Operating Support III

Organizations with budgets greater than $1M 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 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.

  • 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


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.

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.

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 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 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.