Funding to 'Drive' Arts Innovation

Over the last two years I’ve been analyzing the Arts Council’s overall investment strategy and considering ways our organization can provide the most meaningful support to cultural organizations in the Capitol region while also fostering growth of new organizations. Grantmakers for Effective Organizations’ research shows that the types of financial support that are most associated with long-term nonprofit success are:

  • General Operating Support
  • Multiyear Support
  • Capacity-Building Support

While the Arts Council has been offering General Operating Support grants since its inception in 1971, there are a number of organizations that don’t meet the program’s eligibility requirements and deserve meaningful support to increase their operational effectiveness.

That’s why I’m thrilled to announce the newest funding opportunity for our cultural community!  The Ignition Grant is a new, multi-year grant program offered by the Greater Hartford Arts Council, designed to invest capacity-building support to assist organizations fulfill their artistic mission and deliver innovative programming. In response to the trend in giving to programs, rather than operations, Ignition Grants will provide funding to increase sustainability, raise organizational profiles and build the capacity necessary to produce cutting-edge work.


The structure of the Ignition Grant program took root while I attended the 2012 Americans for the Arts annual convention, where I had the pleasure of hearing from leaders in the arts grantmaking field representing organizations such as Arts & Science Council, ArtsWave, the Boston Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Fractured Atlas, and Houston Arts Alliance. I was particularly interested in successful capacity-building grant programs that had proved to strengthen the competence of organizations, making them prepared to capitalize on both expected and unexpected opportunities to produce innovative programming.


 In designing the Ignition Grant program, I considered the most successful elements of the Arts Council’s now-defunct Heritage Advancement Grant program and the Houston Arts Alliances’ Capacity Building Initiative. As with Houston, the program is structured to invest in critical stages of an organization’s life cycle in order to fund initiatives that are most relevant to their “growing pains.” This allows us to incubate new organizations, accelerate organizations from growth to maturity, and assist mature organizations in need of adapting to new realities.

The goal of this program is to help organizations increase their internal operations so that they can deliver the most meaningful and innovative work to the community as possible.

We are currently accepting Intent to Apply forms, with a deadline of Thursday, October 3 at 5 PM. We see Intent to Apply stage as the beginning of a conversation, and anticipate that proposed initiatives may be modified prior to the full proposal is due on October 31. For more information and to download Ignition Grant Guidelines and Intent to Apply form, please go to

The Greater Hartford Arts Council is thankful for the support of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving in helping to make this funding mechanism a reality.

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