Program Description

The purpose of the Cultural STAR fund is to promote cultural vitality and economic growth, particularly in the downtown Cultural District, by strengthening the arts and culture community.

Funding Goals
Cultural STAR dollars, in total, are intended to:

  • Build and diversify audiences;
  • Promote a broad range of cultural offerings;
  • Produce a long-term impact; and
  • Leverage additional financial support.

The Cultural STAR Program will achieve the purpose by making grants and loans for projects and programs that: attract audiences; develop and improve cultural facilities; and build capacity of artists and cultural organizations.

Special Projects Program Description
Special Project grants are made to groups wishing to offer quality arts activities, in any discipline, within the geographic boundaries of the City of Saint Paul.  Grant requests may include costs for artists and other personnel, postage, supplies, printing, travel and other expenses necessary to carry out the project.   Food and Beverage are not allowable expenses and the City will not reimburse expenses related to insurance coverage.

Organizational Development Program Description
The Organizational Development program provides grants for projects designed to strengthen the management, administration, or operations of the recipient organization.  Such activities must 1) advance the mission of your group, and 2) have the potential for significant or long-term impact.  The intent of the program is to challenge the organization, infuse new thinking, develop new systems, or strengthen existing systems to further the group’s growth and development.

Geographic Focus
At least 80 percent of Cultural STAR funds will be awarded to nonprofit arts organizations that are located within the targeted area known as the Cultural District of downtown Saint Paul.

The Cultural District is defined as the geographic area bordered by Interstate 94 to the north, the Lafayette Bridge to the east, Harriet and Raspberry Islands to the south, and Chestnut Road to the west.

Cultural District Map

The remaining 20% of funds may be allocated to:

  • For-profit businesses located in the Cultural District for projects that enhance visitor enjoyment of the Cultural District; or
  • Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations with a project located in Saint Paul but outside of the Cultural District.

For a project to be considered located in the Cultural District, the applicant must either be a nonprofit arts and cultural organization or unincorporated arts-focused group using a fiscal sponsor (i.e. NOT a for-profit business) where at least one of the following applies:

  • The organization’s address registered with the Minnesota Secretary of State falls within the Cultural District; or
  • The organization owns property in the Cultural District for purposes directly related to its Cultural STAR project; or
  • The project is being conducted, at least in part, at a venue, park or other facility within the Cultural District.

For any project to be eligible for Cultural STAR funding, it must take place within the boundaries of the City of Saint Paul.

Estimated available funding in 2019


 In Cultural District

Other Funds

Round One



Round Two






Required Match

Cultural STAR funds must be matched dollar for dollar. This is considered a minimum match, with preference given to projects that exceed this requirement. The match can be other grants, individual donations, general operating funds, earned revenue you expect from the project, project or event sponsorships, or a combination of these.

The minimum grant request is $5,000. For example, if your total project budget is $10,000, you may request $5,000 and must secure $5,000 from other sources.

See more details in the Project Funding Section.


Applicant groups must be ONE of the following:

  • Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations

    • Note that the organization does not need to be based in the City of Saint Paul, but the project must take place within the boundaries of the City of Saint Paul.
  • Informal and/or unincorporated arts-focused groups, individuals, and one-time arts projects with a fiscal sponsor, provided that the project takes place in the Cultural District
  • Businesses located in the Cultural District applying for a  project that enhances visitor enjoyment of the Cultural District
  • City departments or divisions are eligible when applying in partnership with an eligible organization

The following are not eligible to apply:

  • Churches or religious organizations
  • Political parties and related political action groups.
  • Federal, state, and county agencies and departments.

Application cycle rules

Saint Paul-based nonprofit arts and cultural organizations located outside of the Cultural District:

  • Organizations may receive grant funding up to two times per calendar year – one of these projects must take place outside of the Cultural District and the other must take place in the Cultural District.
  • Organizations may apply twice per round or once in each round. If applying twice in one round, one project must take place outside of the Cultural District and one project must take place in the Cultural District.

For all other organizations (i.e. those that are located In the Cultural District or outside of Saint Paul):

  • Organizations may apply for only one Cultural STAR program funding type (either Special Projects and Organizational Development or Capital) during each funding round.
  • Grants can only be received once per calendar year.

For all organizations:

  • Organizations that have received Special Projects and/or Organizational Development grants in three consecutive grant cycles (calendar years) cannot receive another Special Project and Organizational award in a fourth year. These organizations are allowed to apply for the Capital Project program in that fourth year.

Project Funding – Eligible Expenses and Match Requirements

Funding Request Requirements

The minimum grant request is $5,000. The request must be matched dollar for dollar (see Matching Funds Requirements section below for details).

Example: If you are requesting the minimum request of $5,000 in funding, you must secure an additional $5,000 from other sources, for a total project budget of at least $10,000.

The Cultural STAR Board is unlikely to recommended funding any proposal for more than $50,000.

The Cultural STAR Board may choose to recommend a lower grant award amount from what is requested by the applicant, but no lower than the minimum grant amount of $5,000.

The same or similar proposal cannot be submitted to more than one of the following programs in any one funding cycle (calendar year): the Capital Improvement Budgeting (CIB) program, the Neighborhood STAR program, and the Cultural STAR program.

What this program funds / how you can use the grant funds:

Any project cost that specifically pertains to the execution of the project, including but not limited to expenses such as:

  • Personnel, including Artists, Employees and Contractors
  • Supplies
  • Printing and postage
  • Space and equipment rental
  • Transportation and travel
  • Other expenses necessary to carry out the project

What this program does not fund:

  • Activities located outside the City of Saint Paul
  • Projects that take place before the Project Start Date, which is defined as:
    • The date of the project event or performance
    • The date on or after which incurred expenses that are charged to the Cultural STAR grant are allowed
    • Note: activities related to preparing for the project, such as rehearsals, venue booking, etc. may take place before the Project Start Date, but any costs incurred prior to the Project State Date cannot be charged to the Cultural STAR grant. The matching funds may be used to fund these project costs.
  • Projects that extend past the Project End Date, meaning that the activity must be completed by the Project End Date, and no expenses can be incurred after the Project End Date.
  • Food or beverages
  • Expenses related to insurance coverage
  • Permanently affixed physical improvements or construction, purchase of real capital equipment or purchase of real property with a life of 7 years or longer, or funding of endowments
  • Activities that engage in political lobbying, serve the religious socialization of participants, or discriminate against persons or groups
  • Costs for fundraising events. This includes activities designed to raise funds for your own organization or on behalf of another person, organization or cause.

Matching Funds Requirements

Cultural STAR funds must be matched dollar for dollar. This is considered a minimum match, with preference given to projects that exceed this requirement. The match can be:

  • other grants, including private foundations and other non-city government sources, such as county, state or federal funds,
  • individual donations, which must be able to be documented,
  • general operating funds that are budgeted (i.e. restricted) for this project
  • earned revenue you expect from the project, such as ticket sales
  • project or event sponsorships
  • Up to 30% of the match may be in-kind goods and services, such as professional services, event space, supplies, volunteer labor and sweat equity.
    • Volunteer labor and sweat equity are valued at $15.00 per hour.

The Cultural STAR Board has the discretion to recommend approval of other matching contributions on a case-by-case basis.  The Cultural STAR Board may consider exceptions to the match requirement in highly unusual cases.

Fiscal Sponsorship Requirements

The Cultural STAR Program accepts applications from informal and / or unincorporated arts-focused groups using a fiscal sponsor. A fiscal sponsor is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that receives Cultural STAR grant monies and manages the financial aspects of the project on behalf of a group that does not have tax-exempt status. Groups or artists in the district that are incorporated as for-profit entities (LLC, etc) MUST apply directly to the Cultural STAR program, without a fiscal sponsor.

Fiscal Sponsorship guidelines:

  • 100% of the applicant’s project must take place in the Cultural District.
  • The fiscal sponsor must be a 501c3 nonprofit arts organization located in Saint Paul.
  • The applicant must have a board of directors or advisory committee (not the board of the fiscal sponsor) that provides input on, and oversight of, the project.
  • The applicant must provide a letter of intent from the fiscal sponsor regarding the application to the STAR program. The letter must include the amount or percentage of the fiscal sponsorship fee (if any).
  • The applicant should include the fiscal sponsorship fee (if any) as part of their project budget.
  • The City will contract with the fiscal sponsor on behalf of the grantee. All City checks will be to the fiscal sponsor, who is the legal entity that the City has contracted with for each project.
  • The City will require a Fiscal Sponsor Agreement between the fiscal sponsor and the grantee as an attachment to the contract.

A 501c3 may serve as fiscal sponsor for multiple projects in any STAR round; the board will consider the project, organization or group and its advisory board with the same criteria as all other STAR applicants.

Application Process

Applications must be submitted through the online application website ZoomGrants by 4:00 PM on the deadline date.  Applications not received by this time will not be accepted.

  • The Round 1 application will be available on by January 17, 2020 at
  • For Round 2, the application will be available on by July 17, 2020 at
  • Be sure to read all sections of the Zoomgrants application, including instructions, requirements, etc.
  • Your application must include all required materials.  All questions must be answered. Incomplete or inaccurate materials may result in your application being ineligible.

Information Sessions will be held at the beginning of each application round to provide program information to prospective applicants.

City staff is able to provide technical assistance to applicants to help ensure a complete and viable application.

Overview of ZoomGrants Application

  • “Application Summary” tab

    • Project name and amount requested
    • Applicant Information
    • Organization Information
  • “Application Questions” tab
    • Project Summary (questions 1-4)

      • Embed a short YouTube video of your project if you’d like
      • Type of Cultural STAR application (i.e. Special Projects, Organizational Development, Capital)
      • Brief project summary
      • Organization entity type and fiscal sponsor information
    • Capital Project Questions (questions 5-8) – questions will not show up if not a Capital Project
    • Detailed Project Information (questions 9-14)
      • Details about your project, including location, schedule, and anticipated audience description.
    • Narrative Questions (questions 15-17)
    • Organization Information (questions 18-25)
      • Details about organization type, operating budget, employees, patrons, past City financial support
  • “Project Budget” tab
    • Project Income
    • Project Expenses
    • Project Budget Narrative
  • “Required Application Documents” tab
    • Applicant Description
    • Board of Directors/Advisory Committee
    • Organizational Income and Expense Statements for the past three years
    • Tax Status Documentation
    • Audited Financial Statements (or form 990) for most recent fiscal year
    • Letter of intent from Fiscal Sponsor, if applicable
    • Supporting documents (optional)
    • Photos/drawings for capital projects (optional)

Instructions for Narrative Question

Question 15. Provide a narrative of your proposed project in about 300 words (no more than 2000 characters), addressing the four Cultural STAR criteria, as listed in the guidelines: Impact, Quality, Ability, and Diversity.

The following questions are designed to help you address the criteria. It is not necessary to respond to all of the bullets. Please provide enough information to help the Board evaluate your project in relation to each of the four criteria.  The Board will apply all criteria to the application as a whole.

Impact – When describing the impact of your project, consider questions such as:

  • How will this project build audiences in Saint Paul?
  • Describe your target audience(s) and the community from which it is drawn.  What is your expected attendance?
  • How will this project provide increased access to art forms and cultural offerings in Saint Paul?
  • What type of long-term impact will this project have on Saint Paul?
  • How will STAR dollars leverage additional financial support in Saint Paul?

Quality – When describing the quality of your project, consider questions such as:

  • What are your artistic and/or cultural goals for this project? How will you measure them?
  • Who are, or will be, the artists and project leaders? How were, or will, they be selected?
  • What background or experience do your group, artists, and project leaders bring to this project to ensure quality?
  • In what ways will your project be artistically or culturally challenging for your group, the artists, the audience, or all three?

Ability – When describing your ability to undertake the project, consider questions such as:

  • Describe the planning process for your project.
  • In what ways will your board of directors or advisory committee be involved?
  • What experience does your organization have that demonstrates the capacity for successfully completing this project?
  • What is the timeline for your project?
  • How will you promote your project?
  • What other financial support do you expect for this project?

Diversity – When describing diversity, consider questions such as:

  • How will this project add to the diversity of cultural offerings in Saint Paul?
  • Considering diversity in its broadest sense (e.g., geography, age, gender, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.) describe in what ways your project will attract, and more fully embrace, diverse audiences?
  • As you consider your project’s goals and targeted audiences, describe how diversity is represented in your project (e.g., among your board of directors or advisory committee, project personnel, and/or artists).

Review Process

The selection process for proposals is highly competitive.  The number and size of grants made is dependent on the quality of the proposals and the availability of funding. 

Role of the Cultural STAR Board

The nine-member Saint Paul Cultural STAR Board serves as the formal review body that serves in an advisory role and recommends to the Mayor the grants and loans to be funded from the Cultural STAR program each round in a program cycle (two rounds per calendar year).  The Board may choose to recommend a lower grant award amount from what is requested by the applicant, but no lower than the minimum grant amount of $5,000.

The Mayor appoints all nine members of the Board in the required organizational categories for “staggered” three year terms, in accordance with Resolution #13-690. The current board member roster is posted on the Cultural STAR webpage:

The review process is as follows:

  1. Staff: City Staff will review applications for eligibility.  Ineligible applications will be removed from further consideration and the applicant will be notified.

Applicants will be contacted within one week of application deadline if corrections are needed to the application.

Deadline for entering corrections:

  • Round 1 – Friday, March 13, 2020
  • Round 2 – Friday, September 11, 2020
  1. Board Review: The Board will review all applications and give them scores, note questions they have about the application, and make other notes on the application.
  2. Applicant Interviews with the Board: The Board will invite each eligible applicant to an in-person, 7-minute interview at a specified time on the scheduled interview dates. 

The purpose of the interviews is to provide updates on the project, and respond to questions that the Board has based on their review of the application.

The 2020 interview schedule is as follows:

  • Round 1 Interview Dates: Wednesday, April 9 - Thursday, April 10  and Thursday, April 16 - Friday, April 17

  • Round 2 Interview Dates: Monday, October 12 - Tuesday, October 13 and Thursday, October 19 - Friday, October 20

Applicants will be notified of the exact date and time for their interview.

Cultural STAR interviews are public meetings but no public testimony will be taken.  Individuals wishing to comment on applications are encouraged to submit their comments in writing to City staff prior to interviews.

  1. Board Deliberations: The Board will review the proposals based on program guidelines, merits, and fund availability and make funding recommendations to the Mayor and City Council.
  2. Mayor: The Mayor will review the Board’s recommendations, and present final recommendations to the City Council.
  3. City Council: The City Council will approve, deny, or amend the Mayor’s recommendations as a resolution at a public City Council meeting.

    The resolution will be on a City Council meeting agenda in May or June for Round 1, and in November or December for Round 2.

  4. Final approval: The Mayor will approve or veto the Council Resolution within a week of the Council vote.

The entire process usually takes about three months from application deadline to the signing of the resolution by the Mayor, but may take longer.

After the City Council approves the Mayor’s recommendations, staff will notify each Cultural STAR applicant if their project was awarded funding, and if so, for what amount. They will also notify awardees of other pertinent contracting information.

Expectations of Grant Recipients

Be sure to read these expectations thoroughly to make sure your organization and project can comply with all program requirements

How contracting works and allows grant funds to be paid out to grantee

80% of the grant funds will be disbursed once the following steps are completed:

  • Execution of a grant agreement that includes a “Statement of Work” completed by the Grantee, which outline the following project details:

    • Finalized scope of work;
    • Location of activities;
    • Implementation timeline; and
    • Project budget outlining all funding sources (i.e. project revenue) that shows the 1 to 1 match requirement is met, and project expenses, including line items that will be charged to the Cultural STAR grant.
  • Certificate of General Liability Insurance naming City of Saint Paul as an Additional Insured and meeting insurance coverage requirements as follows:
    • Cultural STAR grants of $75,000 or less require a $1 million per occurrence and $1 million aggregate limits;
    • Cultural STAR grants of over $75,000 require a $1 million per occurrence and $2 million aggregate limits.
  • Signed “Acknowledgment of Receipt of Compliance Documents”
  • If applicable, attending a “pre-bid” meeting regarding Vendor Outreach Program (VOP) requirements. See more details in the Compliance Requirements section below.
  • If applicable, submission and certification of an Affirmative Action Plan (AAP). See more details in the Compliance Requirements section below.

Final payment of the remaining 20% will be made only after the project is completed and a final project report that includes the following documentation is received and approved:

  • Final narrative report;
  • Documentation of expenses charged to Cultural STAR grant, including receipts, contracts, invoices, copies of checks, etc. that account for every dollar of Cultural STAR grant funds spent;
  • Documentation of match funding, such as grant award letters from foundations or other funders, statements of restricted funding from general operating funds, accounting of ticket revenue, etc.; and
  • Documentation of project having taken place, including proof of proper recognition given to Cultural STAR program-support, such as flyers and event programs.

At the time of completion of all activities contained in the agreement or upon expiration of the agreement, project fund balances will be returned to the Cultural STAR Fund.

Implementation must progress as projected in the application.  Lack of progress is grounds for withdrawing funding.

Projects should be completed or self-sustaining within the period specified in the agreement.  Requests for contract extensions are discouraged.

Eligibility to apply for future Cultural STAR Funding

A final project report is required to determine the extent to which the project was successful.  Project success will be measured against expected project outcomes and the overall objectives of the STAR Program. 

Organizations will not be eligible for future Cultural STAR funding until all required documentation, including this final project report, are submitted for the most recently closed projects. If a project is not scheduled to have been completed before another application round takes place, organizations will be eligible to apply for a new project in that round.

Compliance Requirements

Organizations receiving grants must comply with all federal, state, and local laws, rules, and regulations in connection with the project

Staff will review the “Statement of Work” provided by the grantee to be included in the Grant Agreement, for any federal, state and local regulations and policies that will be required in how the funds are use.

Contract compliance regulations and policies may include:

  • Vendor Outreach Program (VOP) is a City ordinance that strives to maximize contracting opportunities for certified minority-owned business enterprises (MBEs), women-owned business enterprises (WBEs), and small business enterprises (SBEs). This program applies to projects with a total budget of over $50,000 (the total cost of conducting the project, including both the Cultural STAR-funded items plus the items funded by matching funds).

    • Certified vendors are listed on our CERT database, which is available online and as a PDF.
    • Common STAR-supported project budget areas where VOP has been applied includes, but is not limited to, supplies, web design, signage, printing, and marketing.
    • Prior to selecting vendors to do work related to/on your project (ex: supplies, web design, signage), please first search the Central CERT Directory ( to determine if there are any certified vendors that could met your needs. For questions regarding this, please call 651-266-8900.
  • Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity (AA/EEO) regulations apply to all grantees/vendors whose total accumulated City of Saint Paul contract awards exceed $50,000 within the preceding twelve months. If this requirement applies, the grantee must:
    • Develop an Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) that would be certified by the City of Saint Paul for a fee of $75.
    • Maintain written records of all personnel activities and documentation of Good Faith Efforts to recruit and hire women, minorities, and people with disabilities.
  • Labor Standards typically apply to capital (“bricks and mortar”) and/or construction projects with a total project cost of $25,000 or more, and relate to hiring practices and wage rates paid to laborers. It is important to understand that compliance requirements may affect hiring practices and wage rates, so make no commitments prior to fully understanding these requirements. 

Staff will hold a compliance meeting prior to implementation of the contract to inform the grantee of the requirements, including compliance requirements and reporting.

Grant payments may be delayed due to lack of compliance meetings being held and required reporting by the grantee.

Compliance requirements can be reviewed on the City of Saint Paul’s Department of Human Rights & Equal Economic Opportunity website (

Cultural STAR applicants are strongly cautioned to not make any vendor commitments until compliance requirements and funding regulations are fully understood.


View the Cultural District Map Find Your Ward and District Council


Last Edited: December 10, 2020