Milwaukee Business Journal: UPAF changes affiliate grant program to include more performing arts organizations

Margaret Naczek | May 25, 2020

The United Performing Arts Fund adjusted its UPAF Affiliate Grant Program to become a fully unrestricted grant initiative from its previous project-based grants.

This program is for eligible 501(c)(3) performing arts organizations that are not one of the 14 UPAF Member groups. These 14 organizations include First Stage, the Florentine Opera, Milwaukee Ballet, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Skylight Music Theatre, Bel Canto Chorus, Black Arts MKE, Danceworks, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, Next Act Theatre, Present Music and Renaissance Theaterworks.

The affiliate program has existed for about 20 years but was focused predominantly on project-based funding or specific initiatives.

"As we have looked at the outcomes of the pandemic and where we’re going forward, we know that the most important need right now is unrestrictive funding," UPAF president and CEO Patrick Rath said. "We made the decision to move from just project-based or those new initiative ideas to focus very much on unrestricted grants that help the organizations stay in business and to return back to the programming that we all love and enjoy."

In 2020, UPAF generated $11,358,693 through fundraising and an additional $304,000 in grant revenue. The affiliate program usually accounts for about 1% of total funds raised; however, Rath said the final determination on a funding amount for this year has not been set.

"We’ll be making some choices once we see the overall grant pool, and that number of what we’ve had in the past, which is at least 1% or a minimum of $100,000, most likely will be larger to really address the need that we know exists," he said.

Affiliate grants range from $1,500 to $20,000, equating to 20% of an organization's operating budget. Grants are required to be used in the fiscal year for which the funds are granted.

Eligible organizations include 501(c)(3) groups that are performing arts based with an active board of directors, primarily serving residents in eastern Wisconsin. The organization must have a professional, paid manager as well as paid performers.

"It gives a broad portfolio of different arts organizations that could be a part of this. What we really know is there is a cultural ecosystem that exists in our community," Rath said. "You have an artist. They really rely on this ecosystem for their livelihood. When their livelihood has been challenged this year, it’s so very important that this recovery takes into account all of the arts organizations that really provide that livelihood for those independent artists."

Rath said he would love to see as many unique organizations as possible apply. He especially hopes some of the Black- and Brown-led institutions will consider applying for this program. Grant applications will be accepted through June 11.

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