McCain Next Steps Grant for Arts Organizations

The Lydia McCain Fund was established in 1995 as the first unrestricted contribution to the Erie Arts Endowment. Lydia McBrier McCain was an active member of the Erie community and staunchly served and supported arts and civic organizations and practicing artists in Erie County. A painter and jewelry maker herself, Lydia’s commitment to the arts ensured that both artists and arts organizations with a strong vision had the chance to reach their full potential.


An organization’s history is often measured by milestones. A milestone can be defined as an action or event marking a significant change or stage in an organization’s development. As an organization achieves one strategic goal, it should be thinking about its next action steps and the outcomes being pursued.

To continue the legacy of Lydia McCain, Erie Arts & Culture provides financial support to arts organizations that are prepared to take a next step as it relates to its mission, operations, or programs. The Lydia McCain Next Steps Grant for Arts Organizations is designed to support arts organizations pursue strategies that help ensure their future success and impact in Erie County.

Eligible next steps include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Mission:
    • Strategic planning;
    • Board development and engagement;
    • Creating a case for support;
    • Other (applicants requesting an alternative form of Mission-based next steps should consult with an EAC staff member prior to pursuing their application to ensure eligibility)
  • Operations:
    • Revising policies, procedures, and protocols through the lens of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility;
    • Organizational restructuring and recruiting;
    • Accessing capacity-building consulting services;
    • Other (applicants requesting an alternative form of Operations-based next steps should consult with an EAC staff member prior to pursuing their application to ensure eligibility)
  • Programs:
    • Assessing and evolving existing programmatic offerings;
    • Identifying and activating new relationships in the Erie region;
    • Implementing new initiatives that address community needs and gaps in existing programs/services;
    • Other (applicants requesting an alternative form of Programs-based next steps should consult with an EAC staff member prior to pursuing their application to ensure eligibility)

Grant Awards

This grant provides awards in the amount of $5,000. This cycle, funds are available to support four Lydia McCain Next Steps Grants for Arts Organizations.


  • Application Opens: January 1, 2024
  • Application Closes: March 15, 2024
  • Grantees announced and funds disbursed: May 31, 2024
  • Grant activity period: June 1, 2024 - May 31, 2025
    • Beginning in 2024, administration of this program will begin in January, with a grant activity period of May-April.

Eligible Use of Grant Funds:

Grant funding may cover eligible operational or programmatic costs incurred during the grant activity period.

  • Salary support, full or partial, for one or more staff positions
  • Fees/stipends for artists and/or contractual personnel
  • Facilities costs such as rent and utilities
  • Indirect costs (e.g., independent contractor or 1099 personnel fees)
  • Marketing and promotion costs

Ineligible Uses of Grant Funds:
  • Activities that have a religious purpose
  • Commercial (for-profit) enterprises or activities, including concessions, food, clothing, artwork, or other items for resale; this includes online or virtual sales/shops
  • Capital improvements or land acquisition
  • Establishing an operating reserve
  • Hospitality, food, or beverages, including alcoholic beverages
  • Lobbying, including activities intended to influence the outcome of elections or influence government officials regarding pending legislation, either directly or through specific lobbying appeals to the public
  • Mortgage interest, fines and penalties, bad debt costs, or deficit reduction
  • Reimbursements for expenses incurred outside of the grant activity period.
  • Rental costs for home office workspace owned by individuals or entities affiliated with the applicant organization
  • Vehicle purchases
  • Visa costs paid to the US government
  • Voter registration drives and related activities

Applicants Must:
  • Be a 501(c)3 non-profit or grassroots organization whose primary mission centers around the arts. Applicants that do not have 501(c)3 tax-exempt status are strongly encouraged to apply using a 501(c)3 as a fiscal agent, as grant awards are considered taxable income.
  • Be registered with a primary location in Erie County, PA.

Applicants Must Not:
  • Be a recipient of a Lydia McCain Next Steps Grant for Arts Organizations within the past three years.
  • Have any overdue grant reports from past funding cycles administered by Erie Arts & Culture.
  • Discriminate on the basis of age, race, color, religion, national origin, handicap, sexual orientation, marital status, gender or gender identity.
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How to Apply

If you are an arts organization, please use the Submittable link below. If you are an artist, please refer to the Lydia McCain Grant to Advance Artist Opportunities.

Apply here (via Submittable)



  • Application Opens - January 1 - March 15
  • Grant activity period: May 2024 - April 2025

Application Requirements

Organizational Awareness and Present Positioning

  • Strategy
    • What are your organization’s current strategic priorities?
    • How and when did you define and determine your current strategic priorities?
    • In what ways did the Board, staff, and community contribute to shaping your strategic priorities?
  • Action
    • How do your daily operations and programs support your strategic priorities?
    • What is your organization’s defined timeline for achieving its current strategic objectives?
  • Resources
    • How do your development efforts support your strategic priorities?
    • Does your current organizational budget support the scope of work required to achieve your strategic objectives?
    • Does your current staff size support the scope of work required to achieve your strategic objectives?
  • Preparedness
    • In what ways does your organizational culture need to evolve or change in order to accommodate and support any next steps?

Next Steps

  • Opportunity Present
    • Describe the strategic opportunity that is present for your organization.
    • How does this opportunity tie into your strategic priorities and objectives?
    • In what ways is this opportunity time sensitive?
    • Describe three outcomes you hope to achieve as a result of this opportunity and how you will measure your success.
  • Proposed Budget
    • Include short descriptions for major expenses associated with this opportunity.
    • If your budget expenses total more than $5,000, list the sources of additional funding you will draw upon to pursue this opportunity.

Review Criteria (100 points)

Organizational Awareness and Present Positioning (50 points)

  • Strategy (15 points)
    • Applicant demonstrates understanding of its current position and strategic direction
    • Strategy considers input from internal and external stakeholders
  • Action (10 points)
    • Operations and programs support strategic priorities
    • Activities are thoroughly planned and timeline for implementation is realistic
  • Resources (15 points)
    • Applicant is in the financial position to pursue next steps, or has identified a development plan to build financial resources
    • Applicant demonstrates an organizational capacity to pursue and likely achieve next steps
  • Preparedness (10 points)
    • Applicant demonstrates an honest understanding of its work culture and plans to help staff, board, and stakeholders embrace future-oriented practices and processes
Next Steps (50 points)
  • Opportunity Present (40 points)
    • Goals and evaluation methods and metrics are aligned
    • Opportunity advances applicant’s strategic priorities
    • Opportunity is time sensitive (must be pursued within the next 12 months)
  • Proposed Budget (10 points)
    • Budget is realistic for scope of proposal; additional funding sources are identified, if applicable

Application Assistance

A mock application will be available on the EAC website

Hybrid virtual and in-person information session will be held at Blasco Library’s Admiral Room at 6pm on March 2, 2023

“You speak, I write” approach will be available for applicants who request assistance.

Review Process

All applications will be reviewed by Erie Arts & Culture staff for eligibility. Staff will conduct a preliminary review using an objective checklist to ensure eligibility, and eligible applicants will be forwarded to Erie Arts & Culture’s Programming Committee for review. The Programs Committee will present final grantee recommendations to the Board of Directors for approval.


In lieu of written reports, Erie Arts & Culture staff will host a brief interim check-in call with grantees. In addition to tracking progress towards grant goals, these calls will help Erie Arts & Culture identify grantees’ needs outside of funding, and determine what approach, if any, Erie Arts & Culture can take to help see these needs met. At the end of the 12 month grant cycle, small peer groups (assembled based on common feedback from interim calls) will meet and discuss their projects in a round table, oral report.

Sample Application


Join us for an Info Session

Please join us for an online information session on Wednesday, February 7th at 1pm.  

Register Here

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Please contact Casey Corritore, Program Officer of Capacity Building: [email protected].

Erie Arts & Culture

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