1 survey respondents
Location: 2324 University Ave W Ste 114, St. Paul, 55114 MN
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Reviewer 9765 - Grant Applicant - applied in 2019
MRAC purports to support innovation, equity, community-led projects, and collaborations between artists and non-arts orgs, but their process is incredibly discouraging and inequitable. If you are not an arts organization, think long and hard about whether it is worth your time to apply. The most discouraging thing is that reapplying the next round does not help; the review panel changes every time, and even if the Program Officers get to know you and appreciate your proposals or your capacity evolving, it doesn't matter. This disadvantages newer/emerging groups or artists, and nontraditional arts or non-arts organizations. It feels like an insiders' club, even though it is state sales tax-funded. MRAC is frustrating; that is widely known, so proceed carefully.
Inadvertently exerts negative influence in the field, Difficult to work with, Bureaucratic
Applied and not funded
They think they're really accessible. They have open office hours and you can meet with the Program Officers, but it all comes down to the review panel, which you cannot meet with or control. In addition to the challenges posed by a changing review panel, the Program Officers' or MRAC's application policy is very unduly strict. A nonprofit I work with left one box unchecked, so their entire proposal was rejected. My org submitted our budget form accidentally including an ineligible item as a match (way above the required match amount), so MRAC reduced the total overall request- even though without that item, everything else was in order; shame on us for wanting to show how much we would leverage MRAC's funds. When we tried to resubmit the budget form, we were told it was our fault and too late; when I wrote back I got no response. The worst part is MRAC distributes tax-payer money collected through sales tax, so this is literally our money. Another puzzling dynamic is that you cannot include attachments like images or videos. For art and artists, this is challenging! Way too much pressure on a 5 page maximum proposal. It's like they haven't stayed current on best practices for grantmaking accessibility and equity beyond the superficiality of the "peer panel" that received "an orientation."
MRAC feels very good and woke in its approach, because all grants are reviewed by "peer panel." There are actually many issues with this approach, but one of them is that panelists review approximately 25 proposal applications in 6 hours, giving 10 minutes to each. Listening to the recordings from 2 different proposals we've submitted over the years, it was clear that several panelists had not read our proposal fully, or had forgotten crucial details by the time they got to us. It is horrible to hear panelists accuse you of not including something you took pains to include, like wheelchair accessibility or your track record, and then give you a low score. Either the proposals should be reviewed by professionals, *highly* trained volunteers that are not rushed, or a combination of the two.
Dig deeper when considering "equity." Are you really only supporting traditional arts organizations, on repeat? How many non-arts nonprofits do you actually fund? How does the data compare to your purported mission and goals? How is it okay for the overworked and under-trained panelists to spread misinformation about a proposal to other panelists, resulting in no award?? Why not allow for more than a text proposal? I think you should consider an outside, perhaps out of state entity doing an equity, access and fairness audit of your processes. You owe it to all Minnesotans.