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How to Apply

Neema Hekmat | Ballet Afsaneh Photo: RJ Muna

Before you apply
to the Creative Work Fund….

Read our guidelines. You can also download and read them in PDF format here.

Then ask…

Is this the right kind of grant for our project?
The Creative Work Fund awards grants that range in size from $15,000 to $45,000 for projects in which artists and nonprofit organizations are working closely together to create new art works. Any kind of nonprofit organization is eligible to apply to collaborate with an artist. The Fund takes the idea of a close working relationship between the artist and the organization very seriously and specifically wants to support the creation stage for a new art work.
I am an artist who wants to collaborate with a nonprofit organization to create a new work.
Am I eligible for this grant?

The Fund has three criteria a lead artist must meet:

  1. geographic location,
  2. artistic background, and
  3. not being a recent Creative Work Fund recipient.

What’s a lead artist?

The lead artist is a person who meets the criteria outlined below, is playing a central role in creating the proposed art work, and who is not a regular staff member or board member of the applying nonprofit organization. Many projects feature more than one artist working in a team or ensemble, but only one of those artists should be identified as the “lead artist.”


The lead artist must live and have lived for the previous two years in one or more of the following counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, or Sonoma County. In that two-year time period, it is acceptable to move among the eligible counties. The Fund also has considered applications from artists who have had temporary, short-term artist residencies outside of the 11 eligible areas but maintained a home base within them.

Artistic Background

Artists from all artistic disciplines are welcome to apply. Lead artists will be asked to identify primary and secondary artistic disciplines in which they have strong track records of accomplishment. Read this list of disciplines and their short definitions.

Prior Recipients

Lead artists who received Creative Work Fund grants in August 2018, October 2019, or September 2020 are not eligible to re-apply as lead artists.

Lead artists who received Creative Work Fund grants prior to August 2018 must have completed their projects and submitted their final reports.

An artist who played a role in a recently-supported Creative Work Fund project but who was not the lead artist may apply as a lead artist for a 2021 request.

Concurrent applications

Applicants may submit no more than one proposal.

I work with a nonprofit organization that wants to collaborate with an artist.
Are we eligible to apply for this grant?
The fund has three criteria for eligibility of nonprofit organizations:

  1. nonprofit status,
  2. geography, and
  3. role in a previously funded projects or concurrent applications.

Nonprofit Status

Any kind of 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization may apply (but not a private foundation). A recognized religious organization, even if it does not have 501 (c) (3) status, may apply. A public agency (such as a parks department, health department, or public school) may apply.

An organization that clearly fills a charitable or educational purpose but does not have nonprofit status may apply with a nonprofit fiscal sponsor. Some public agencies (e.g. the Oakland Recreation and Parks Department) also have applied using fiscal sponsors.


The nonprofit organization must be based in one of the following counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, or Sonoma.

The Fund will consider applications from international, national, or statewide organizations that have offices or branches in one or more of the 11 eligible counties.

Prior Recipients

Nonprofit organizations that received Creative Work Fund grants in in August 2018, October 2019, or September 2020 are not eligible to re-apply,

Nonprofit organizations that received Creative Work Fund grants prior to August 2018 are eligible to apply if they have completed their projects and submitted final narrative and financial reports.

Fiscal sponsors may be part of applications at any time, even if they received a Creative Work Fund grant recently.

Concurrent Applications

A nonprofit organization may submit no more than one letter of inquiry.

There is no limit on the number of applications that may be submitted using a particular fiscal sponsor.

Does the project fit within the time frame for this funding opportunity?

Grants will be awarded in October 2021. If a project already has begun by that time, the artist and the nonprofit organization should still be actively involved in the new work’s creation and collaborating with one after after the grant awards are made.

The Creative Work Fund prefers that projects be completed in two to three years, but projects of longer duration are eligible and welcome.

Can I see examples of previously funded applications?

The Fund does not share copies of successful letters of inquiry or proposals, but brief portfolios of many of the previously funded projects appear on this Website.

Pages on this website can introduce you to previously funded projects:

  • A selection of lead artists with detailed profiles of their projects may be searched here.
  • Use the search function on any page to explore additional summaries

Review the Application Process

Applicant Information Webinars (October - December 2020)
Optional application webinars for potential Creative Work Fund applicants are offered in advance of a call for Letters of Inquiry. Applicants are not required to attend a webinar or seminar, but are encouraged to do so—especially if they are unfamiliar with the Fund.
Grantseeker Registration (October 2020 - January 2021)
Once you know who your collaborating partners will be, avoid the rush and complete a brief applicant eligibility quiz and request a grantseeker account at the Creative Work Fund application portal. These steps are easy to complete, but it takes the Fund a day or two to confirm your eligibility and assign your user name and password. Don’t wait until the last minute.
Deadline for Letters of Inquiry: January 22, 2021, 5 pm
Organizations and artists should jointly prepare and submit a letter of inquiry of no more than three pages (including a brief, preliminary budget). The lead artist should submit a professional resume of no more than two pages.



Letters of inquiry must be received no later than 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on January 22, 2021.

Reader Review (February - March, 2021)
Letters of inquiry will be reviewed separately by up to ten readers.

Read our review criteria here.

Invitations to Full Proposal: March 26, 2021
From among the letters of inquiry received the Creative Work Fund will invite approximately 50 collaborating artists and organizations to submit more detailed proposals and provide a summary of reader comments. Full proposals restate and expand upon the ideas presented in the letter of inquiry, incorporate responses to the reader comments, and include documentation illustrating the quality of artist work, detailed budgets, and additional background information about the organization.
Invitations to Apply for Documentation Mini-Grants: March 26, 2021
Each collaboration invited to full proposal is eligible to apply for a $500 mini-grant to support the creation of work sample documentation to accompany their submission.
Deadline for Documentation Mini-Grant Applications: May 14, 2021
Mini-grant decisions will be fast-tracked to allow applicants to use funds to develop documentation for full proposals.
Deadline for Full Proposals: June 11, 2021
Full proposals include documentation illustrating the quality of the artists’ work, detailed budgets, and additional background information about the organizations.

Full proposals must be received no later than 5 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on June 11, 2021.

Panel Review (June - September, 2021)
A panel comprising artists, curators, and other arts professionals will review the finalists’ proposals and recommend projects to be funded. Representatives of the foundations that support the Creative Work Fund will approve the final awards.

Read the review criteria the panel uses here.

Notification of Awardees: October 1, 2021
The Creative Work Fund will notify applicants via email. Grants will be awarded to collaborating 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, not directly to collaborating artists.
Deadline for MOU & Grant Acceptance: December 1, 2021
Key participants in each awarded project must prepare and sign a memorandum of understanding. Lead artists and their collaborating organizations also must sign and return their award letters. Grants are paid to the collaborating 501(c)(3) organizations soon after signed paperwork is received.
Final Report
Final reports are due three months after the project ending date. Grantees must submit two final reports (one prepared by the artist and one by the organization), describing the project and how they used the grant funds. Final reports should document the finished projects through online media, fixed media, publications, or other appropriate medium.

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