AWF’s new Thrive grant program provides three-year general operating grants to arts and culture organizations that intentionally reflect and serve the priorities of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), LGBTQ+ people, women, and people with disabilities, and those at the intersection of these identities.
The program aims to create opportunities for advancement, sustainability, or visibility by providing support and a runway for stability to community-rooted arts organizations. It is also an opportunity for AWF to learn and share new ways of looking at arts organization vitality beyond the traditional measures of audience size or numbers and critical reviews typically used by funders.
Thrive was developed through a participatory design process involving people with direct and varied experience in the types of arts nonprofits that this program seeks to support. A Selection Committee convened by AWF came together to nominate a participatory Design Team as a way to amplify community participation and de-center grantmaking institutions from the outset. The 12-member Selection Committee included two members of the Steering Committee and ten community leaders outside of philanthropy. The Selection Committee identified 37 prospective members for the participatory design process from diverse demographics, artistic practices, and contexts.
AWF worked with its project consultants, Gita Gulati-Partee and Katy Love, to research nominees and compose a final group of 12 Design Team members. The Design Team included three AWF funder-partners working alongside nine artists, arts organization leaders, and arts activists/organizers from Chicago and Cook County. Participants reflected but were not asked to formally represent the geographic, cultural, and art communities the Thrive grant program aims to support.
The Design Team identified four values to guide the creation and implementation of the new grant program: 1) Sustenance & Sustainability, 2) Connection & Wholeness, 3) Transparency & Mutuality, and 4) Accessibility & Inclusivity. These values helped guide decisions, large and small, throughout the design of the grant program and continue to guide grant program implementation.
Meet the Selection Committee Meet the Design Team
The program prioritizes organizations that practice and promote the following:
Thrive grants give organizations autonomy and flexibility to decide how the funds will best benefit their organization and community. This grant program is not solely a place-based initiative; organizations can define their communities geographically or demographically.
To be eligible for the Thrive grant program, organizations must:
The Thrive grant program does not support:
Note: If an organization receives a Thrive grant, it will be ineligible to apply to any future AWF grants during the three-year Thrive grant period. Once the grant period ends, organizations can apply for other AWF grants.
Grantees in the Thrive program will join a cohort enabling exchange, resource sharing, learning, and potential collaboration throughout the grant cycle. The cohort will meet twice yearly. The learning agenda will be developed collectively by the grantees.
AWF recognizes that different organizations have different needs. Grant sizes will vary depending on the organization’s current budget, its vision for its future, and potential opportunities for growing its revenue streams.
Office Hours can be scheduled here.
Arts organizations based in Chicago or Cook county that are 501c3 and meet our eligibility criteria listed here.
In 2023, organizations will have two chances to apply for Thrive grants:
Each organization will propose an amount that will address its specific needs. Grant sizes will vary depending on the organization’s current budget, its vision for its future, and potential opportunities for growing its revenue streams. In most cases, grants will not exceed 20% of the organization’s budget.
While the exact number of grants will be unknown until we receive applications, we anticipate awarding up to fifteen Thrive grants in each grant cycle.
All applicants will receive notification about their Thrive grant application status by June 1, 2023, at the latest.
Each application will be reviewed by panel. Selected applications will be invited to conduct a site visit with a small group of panelists. Information gathered from the entire process, including panelist scores, site-visit assessment, and panel discussions will be synthesized into a final recommendation for the AWF selection committee. Our goal is to ensure we are capturing lived experience and community relevance in a holistic manner rather than solely on the written application.
The panel will evaluate the organization on the following criteria:
Yes! Past AWF Think and Explore grantees can apply for a Thrive grant. However, if your organization receives a Thrive grant, it will be ineligible to apply for any future AWF grants during the three-year Thrive grant period. Once the grant period ends, organizations can apply for other AWF grants.
The Thrive grant program focuses on organizations with a mission specific to either BIPOC, women, LGBTQ+ people, or people with disabilities (or people at the intersection of these identities). In addition to having a specific mission to engage these communities, the leadership and staff will reflect the community it serves. We have purposefully not set a hard number or definition and ask organizations to self-define as they see fit. The purpose is to intentionally support organizations from and serving communities that historically have had limited access to unrestricted, general operating support due to racism, homophobia, ableism, and misogyny. We welcome all organizations to share their unique story about the people and communities they serve.
We leave it up to each organization to define community as it relates to its mission. This is not a place-based grant, and organizations can define the communities they reflect and serve by geography, demographics, identity, and so on.
Yes, there will be two information sessions hosted on Zoom:
Please direct your questions to Lynnette Miranda at firstname.lastname@example.org.