CPA.

“I am grateful to all 42 reviewers who volunteered their time, attention and expertise to ensure a thorough and professional process,” remarked Roseann Harrington, Chairwoman of the Large Budgets Grants Panel.

The new process also established a 100-point evaluation system covering Artistic Merit (40%), Management & Fiscal Responsibility (35%), and Service to the Community (25%). Total scores were then used to rank applicant organizations within their budget category. For their final award recommendations, panelists were given a four-year history of prior funding for each applicant organization, but in large part, gave greatest consideration to the objective ranking system. The panels also focused on funding fairness and equity within budget categories.

“Each panel was well prepared and engaged in thorough and robust conversations about applicant organizations,” said Marty Hartley,

Chairwoman of United Arts Standards and Allocations Committee. “I am pleased that the volunteer-reviewers rewarded the organizations with the highest rankings with increased funding based on an objective ranking system.”

The application period for FY14 closed on August 29. Final awards were determined at formal meetings of each grant panel in November. Grants cover cultural activity from January 1 through December 31, 2014 and award allocations will begin once signed grant contracts are returned to the offices of United Arts of Central Florida.
About United Arts of Central Florida
United Arts is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, governments and school districts, foundations, arts and cultural organizations and artists. Its mission is to unite, strengthen and inspire the Central Florida community through the arts and culture.

United Arts serves residents and visitors in Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties through more than 50 local arts, sciences and history organizations. It raises and distributes funds for these cultural groups and provides management, administrative and advisory services.

Now entering its 25th year of service to the Central Florida community, United Arts has invested more than $126 million in local organizations and education since its founding in 1989.
More information is available at www.UnitedArts.cc or by calling 407-628-0333.