Ontario Arts Council (OAC) operating grant programs support Ontario-based, not-for-profit organizations and for-profit book and magazine publishers that meet the assessment criteria for ongoing support.
This guide provides essential information on all OAC operating grant programs, including eligibility, the assessment process and granting policies. Be sure to review it prior to each application as information and policies are updated regularly and subject to change.
Further details on the eligibility for specific operating grant programs are available on each program’s web page.
The guide includes the following:
An OAC program officer is the primary contact for any questions related to operating program eligibility, OAC policies on operating programs and the peer assessment process. For help with questions you may have while preparing an application in Nova, contact the program administrator
You will find their names and contact information on each operating program web page.
To apply for operating support your organization must:
If you do not provide the type of financial statement required, OAC will reduce your grant request to an eligible level.
Eligibility criteria that differ from the above are used for for-profit book and magazine publishers. Refer to the Publishing Organizations: Operating program web page for details.
In addition to the above criteria, all operating program applicants must meet the program-specific criteria (see the program web page for details).
Note: Applicants must meet all eligibility criteria at the time they submit the application.
OAC operating grant programs provide Annual and Multi-Year funding. Applicants to both funding types are assessed by an advisory panel in year one of a three-year funding cycle. In years 2 and 3, applications for multi-year funding are reviewed by the program officer. Applications for Annual operating grants are assessed each year by an advisory panel.
An arts organization that received a multi-year grant will be invited to apply for multi-year funding at the next application deadline. An arts organization receiving annual funding may be invited to apply for multi-year funding at the next Year One deadline if their grant was not reduced as a result of assessment in the previous year.
In order to apply for multi-year funding, an arts organization must have:
If an organization applying for multi-year funding has an accumulated deficit greater than 10 per cent of its last year’s budget, or an unrestricted net asset deficiency greater than 25 per cent, the organization must have a deficit reduction plan that reduces the accumulated deficit over the next three years.
If an organization receiving multi-year funding is in a state of substantial flux, OAC may move it to annual funding status. The program officer considers whether significant changes to an organization’s artistic, financial and/or organizational plans threaten the stability of the organization. If so, the organization is moved to annual funding and the application is assessed by an advisory panel.
The following applicants must apply for an Annual operating grant, and are not eligible for multi-year funding:
New applicants may only apply in the first year of a program’s multi-year cycle and are eligible to apply for an annual grant. The year in which new applicants can apply is indicated on the program web page.
Organizations are considered “new applicants” if they are:
New applicants must:
Grant applications are submitted through OAC’s online granting system, Nova. Approximately two months before an operating program deadline, applicants will receive an email from Nova inviting them to complete and submit an application. All application material and related subsequent documents/information must be submitted in Nova unless otherwise requested.
Your application includes:
Note: To work on an organization’s application, an individual must create a Personal Profile in Nova, and link it to the organization’s profile. See the Nova User Guide for step-by-step instructions on how to set up profiles, start applications, and more.
Applicants must submit financial and statistical information, and upload their financial statements, through the Canadian Arts Database / Données sur les arts au Canada (CADAC). CADAC is a national web-based database for the collection, dissemination and analysis of financial and statistical information about Canadian arts organizations (www.thecadac.ca).
Note: Applicants to OAC’s Publishing Organizations: Operating and Édition – fonctionnement programs do not use CADAC. They upload financial and statistical information directly in their application in Nova.
Note: Current and Request Years Financial Reports and statistical information must be updated in CADAC no earlier than 60 days before the deadline.
OAC staff may contact the organization to follow-up on financial and statistical questions and required changes. This may include cases where significant and material errors or omissions are discovered.
CADAC’s role is to reconcile the financial statements for an organization’s last completed year with the financial data in CADAC. CADAC staff will contact the organization directly if the figures do not match.
The CADAC Accounting Template is a tool that can help you align your chart of accounts, internal financial reporting system, CADAC financial report, and financial statements. There are extensive help functions on the CADAC website, including a Quick Start Guide and a Video Tutorial. You may also call the CADAC help line: 1-866-249-0296.
Note: Other funders to whom you may apply will also have access to financials and statistics through CADAC.
Operating grant applications are accepted no later than 1 p.m. ET on the deadline date.
Reasons for withdrawing an application
Timing for withdrawing an application
Organizations that have a mandate to serve Deaf artists and artists with disabilities and are disability-led (e.g. board/staff who are Deaf or identify as having a disability) who receive an operating grant may also include the cost of any anticipated accessibility expenses for the organization’s request year.
The OAC identifies Deaf artists as distinct from artists with disabilities based on the Canadian Hearing Society’s definition of “Culturally Deaf,” a term that refers to individuals who identify with and participate in the language, culture and community of Deaf people.
The OAC identifies artists with disabilities as people who have physical, mental or learning conditions with long-term, temporary or varying effects that may be apparent or not.
For more information, see OAC’s Alternative services and processes for Deaf persons and persons with disabilities and the Accessibility Plan.
The OAC is committed to providing services in French according to the requirements of the French Language Services Act.
Applications submitted in French other than to the Francophone Arts section are translated into English by accredited translators prior to assessment. The OAC does not translate works of art (e.g., film scripts) or written material not required in the application.
Advisory panel meetings in programs outside the Francophone Arts section are held in English. If there are French-language applications in those competitions, at least one assessor is francophone.
You may request in writing the English translation of your submissions in French, for information only, after results have been announced.
Organizations are assessed on the following criteria:
Artistic and/or Service Quality & Contribution
Applicant organizations are evaluated in the context of their request level, stated mandate, the scale of operations and the aesthetic, geographic and/or cultural environments in which they work.
Assessors are provided the Evaluation Rubric – Operating Programs based on the assessment criteria to assist in their evaluation of the application.
Applications are assessed using a five-point rating system:
5 = excellent, 4 = good, 3 = average, 2 = below average, 1 = serious concerns
Assessors’ ratings are converted into combined scores out of 100, and into six groups:
A = 90 – 100, B+ = 80 - 89, B = 70 – 79, C+ = 65 – 69, C = 60 – 64, D = <60
New Applicants: For a new applicant to receive operating funding it must be assessed in at least group B.
The program officer recommends grant allocations to the Director & CEO (for grants $30,000 and under) and to the OAC board of directors (for grants over $30,000) based on the:
Grant amounts for new organizations are determined based on the following:
See the Guide to OAC Assessment for information on the role and responsibilities of assessors, conflict of interest policies, etc.
The following funding policies were in effect for OAC’s operating grant programs in 2018-19. They are provided for information only. The 2019-20 policies will be updated as soon as they are available.
When grant decisions are made, approximately four months after the deadline, OAC will inform you by email that the results of your application are available in Nova. Applicants must log into their profile in Nova to view the grant notification letter. Please do not call or email OAC for this information. It is your responsibility to share operating grant results with your board of directors or governing body.
Grant notification letters include, as applicable:
The payment of the grant will be held if the organization has a final report for a previous grant in any of the following statuses:
The payment will be released shortly after notification unless it is blocked by conditions or final reports.
The OAC sends grant cheques by regular mail.
All applicants should request a verbal summary of your organization’s assessment from the program officer.
If you receive an operating grant you must:
See the Terms and Conditions for receipt of OAC operating grant funds.
As a first-time or returning applicant, can we apply for an operating and project grant in the same granting section in case the operating grant is not successful?
No. You can only apply to one program in any granting section for an activity that occurs in the same fiscal year.
Does our organization need to receive revenue from a variety of sources before applying to OAC?
Yes. An OAC grant cannot be the sole source of revenue of any applicant. The OAC expects an organization to have other financial supports. These may include other government contributions and/or self-generated income.
If your organization has an accumulated deficit, you must discuss your financial viability with the program officer before applying to the program.
Why do we have to submit financial and statistical information?
The financial and statistical data provides important information for the assessment of your application. It also provides funders with information to help them advocate effectively on behalf of the arts.
If our organization is denied an operating grant, how can OAC support our programs?
If your organization does not receive an operating grant, you may continue to seek and receive project grants for which your organization is eligible.
An organization may apply to only one OAC project program for a specific activity unless the organization has received notification that its first application was not successful.
Our small organization does not have detailed long-term plans, nor are we proposing much growth in operations or programming. Will this have a negative effect on our assessment?
Your planning will be assessed according to the goals you set for your organization. For example, you may decide that your three-year plan will centre on a single goal, such as adding only one more staff position or adding only one more play to your theatre season. If so, explain what your organization must do to realize that goal.
If your organization is in the middle of a long-term plan when you are filling out your OAC multi-year application, state where your organization is in that planning process, what you have accomplished to date, and what targets have not been met.
How do we summarize the changes planned during the three years if we are not planning any changes?
Your plans may not mean doing more or making changes, but may be about improving on what you already do.
Example: We are not planning to change our activity or structure in the next three years. However, we plan to have professional development for our two staff members, including mentoring, so that we’ll be better at what we do.
An audited financial statement is the process of engaging an independent public accountant to examine the accounting records and other evidence supporting the financial statements; to prepare financial statements; and to render a professional opinion that the financial statements present a fair picture of the organization’s financial position and its activities during the period in which the audit was carried out.
A review engagement is the process of engaging an independent public accountant to prepare financial statements on a review basis. The accountant will not express an opinion on the fairness of the financial statements, but will only provide a limited assurance that the financial information is plausible and conforms to generally accepted accounting principles.
Unaudited financial statements lack this testing and certification but will include a statement of net assets, revenues and expenses, and other statements as requested by the organization.
The costs vary for each type of financial statement; an independent public accountant’s rates differ between audited financial statements, a review engagement, and unaudited statements.
All financial statements must include net assets, revenues and expenses, and other statements for the organization’s last two years of annual operations.