Operating Support III

Organizations with budgets greater than $1M annually


The Operating Support program provides an unrestricted investment in the general operations, administration and programs of eligible arts, science and history and 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 III.

Mission and Programs

  • A primary mission of arts, science, and history/heritage programming.
  • 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.
  • Offers year-round programming 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 to manage the day-to-day operations, and personnel 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.
  • A Board-approved, multi-year strategic plan addressing program excellence, institutional stability, educational and outreach programs, audience development, and cultural diversity goals and objectives.

Financial and Organizational Health

  • Show a measurable commitment to capacity building and professional development.
  • Both annual operating revenues and annual operating expenditures that averaged greater than $1M (excluding in-kind support) in its three most recently completed fiscal years.
  • A demonstrated ability to match the ASC investment through generating significant earned income and securing other private support (including in-kind).
  • A formal independent audit on an accrual basis by a CPA due within 6 months of the organization’s year-end.


  • 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.

  • Institutions of higher education or individual departments of colleges and universities.
  • Organizations with a primary focus of during the school day programs for pre-K through 12th grade students.
  • After school programs and summer camps.
  • Public broadcasting media, radio and television stations.
  • Churches or church-affiliated programs receiving a significant portion of their base support from a church or religious organization.
  • Governmental institutions, i.e., public libraries, park and recreational facilities, schools, etc.

Application Deadline

Applications for 2019-20 support will be available in late December 2018 and will be due on Friday, March 15, 2019.

Award Notification

July 1, 2018.

How to Apply

The application period for Operating Support awards for 2018-19 is closed. Applications for 2019-20 support will be available in late 2018.

Grant Amount

Varies. Operating Support III awards will not exceed $750,000 or 10% of the Organization’s cash revenues, based on 3 most recently completed fiscal years. Note: Current Operating Support partners have established multi-year transition timelines, pending ASC’s continued funding, to align to this recently revised policy.

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, statewide, national and/or international 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 and beyond (10 points)
  • Engage participants in a broad range of activities (10 points)

Sustainability (30 points)

  • Maintain professional & volunteer leadership that reflects Mecklenburg County’s diverse community to lead the organization (10 points)
  • Financial Liquidity (5 points)
    • Evaluation of cash reserves (3 points)
    • Positive Current Ratio (current assets/current liabilities) (2 points)
  • Financial Stability (11 points)
    • Demonstrated ability to achieve budgeted operating results (3 points)
    • Operating Surplus vs. Deficit (2 points)
    • Board plans for increased financial stability (evidence of increased endowment, increased of capital acquisition funds, etc.) (2 points)
    • Trends & fluctuations in individuals donors supporting the organization (2 points)
    • Sustainability of trends within the Financial Analytics (2 points)
  • Financial Stewardship (4 points)
    • Evidence of an active board finance committee and the board’s level of assurance of financials (2 points)
    • Clean audit results as evidenced by Auditor’s Opinion and input regarding Internal Controls and Material Weaknesses. (2 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 strengths and weaknesses 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 on 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 submissions for each applicant.

Q: How are funding decisions made?

A: ASC relies on professional panelists who are free of any conflicts 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.