Grant & Loan Fund for Early-Stage Arts, Creative, and Cultural Cooperatives
Artists, creatives, and culture bearers are among those at the forefront of advancing emerging and alternative economies that shape our world. They are using shared ownership models like cooperatives to exercise autonomy and shared ownership as a way to realize independence and financial stability and self-determination. For example, they are important for innovating ways to make technology work better for artists when it comes to retaining ownership, procuring payments, and protecting copyright—innovations that protect individuals against corporate interests. Moreover, artists’ cooperative enterprises hold promise not only for artists, whose nonprofit, commercial, and gig-economy support structures are not self-determining or sustaining enough, but also for their communities for whom their cooperative activities benefit.
We define “artists,” “creative industries,” and “culturally rooted” enterprises broadly. They include being a fine artist, maker, designer, creative entrepreneur, and a cultural practitioner. Artists’ cooperatives can be serving identity-based communities (e.g., LGBTQ+ makers, Black XR content producers, or anti-corporate musicians) or place-based communities (e.g., Southwestern Native American crafts artists or Minneapolis-based Black hair and beauty stylists).
The Grant & Loan Fund for Early-Stage Arts, Creative, and Cultural Cooperatives is a collaboration between the Center for Cultural Innovation’s (CCI) AmbitioUS national initiative; Seed Commons, a national cooperative of locally rooted non-extractive loan funds; and Uptima Business Bootcamp, a member-owned business accelerator that provides hands-on education and resources to entrepreneurs. The Grant & Loan Fund has three distinct components: 1) general operating support grant funding, 2) a non-extractive loan product provided by Seed Commons, and 3) cooperative-specific business and technical assistance during the program provided by Uptima Business Bootcamp.
The Grant & Loan Fund will provide $125,000 in general operating support grants of up to $25,000 each to five creative-industry cooperative enterprises. We encourage applications from cooperative enterprises at their early-stage (i.e., there is a commitment to starting the cooperative or the cooperative is newly incorporated) or early-stage growth (i.e., still a young cooperative with an opportunity to realize new growth with additional capital). Although not a condition of eligibility, we are seeking opportunities wherein a combination of a $25,000 grant from CCI, a loan from Seed Commons (terms to be customized to awardees’ potential), and technical assistance from Uptima would be catalytic in the cooperative’s further development.
General Eligibility Criteria:
- To be eligible for consideration, applicants must:
- Be based in the United States or a U.S. territory.
- Be in an early-stage, ranging from pre-startup (i.e., in the process of starting business), to the early days of running the legally incorporated cooperative business, to having been incorporated with business growth potential. The following are some examples of qualifying cooperatives:
- Pre-Startup can include any of the following:
- The applicant has commitment, but has not legally incorporated as a cooperative yet. (Applicant will need to demonstrate seriousness of intent, such as, through an already-launched public-facing website or platform, social media reach to cultivate membership, formal roles and responsibilities that anticipate stakeholder groups, legal paperwork indicating a pathway to cooperative incorporation [a legally recognized cooperative business or any other type of corporation wherein there is demonstration of cooperative governance and profit-sharing].)
- Applicant’s entity is in the “friends and family” stage with most of their financial support still lies within their intimate network of personal contacts.
- May be in the early stages of an already-formed cooperative, but cannot grow to the next level without an infusion of capital.
- Pre-Startup can include any of the following:
- Operate in or serve the artistic sector, creative industries, or cultural communities or activating a digital platform central to the business. Artists may not be the sole purpose, membership, or business, but artists (broadly defined) need to benefit from your cooperative.
- Fulfill a need that is not just profit-based (e.g., help creative entrepreneurs retain ownership over digital content, create a sense of culturally shared identity, or de-corporatize who and how consumers retain control over their content). Preference will go to cooperatives that serve cultural communities that would particularly benefit from the alternative economic-model of cooperatives, such as Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Immigrant, LGBTQ+, and/or disability communities.
Some indicators that an applicant may be ready to apply for a loan, in addition to the grant, include:
- Have a minimum budget size of $50,000.
- Have founding members who authentically reflect the communities of co-owners, consumers, and users the cooperative is trying to serve.
The following are ineligible to apply and receive support:
- Receiving financial support from CCI, Seed Commons, the Working World, or any of the local Seed Common partnering funds. (If you received a grant or loan from any one of these groups in the past, but the obligations were satisfactorily closed, you may apply.)
- Relationships, through money or family, with any board or staff members of these organizations.
- Application opens: Monday, August 17, 2020
- Application deadline: Monday, October 5, 2020 at 12:00 pm PT
- Application notifications: October 30, 2020
- Grant/Program Period: November 9, 2020 – February 4, 2022
- Loan Product Support and Administration: November 9, 2020 – February 4, 2022
**Please read the Grant & Loan Fund for Early-Stage Arts, Creative, and Cultural Cooperatives Guidelines, Application Preview, Video Submissions Tips & Tricks, and Examples of Competitive Profiles documents below prior to accessing the application**
The Grant & Loan Fund for Early-Stage Arts, Creative, and Cultural Cooperatives Program online application can be accessed at: www.centerforculturalinnovation.submittable.com or by clicking on the button below. Please be sure to select the form titled “Grant & Loan Fund for Early-Stage Arts, Creative, and Cultural Cooperatives” in our Submittable portal to directly apply to this program.
Applications will be accepted online ONLY through CCI’s Submittable platform.
All applicants MUST create an account in Submittable before they will be able to access the grant application.
If you have questions about the program or application process, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, address it to Abdiel J. López, CCI’s Program Officer, and use the subject line “Grant & Loan Fund.”