Operating Support I

Organizations with budgets less than $300,000 annually


The Operating Support program provides unrestricted investments in the general operations, administration and programs of eligible arts, science and history/heritage organizations. Operating Support partners demonstrably advance ASC’s mission of ensuring access to an excellent, relevant and sustainable cultural community for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region. These investments are intended to supplement other revenue, both earned and contributed, generated by the organization.


Organizations must meet all criteria listed to be eligible for Operating Support I.

Mission and Programs

  • A primary mission of arts, science, and history/heritage programming.
  • Regular programming presented consistently in Mecklenburg County over each of the past three years.
  • Offer programs that are accessible to all Mecklenburg County citizens regardless of race, color, sex, religion, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, disability or any characteristic protected by law.
  • Show advancement in program excellence in all creative endeavors.
  • Offer programs year-round/periodic in Mecklenburg County.


  • Current 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status with a primary place of business in Mecklenburg County.
  • Bylaws approved by the Board of Directors of the organization.
  • Professional qualified paid staff/contractors to ensure high quality programs to constituents.
  • An active and financially (including in-kind) supportive Board of Directors representing our culturally diverse community and operating under a Board-approved rotation policy with specified terms.
  • A Board of Directors that operates without conflict of governance, to include a provision that states that no Board or staff member who receives remuneration for services rendered to the organization can serve as a voting member of the Board.

Financial and Organizational Health

  • Evidenced by regular and timely submission of IRS form 990, both annual operating revenues and annual operating expenditures that averaged less than $300,000 in its three most recently completed fiscal years.
  • A demonstrated ability to match the ASC investment through generating sufficient earned income and securing other private support (including in-kind).


  • Proof of compliance with all local, state, and federal laws or requirements (i.e. IRS form 990, state auditor forms, NC solicitation license, etc.).

The following entities are not eligible for ASC Operating Support Investments but may be eligible for ASC Project Support.

  • Organizations whose primary mission is not arts, science and/or history/heritage.
  • Organizations not physically headquartered in Mecklenburg County.
  • Institutions of higher education or individual departments of colleges and universities.
  • Organizations or schools with a primary focus of during the school day programs for pre-K through 12th grade students, PTAs, and similar school-based organizations.
  • After school programs and summer camps.
  • Public broadcasting media, radio and television stations.
  • Faith-based organizations receiving a significant portion of their support from a church or religious organization, or using funds for activities with a religious purpose or as part of a religious service or observation.
  • Governmental institutions, such as public libraries, park and recreational facilities, schools, and any others that are the primary responsibility of a government agency.
  • National, state, or regional service organizations that provide support to other member organizations (for example “friends of”) rather than providing public programming, or those that serve solely as fiscal agents or fiscal sponsors for an organization(s) or program(s).
  • Fundraising organizations, private foundations, regranting agencies, or individuals.
  • Organizations that are not in compliance with previous ASC grant requirements. 

Application Deadline

The application deadline has passed. 

Award Notification


Grant Amount

Varies. Operating Support I awards will not exceed 25% of the Organization’s cash revenues, based on 3 most recently completed fiscal years.

How to Apply

The application deadline has passed. Nonprofit cultural organizations interested in pursuing Operating Support through ASC in the future are encouraged to explore funding through Cultural Vision Grants or Culture Blocks. Applicants for ASC Operating Support must have previously received ASC Cultural Vision Grant(s), Culture Blocks funding, or Technical Assistance/Professional Development Grant(s) at least twice in the past three fiscal years and be in compliance with all requirements.

Review Criteria

Panel members will evaluate all applications using the following criteria and ratings:

Excellence (30 points)

  • Create, foster, and evaluate innovative, distinctive and stimulating programs (10 points)
  • Attract and nurture high quality creative talent (10 points)
  • Provide local, regional and/or statewide programmatic leadership (10 points)

Relevance (30 points)

  • Offer accessible community programs to diverse constituency (10 points)
  • Attract and grow customers from the Charlotte Metropolitan Service Area (10 points)
  • Engage participants in a broad range of activities (10 points)

Sustainability (30 points)

  • Leadership (10 points)
    • Maintain professional & volunteer leadership that reflects Mecklenburg County’s diverse community to lead the organization
  • Financial Stability (15 points)
    • Demonstrated ability to achieve budgeted operating results (5 points)
    • Operating Surplus vs. Deficit (5 points)
    • Trends & fluctuations in individuals donors supporting the organization (5 points)
  • Financial Stewardship (5 points)
    • Evidence of an active board finance committee and the board’s level of assurance of financials (5 points)

Compliance with ASC Policies (10 points)

  • Meeting all requirements stated in the guidelines and ASC Operating Support Grant Agreement, adhering to ASC Marketing & Communication guidelines, and submitting required grant information, documents or reporting on or before the due date.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What assistance is provided to applicants?

A: If you have general questions about eligibility or review criteria, please email holly.whisman@artsandscience.org.

Q: What is the review process?

A: For organizations on a full application year, a panel consisting of industry professionals will assess the merits of the application against the criteria described above in the Review Criteria section. All operating support recipients undergo review of financial materials each year. For organizations of an interim report year, reports are reviewed by ASC staff and the ASC Board Community Investment Committee.

Q: Will the panel visit my organization before the panel meeting?

A: No. Panelists will review the written application and work sample submission for each applicant.

Q: How are funding decisions made?

A: ASC relies on panelists who are free of Conflict of Interest to assess each application based on the above criteria. After the panel reviews and scores all applicants, the ASC Board Community Investment Committee makes funding recommendations in consideration of panel scores and ASC’s strategic investment priorities. Funding recommendations are then sent to the full ASC Board of Directors for approval. Funding recommendations are not final until after a vote of the full ASC Board of Directors.