Arts Challenge Grant / General Operating Support Grants

NOT open in 2023 for FY2024 support

Category #1: Organizations with annual budgets of $120,000 or more
Category #2: Organizations with annual budgets between $20,000 and $119,999

Grant guidelines for each category are the same. Each applicant’s category will be determined by the size of the organization’s actual cash operating expenses from its most recently completed fiscal year as documented by the organization’s year-end budget information. Applicants with cash operating expenses of $120,000 or greater will apply in Category #1; applicants with cash operating expenses from $20,000 to $119,999 will apply in Category #2. Each category will be reviewed by a separate Multi-Disciplinary panel whose makeup will reflect the various artistic disciplines of the applicants.


Arts Challenge Grants provide general operating support to South Dakota’s eligible nonprofit arts organizations in presenting a season of activities in any arts discipline(s) that serve the general public and meet the specific needs of the applicant organization.

The funding category is designed to

  • Create and sustain partnerships with South Dakota arts organizations that share the public values and support the long range goals of the South Dakota Arts Council.
  • Sustain arts organizations by offering general operating support.
  • Recognize and assist arts programming and services that contribute to the quality of life in the applicant’s community or region.
  • Reward arts organizations that produce creative and innovative arts activities.
  • Encourage long range planning efforts of nonprofit arts organizations.


Arts Challenge Grants may be awarded to organizations, including local arts councils:

  • Whose legal address is South Dakota.
  • That have existed for a minimum of 4 years.
  • That have their own board of directors.
  • Whose annual operating budget is at least $20,000.
  • That are designated as federally tax-exempt under the IRS Section 501(c)(3) or are permanently under the auspices of a qualified nonprofit organization [see more below], or are units of government.
  • Whose mission statements clearly identify themselves as ARTS organizations.
  • Whose seasons include a series of at least 4 arts activities open to the general public.

Organizations that for logical reasons share a tax ID number with another nonprofit organization are eligible to apply for an Arts Challenge Grant provided that:

  • the relationship between the organizations is real and not contrived merely for the purpose of each writing a separate grant proposal. [Appropriate examples include but are not limited to (1) an organization that functions independently but has a legal working relationship with a parent company whose tax number it shares; (2) a consortium of separate organizations each with its own board of directors which for fiscal purposes share the same tax number.]
  • the financial records relating to any and all SDAC grant activities are separately maintained and demonstrate each organization’s autonomous, financially independent status.

Arts organizations unable to meet all of the above criteria should consider applying for a Project Grant even if they are seeking funds for more than one activity. Organizations that do qualify for an Arts Challenge Grant may elect to apply for a Project Grant in support of one particularly innovative or creative project rather than apply for a Challenge Grant to support an entire season. No organization, however, may receive both a Challenge Grant and a Project Grant. If you are unsure about which grant to apply for, contact the South Dakota Arts Council office. The staff will be glad to assist you with your grant proposal.


Organizations that do not meet the nonprofit eligibility standards outlined above are ineligible to apply. Schools, colleges, universities, and historical museums are not eligible to apply for Arts Challenge Grants; however, these institutions or departments within them are eligible to apply for Project Grants in support of appropriate arts programming. Arts Challenge Grant recipients are ineligible to apply for Project Grants.

Grant Amount Applicants may request up to 10% of their total eligible cash operating expenses from the most recently completed fiscal year as verified on the financial statement submitted with the application. Due to SDAC’s budgetary limitations and the competitive application process, grant awards may be less than the applicant’s request.

Arts Challenge Grants will be awarded on an annual basis for a 2 year period. Although Challenge Grants are awarded for a 2-year period, applicants should base their requests on a single fiscal year. Pending federal and state appropriations, Arts Challenge grant recipients will receive the same award each year of the 2-year grant cycle. Should appropriations be increased, reduced or eliminated, second-year grant awards may reflect such action.

Funds may be requested as needed throughout each fiscal year. The annual final payment (10% of the grant amount) will be made upon receipt of an evaluation each fiscal year. Grant funds may be used for general operating assistance.

Criteria for Awarding Grants Applications are reviewed by arts discipline panels and SDAC with consideration given to:

  • Complete description of the organization’s history, background and purpose, and specific programs and services an SDAC grant will support.
  • How the applicant’s programs and services impact the arts and quality of life in the applicant’s community or region.
  • Organizational and fiscal management as demonstrated by a fiscal year-end financial statement with diversified income from both private and public sources and a realistic operating budget for the current fiscal year
  • Evidence of quality long range planning by the organization.
  • Quality within the art form(s) as demonstrated by artistic and/or other supplementary documentation.

Panels will also consider the applicant’s demonstrated ability to assist the SD Arts Council in achieving its long range goals to

  • Increase public awareness and support of the arts.
  • Advance the arts as essential to learning.
  • Raise the standards for access and inclusion in the arts.
  • Support artists through inclusive programs and networks.
  • Strengthen arts organizations as partners in education, community, and economic development.
  • Position the arts as essential to South Dakota Tourism.

Application Procedure How to Prepare and Submit an Application

Applications for an Arts Challenge Grant must be submitted on line through the South Dakota Arts Council’s e-grant system on or before March 1.

When you log into the e-grant system, you will be asked to complete some on line forms and attach several different supporting documents as Word or PDF files. Although you can work back and forth from the e-grant system to the documents, you may find it more expedient to prepare the following documents ahead of time and have them ready to attach.

List of current board of directors with addresses and occupations

List of principal administrators and artistic staff by name, title and current salary. If these positions are filled by volunteer staff, indicate such.

Grant narrative of no more than 8 pages that addresses and/or answers the following topics and questions:

  • Introduce the narrative by writing a complete description of the organization’s history, background and purpose. Follow that with a section that lists and describes your organization’s most important programs and services and explain how SDAC Arts Challenge funds will be used to maintain and strengthen the current operations of the organization. [Hint: Do NOT assume that the panelists reviewing your application know about your organization or the programs and services you offer. Remember that the SDAC staff does NOT determine whether your grant is funded or at what level. Some grant review panelists are from out-of-state and have no preconceived notions about the quality of your organization. It is up to you to paint as complete a picture as possible in your narrative as it is the only thing some panelists will know about your organization.]
  • Restate and answer each of the following questions that follow the competitive criteria for awarding grants above. [The Arts Council recognizes that different organizational plans and programs will give varying emphases to these different criteria and that the mission and priorities of local arts organizations may not be reflected equally in all SDAC goals. Be sure, however, to answer EACH of these questions even though some of them may have a low priority for your organization.]
  • How does your organization promote public awareness and support of the arts? Include your organization’s activities that promote visibility, advocacy, and awareness of the arts to the general public.
  • How does your organization help advance the arts as essential to learning? Include how your organization supports preK-12 arts programming in the schools as well as programs available through your organizations that provide life-long arts learning opportunities for youth and adults.
  • How does your organization raise the standards for access and inclusion in the arts? Include programming, services and outreach to underserved populations including, but not limited to, rural residents, Native Americans and/or other ethnic groups, people with disabilities, youth, senior citizens, and/or low income individuals.
  • How does your organization support artists through its programming and services? Include direct and indirect financial support, professional development provided by your organization, and any other examples of encouraging and supporting artists in their careers.
  • How does your organization contribute to the economic development and quality of life in your community and/or region? Include in your answer how you partner with other arts and non-arts organizations to accomplish mutual goals, and address how your organization is strengthened through these partnerships.
  • How do your organization’s programs and services support cultural tourism and enhance the visitor experience in your community?

Biographies or resumes of key administrative and artistic personnel

Representative artistic documentation that attest to the artistic quality of past arts programming

Additional supporting materials (optional), i.e. programs, brochures, posters, reviews, letters of recommendation, etc.

Long Range Plan and/or calendar of events and activities as evidence of planning by the organization. Long range plans are a requirement of Category 1 applicants and are strongly encouraged for Category 2 applicants. Contact the SDAC office for technical assistance in long range planning.

Year-end financial statement of the most recently completed fiscal year signed by the treasurer or appropriate authorizing official. On the financial statement, applicant must cross-reference line items on the South Dakota Arts Council budget information form to the organization’s financial statement. For example, all entries on the applicant’s year- end financial statement included under “A. Personnel” on the Arts Council budget information form should be identified with the letter “A” next to the entry. All entries on the applicant’s year-end financial statement included under “B. Space Rental” should be identified with the letter “B” next to the entry, etc. An accountant reviews financial statements submitted for Challenge Grant support for accuracy and eligibility of expenses.

Listing of major contributions from individuals, corporations, businesses, and foundations broken down by name and amount of gift for the past fiscal year, to demonstrate diversification of private and public funding. Since the size of organizations’ budgets in this category is quite diverse, the definition of “major contributions” is left to your discretion.

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