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Overview: Review Criteria

Minigrant, Project and Operating grant applications submitted to the Mississippi Arts Commission will be reviewed and scored according to the following criteria. Special initiatives may have unique criteria explained in their guidelines. Applicants who clearly and carefully address each criterion indicate that they have done thoughtful planning and have a well-organized project or organization. This information is what the panelists will use when evaluating and scoring your application.

1. Goals and Outcomes (20 points)

A goal is the desired end result of the proposal. When developing a program or long-range plan, your goals should be clearly established in order for you to identify what you hope to achieve. Ask the question, "What end result are we trying to achieve through this project or through the work of our organization?" Examples of goals include to enhance the cultural life of our community through the arts or to celebrate Mississippi’s unique musical heritage. Your goals should be clearly identified in your proposal.

Outcomes are tangible, measurable and time-specific. They are the result of the actions or activities taken in pursuit of your stated goals. Examples of outcomes to the goals stated above might be to present quality performances and art exhibitions at our community center or present performances and workshops by master blues artists at the annual spring festival. Typically, more than one outcome is stated to achieve a goal. When stating outcomes, think carefully about the goals and consider what measurable, tangible events need to happen in order to achieve these goals.

Now consider: What would indicate to your organization that you have achieved your outcomes? These indicators are characterized by the extent or degree to which an outcome is realized and by the quality or quantity of the outcome. To continue the above example, indicators might be an increase in the number of high quality arts events at the community center or an increase in attendance or the participation of more well-known blues artists at the festival.

When considering indicators, think about quality, quantity, extent, and degree to which the outcomes must be achieved in order to realize goals.

2. Quality of Project Activities and Artistic Excellence (20 points)

Now that goals and outcomes have been established for the project or organization, what activities are planned in order to achieve them? The task is to provide a clear and concise description of the activities planned for the grant period so that the panelists can easily visualize the project in action and understand how grant funds will be used. By doing this, no questions are left unanswered. Panelists, MAC staff and board members will understand the scope of your project.

Project Activities

Be sure to identify

  • Specific activities your organization will undertake
  • Partners, consultants and artists with whom you will work
  • The roles, qualifications, and time they will spend with your organization, and what they will achieve
  • Supplies needed for the project (food not included)

Artistic excellence refers to the standards applied to an individual or activity to assure high artistic quality. When planning project activities, consider if the individual selected to perform or conduct a workshop is a professional, accomplished artist who produces work of high artistic quality. If working with a consultant, consider if they have a track record of successfully providing desired services to similar organizations. When planning a performance series, ask if it will be produced by professional artists and technical personnel. If your project does not directly support arts programming (like Operating grants or conference Minigrants), please explain how grant funds will indirectly support artistic excellence within your organization.

3. Public Participation and Access (30 points)

Making arts programs more accessible to the whole community served by an organization requires thoughtful and inclusive thinking and planning. It requires identifying who makes up your community and involving representative members from these identified segments in the planning, production and evaluation of project activities. For example, members of the cultural community whose traditions are featured in a project.

Many factors can support participation and access to the arts:

  • The commitment of board or staff to welcome all members of the community
  • Outreach and responsiveness to the diverse demographics of the community served
  • Making accomodations for individuals with disabilities
  • Reaching individuals who live in isolated rural areas or low-income urban areas

Examples of programming where organizations include their community’s underserved populations (those where individuals lack access to arts programs due to geography, disability, economic conditions, ethnic background, or age) include:

  • Sign language interpreters for specified theater performances
  • Art museums employing a docent or staff member who guides visually impaired visitors through an audio/verbal descriptive tour of an exhibit
  • Traveling or digital exhibits made available at no charge to rural communities with insufficient funds to travel to the museum and participate in programming on-site
  • Complimentary bus transportation for senior citizens and persons with disabilities to and from an arts event
  • Program notes that are acessible to all. This may include bilingual, large-print, or Braille notes.
  • Compliance with ADA requirements for wheelchair ramps, restroom accessibility and other considerations for citizens with disabilities
  • Innovative and multi-cultural, multi-generational programming

From board make-up to the planning of events to the actual participation in project activities, participation and access by all segments of a community is important when addressing this criterion.

If the planning, producing and evaluation of project activities does not reflect the demographics of your community, you will need to include a plan for addressing this.

The score you receive in this area is a major percentage of your overall score. If you have questions or need resources on diversity and demographics, contact your MAC program director and consult MAC's Diversity Toolkit.

4. Ability to Achieve Goals and Evaluate Success (30 points)

Your organization’s ability to successfully carry out the project and to show proper stewardship of state and federal money in accounting for grant funds is critical. Your application should be complete and include all required information and materials listed within the guidelines. It should also demonstrate:

  • Financial responsibility, including appropriate internal and external oversight and reporting, as well as a listing of other sources of external funding
  • An appropriate budget and budget itemization
  • Involvement of personnel who are  qualified and effective
  • Appropriate planning and evaluation procedures
  • An appropriate level of community support for the project activities and an explanation of how this support is made known to your organization
  • Appropriate and supportive collaborations with clearly defined roles for each partner

On the application form, be sure to pay careful attention to:

  • The budget and its itemization (the itemization is the detailed explanation of your budget). It should reflect the costs of the activities that you have discussed in your application narrative. 
  • The Attendance Itemization table in the application form should reflect the number and types of events included in the narrative, as well as the participants and audience anticipated.
  • Supplementary materials should relate to the proposed project activities, supporting the planned activities discussed in your narrative.

Evaluation

The purpose of the evaluation is to be sure you have met your goals.

Throughout your project and upon its completion, you will want to consider its success or perhaps how you can improve upon it now and next year. This is the all-important evaluation.

At the conclusion of your project, how will you know that you have accomplished your goals? Also, how can you show these accomplishments? In other words, what changes are you expecting as a direct result of your activities and when do you expect to see them? What evidence will you rely on to make this determination? For help designing the evaluation component of your application, please refer to the Suggestions for Evaluating Projects and Programs, in the Grant Resources section.