Grants for Organizations

Grants for Organizations (GFO) provide operating support that strengthen and sustain Maryland's arts infrastructure.

The GFO granting program provides general operating support to nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations, as well as units of government, that produce or present ongoing arts programming that is open to the public. GFO grantees not only provide access to the arts in their communities, but they create audiences for the future, uplift communities, and stimulate the economic impact throughout the state.

In Fiscal Year 2021, the Maryland State Arts Council awarded GFO grants to 229 arts organizations and programs across the State totaling $15,023,780.

MSAC relies on a diverse array of experts from across the state of Maryland to do the important work of evaluating applications. MSAC selects Grants for Organizations (GFO) panelists with a focus on diversity of experiences, diversity of location, and expertise in the disciplines of the organizations under review. Panelists must be Maryland residents. 

What does a panelist do?
Selected panelists: 

  • Participate in two training sessions - one in November, and one at a mid-way point in the winter
  • Review and evaluate applications on MSAC’s online grants management system, SmartSimple.*
  • Complete assigned extension assignments (Artistic Site Visits and In-Depth Conversations)
  • Participate in one GFO panel meeting (March/April 2021)
  • Panelists receive compensation of $50/training meeting, $50/completed extension assignment, $200 for all online application reviews, $100/panel meeting, and travel stipend if applicable.

*Each panelist can expect to review up to approximately 25 applications and to complete up to approximately 12 extension assignments each. The average commitment of hours varies based on the total number of applications. The majority of work happens on the panelists’ own time from late November 2021 through the panel meeting in March/April 2022.

What We’re Looking For:

  • Independent artists, arts administrators, fundraisers, arts enthusiasts, and students interested in the grantmaking process
  • Individuals to represent expertise in the following panel disciplines: 
  • Dance
  • Multi-Disciplinary Arts
  • Music (specifically those with experience in presenting Music, such as those associated with performance venues, radio stations, concert associations, etc.)
  • Individuals to fill a multi-disciplinary Performing/Literary Arts panel (including those with backgrounds in Music, Theatre, Dance, and Literary) and a Visual Arts/Media/Folk and Traditional panel
  • Individuals representing the wide geographic diversity of the state of Maryland - we are especially looking for individuals from the Western, Southern, and Eastern Shore regions
  • Individuals who have some flexibility and time in their schedules to allow for daytime and/or evening availability of the applicants.

Panelists must have access to a computer with internet connection to complete reviews.

How do I apply to be a panelist?

  • Submit your application via MSAC’s online grants management system, SmartSimple. 
  • Click Apply Now to log in or create a free account in SmartSimple (you will need to be registered as an Independent Artist to apply).
  • Under Funding Opportunities, select "Public Call."
  • Select "Panelist" from the drop down options and click "Save Draft" to populate the application.
  • Select “Grants for Organizations” as the Grant Program.
  • Complete the application, and click “Submit.”

On September 9, 2021, the Maryland State Arts Council voted to adopt a new funding formula for the GFO program in an effort to more equitably distribute state appropriated funds to arts organizations across the state. The change will be implemented over a five-year phase-in period beginning in FY2024 and puts MSAC at the forefront of a national trend of state arts agencies adopting policies that promote more equitable distribution of grant funds. 

The new formula groups organizations into five budget tiers, providing a larger percentage of allowable expenses as a maximum grant award to smaller budget organizations, and a smaller percentage to larger organizations that have greater access and connections to non-governmental funding sources, professional fundraising staff, and other resources.

Click here to read the press release for details on the process of developing the new formula. 

When will this change happen? 

The new funding formula will be used to determine FY24 grant amounts. FY23 funding determinations will use the current formula. 

There will be a 5 year “phase in” process of the new funding formula. Over 5 years (starting with FY24 funding), the formula’s cap allocations will move to land at the following percentages by Tier level by FY28:

Tier 1: ($50K - $500K) - 15% (cap allocation) over 5 year transition

Tier 2: ($500K - $1.5M) - 10% (cap allocation) over 5 year transition

Tier 3: ($1.5M - $5M) - 6% (cap allocation) over 5 year transition

Tier 4: ($5M - $10M) - 4.5% (cap allocation) over 5 year transition

Tier 5: ($10M+) - 4% (cap allocation) over 5 year transition

During this 5 year process, a Grant Amount Cap will also be put into place, as follows:

Year 1 (FY24): $1.4M maximum grant

Year 2 (FY25): $1.3M maximum grant

Year 3 (FY26): $1.2M maximum grant

Year 4 (FY27): $1.1M maximum grant

Year 5 (FY28): $1M maximum grant

Note - the cap allocations will vary based on the MSAC funding allocation each year for the GFO program, along with the other variables, including number of organizations in the GFO program, and each organization’s allowable income year to year, and panel score.

What WILL change for FY23?

Another change that was approved is that NEW organizations will no longer need to complete 3 consecutive years of “on year” full applications to be “phased into” the GFO cycle (receiving 40%, then 60%, then 80% of the total grant in each of the three years). New organizations will now complete just one year of an “on year” full application (in their first year) and, if approved, will receive 100% of the award in Year 1! In Year 2, the organization will then fall into the discipline-specific GFO cycle. 

Click here to access the FY23 program guidelines to review all program details, including deadlines and discipline cycles.

Click here to download the new GFO Funding Formula Calculator.


GFO Grants provide general operating support to nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations, as well as units of government, that produce or present ongoing arts programming that is open to the public. Read more
New GFO applicants must complete an Intent to Apply application to determine eligibility. Read more