Cultural Development Fund (CDF) Reforms

The DCLA Programs Services Unit has conducted a full evaluation of the CDF award process that has led to a range of new, equity-based reforms. Prompted, in part, by the CreateNYC cultural plan, this holistic evaluation began in early 2018 and is ongoing. It is focused on identifying and reducing bias in order to increase access to DCLA’s competitive grantmaking process. The results are also reflective of equity-driven changes we are seeing implemented throughout the cultural field, the national arts funding community, and our culture in general.

These changes are reflected in the CDF values of accessibility, equity, adaptability, advocacy and accountability, which continue to guide the process. Our work aims to strengthen and enhance services for non-profit arts and cultural organizations that have experienced historical and/or systematic financial and social inequities.

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COVID-19 Impact

The COVID-19 crisis – the devastation to our communities and harsh economic consequences it brought, and the ongoing impact of racial injustice – has demonstrated the urgent need for this reform. Based on a survey of DCLA grantees, the Center for an Urban Future’s (CUF) 2021 report “Creative Comeback: Surveying NYC’s Cultural Ecosystem in the Wake of COVID-19” measured the profound damage caused by the pandemic to New York’s arts and culture sector. As of July 2021, cultural workers had lost more than $1.5 billion in wages. The heaviest burdens – in terms of lives and livelihoods lost – are seen in vulnerable communities of color that already face systemic obstacles to better health and economic well-being. As the CUF report states, “BIPOC-led organizations were more likely to report a severe financial impact from the pandemic, less likely to be confident in their long-term survival, and twice as likely to report that their entire staff was still laid off or furloughed.” Additionally, as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns, small organizations’ operating incomes were reduced by 40%; a far greater proportion than larger organizations. Many of the process revisions outlined here serve to support smaller organizations at this most vulnerable time.

Research and Community Input

This CDF reform has been guided by public input, internal research, and ongoing dialogue with the agency’s cultural constituency.

Since 2015, DCLA has commissioned or collaborated on a number of research studies which have deepened our understanding of the current state of cultural workforce demographics, the social impact of the arts on community wellbeing, and the damage inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic on NYC’s cultural community. In addition, the agency has conducted rigorous analysis of the first ten years of the CDF, including the application, funding, and panel processes. This research has included detailed historic data analysis; direct engagement with arts and culture constituents in New York City, and peer municipal funders around the world. Additionally, when New York City’s first-ever cultural plan, CreateNYC, was released in July 2017, it included data and recommendations collected from over 188,000 engagements with residents. This unprecedented level of public input – through hundreds of workshops, focus groups, tabling events, interviews, surveys and digital connections – informed a slate of recommendations which inspire and continue to shape CDF reforms.

Our work has been informed by the research below:

Throughout this research process, the Programs Services Unit has created opportunities for dialogue with and among its stakeholders through surveys, workshops, and feedback sessions. We look forward to continuing these as we pilot the reforms and make changes in response to feedback and continued evaluation.

We are grateful to our peers in private philanthropy for their published research as well; much of the CDF work has been influenced by reports examining structural inequity in the field of cultural funding . We provide these resources here as early influences in support of the CDF reforms the agency is piloting for FY23 and will continue to stay informed of the valuable work being done by our partners in philanthropy:

Goals and Reforms

We believe the new CDF reforms provide a great opportunity for DCLA to improve its grantmaking to benefit all New Yorkers. Our revised process will streamline internal procedures to allow for funding to be allocated and distributed more equitably and efficiently and will begin to acknowledge historic inequities that our constituents have faced. With New York City being the largest municipal arts funder in the country, the updated CDF process will help us work toward our mandate of supporting a cultural community that reflects our city’s immense diversity and truly serves every resident.

GOAL: To invest in organizations who prioritize equitable practices

  • While the CDF will continue to broadly fund cultural public services as its core, the updated criteria used to evaluate those proposed services seek to elevate organizations working in and supported by historically marginalized communities, as well as those that demonstrate the application of an equity lens to their own work and organization.
  • Applicants will be asked to demonstrate the organization’s commitment to access, equity, and inclusion throughout the application; evaluative criteria and application questions have been revised to encourage efforts toward equity-forward practices.

GOAL: To provide stability for grantees, especially smaller organizations

  • As of FY23, the minimum award will increase from $5,000 to $10,000.
  • The number of budget categories will increase from two to five, allowing for greater specificity in funding amounts, and minimum award thresholds will increase across the board.
  • All applicants will be eligible to apply for a three-year funding commitment following successful completion of a single award cycle, regardless of budget size, providing longer term stability and giving these groups the ability to plan ahead for funding.

GOAL: To reduce barriers to participation for eligible applicant organizations by streamlining the application process

  • As of FY22, DCLA removed the requirement that organizations complete the SMU DataArts Cultural Data Profile , reducing the administrative requirements of the CDF application.
  • For FY23, all materials will be submitted entirely online, with technical assistance available to all applicants to help with this new submission process. There will be no hard copy materials submission, removing geographic challenges related to a delivery deadline.
  • For FY23, the application will allow for a single project proposal per application, rather than up to five projects previously available, to reduce the administrative load on applicant organizations. Within the one project, organizations can propose and describe one or multiple programs they plan to offer to the NYC public.

GOAL: To invite a broad and representative cross-section of our community to participate in decision-making

  • For FY23, panelist recruitment will expand to include most staff categories, board members and cultural workers in a variety of roles.
  • For FY23, stipends for panelist participation will increase.
  • For FY23, panels will be held virtually to provide additional access for participants and reduce the time commitment required.
  • During FY23, DCLA will develop a Panelist Advisory Committee to increase community participation in the panelist selection process as well as expanded panelist training and orientation in future cycles.
  • Voluntary demographic information collected as part of the FY23 panelist nomination process will help inform panelist composition and outreach in future years.

GOAL: To increase transparency in the Cultural Development Fund process

  • DCLA will formalize the panelist evaluation rubric and share this information with applicants, providing insight into how application scores are determined.
  • Awards will be determined after DCLA’s budget is confirmed post-Adoption (on or around July 1) to allow for more efficient and equitable funding allocation.
  • Applicants’ scores will be the primary determinant of any funding allocated above the minimum award in each budget category.


DCLA’s Programs Unit will begin to roll out a suite of improvements to the FY23 CDF process beginning immediately, including making permanent some reforms that have been piloted in recent years (e.g. expanding eligibility for multi-year CDF awards) . While a departure from prior years’ timelines, this year’s process incorporates numerous changes that will be implemented and evaluated simultaneously. All timing described below should be considered for planning purposes only, and is subject to change.

  • Application Outreach and Engagement: March - May
  • Call for Panelist Nominations: March - July
  • Open Application Period: April - May
  • Panels: June - August
  • Funding Determinations Made: August - October
  • Award Notification : November - December


We invite your engagement as applicants and panelists as we bring back our largest-ever group of applicants (1,200 expected) and panelists (240).

Information on the CDF application will be detailed on the “Applying” page of our website.

For the FY23 cycle, we hope to identify panelists with a broad range of expertise within the cultural workforce including artists, teaching artists, board members, executive leaders, education staff, and marketing and community engagement professionals.

Panel service will include independent review and scoring for 20-30    applications, followed by participation in a secondary review with other panelists in a single-day virtual panel  held in summer 2022.

Please support our efforts to broaden the diversity of our panelists pool by sharing this message with your network. If you are interested in serving on a panel or have served in the past and would like to do so again, please fill out the Panelist Nomination Form . Nominations will be considered on a rolling basis. Please note that DCLA considers a variety of factors when appointing each panel and may not be able to utilize the services of all qualified nominees this year.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why change CDF now?

Our revised process for FY23 CDF is a result of years of research and examination (see section). It remains a fluid process, as our efforts to make our grantmaking process more equitable and accessible continue to expand and evolve. The time is right to begin to introduce these revisions, as we all face a changed landscape and seek the best ways to meet it.

Will all changes take place at once?

We are referring to this as an “active pilot” so that we can begin the reform process and evaluate it, with your input, as we go. Some elements will roll out over time. For example, we will be converting to a new database and IT platform and will therefore implement changes to our application over two years. After bringing all 1,200 organizations back to panels for FY23—our largest applicant pool--we will then broaden and deepen our outreach to new organizations beginning with FY24. Once we shift our funding allocations to after the City’s budget is approved (“post-Adoption”) around July 1, we’ll evaluate how that affects our funding process as well.

Will there also be reforms to the renewal process if all will become multi-year grantees?

At this time, the renewal application is expected to continue to be similar in scope to the competitive application in order to establish renewing organizations’ services during the fiscal year. As we move towards a full multi-year grant cycle, we will reevaluate the renewal application and process.


The timeline for FY23 CDF application is different than in previous years. How will that affect the application process?

Due to the modifications we are introducing to the CDF application and process, the FY23 CDF application launched on April 4, later in the fiscal year than in the past. We opened the application, and made all accompanying collateral materials and information webinars available then. The deadline is May 16th at 5:00PM. All panels will be virtual for FY23 enabling us to run concurrent panels and shorten the panel season.

Is the application platform the same for FY23?

will be able to access the first part of the two-part CDF application form through the same platform as in previous years. The second part of the application will be completed via a Seamless form. We’ve introduced a few enhancements that we piloted with the FY22 CDF Renewal cohort to streamline the process for applicants:

  • Organizations will submit an application for one single project. Within that project, organizations can propose and describe they plan to offer to the NYC public
  • Certain application fields are now optional. Opting to skip these will not impact the strength of your application and none of the optional questions will be viewable by panelists
  • Background materials and additional information to supplement the application will be submitted digitally through a Seamless form
  • Modifications to the questions included in the application will reflect the modifications to the evaluative criteria.

Parallel to this effort, we are undertaking a major overhaul of the CDF platform to increase user functionality and provide a more seamless engagement for applicants in future cycles.

Our organization is not where we’d like to be in terms of our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) goals. Will this compromise our chance to get a funding recommendation?

The FY23 CDF application will enable applicants to expand on their organization’s equity forward practices as it relates to their mission and proposed activities for FY23. While each organization may be on a different path in the journey to fulfill their diversity, equity and inclusion values and goals, it is important that you are as detailed as possible in the description of recent efforts to increase DEI among your stakeholders and what you hope to achieve during the grant period.


Technical Assistance

What resources is DCLA offering to organizations to prepare their FY23 CDF application?

  • Review the Applying webpage to see the updated Guidelines, Instructions and related materials
  • Register your organization’s CDF account and all relevant contacts to receive important communication from DCLA during the application period
  • Sign up to attend a FY23 CDF application webinar
  • Sign up to attend an Office Hours session
  • Reach out to your Program Officer with any remaining questions you have
  • If you do not know who your Program Officer is or you are applying for the first time, connect with the Programs Unit via email at or leave a message at our Help Desk at 212-513-9381


When should I expect to receive my funding?

Our ongoing goal is to process grant awards as quickly as possible. With FY23 including new funding elements and the largest applicant pool in a single year, we will work as efficiently as possible and note changes that we can implement in future years. FY23 grantees should expect to receive their CDF notification email in late fall 2022 and initial payments will be released in the weeks after that.

How will my organization’s funding amount be determined?

For FY23, there will be five budget categories (expanded from two). Each applicant organization’s award amount will be considered based on its FY20 operating income. The minimum award will now be $10,000 and minimum award thresholds will increase for each budget category. The size of your grant award will depend on your budget category, the ranking of your application in the panel process, and the final amount allocated to CDF once the City’s budget is adopted.

All funded grantees will receive at least the minimum in their award category, with the opportunity to receive additional funds as determined by their application’s panel score and budget category. Additional funds may be added according to agency priorities post-Adoption and all awards will be adjusted to available funding as needed.

If I receive a CDF grant for FY23, will I automatically receive a renewal for FY24? Can I opt for multi-year support?

Current FY22 CDF renewal grantees will be eligible for a multi-year commitment if their FY23 application is funded. Current FY22 CDF annual grantees and new FY23 CDF applicants will be eligible for a three-year funding commitment in FY24 a. Organizations receiving funding for FY23 will receive an initial one-, two- or three-year commitment to stagger future competitive applicant pools, streamlining future CDF panel reviews and allocations.


Panel Review

Will panelists still see the amount that was granted in previous years?

On the Applying page, we have shared a sample panelists’ report so that applicants may see what the panelists will be seeing.  Panelists will no longer recommend individual funding thresholds; award recommendations will be based on panelists’ scores and rankings.

How does track record (recent accomplishments in regular programming) rank in the scoring process since many organizations don’t change programs that much?

Each organization will present its project in full, using the narrative fields in the application. Organizations may refer to recent accomplishments as a way of illustrating the durability of the proposed project as well as indicating how this will be used for the project in FY23.


How can I serve as a panelist for FY23?

We are hosting an open call for panelists for FY23 CDF, please consider serving! We welcome a broad range of arts workers that are reflective of the diversity of New York City to serve as panelists. Interested candidates should have current expertise in the arts and cultural landscape of New York City and submit a

As part of our ongoing efforts to make panel service accessible to a broad range of constituents, we have introduced the following improvements:

  • Increased stipend to $480
  • Panels to be held virtually, schedule reduced and set further in advance to make this opportunity more accessible
  • Extended outreach to include a broad range of cultural workers, including artists, board members, executive leaders, teaching artists and education staff, and marketing and community engagement professionals
  • Panelist nomination process allows for candidates to voluntarily self-identify gender, race, ethnicity, age, and ability, permitting us to increase the diversity of our panels going forward

What commitment does panel service require?

All prospective panelists will be asked to complete the Panelist Nomination form. If selected, panelists will be expected to evaluate and score each of the 20-25 applications in their assigned panel based on the revised CDF funding priorities and criteria. Each panelist will submit scores and feedback prior to panel service. All FY23 panels will be held virtually in summer 2022. Each panel is expected to last one business day between the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.


I’d like to share with DCLA feedback on my experience with the CDF process. How can I do this?

Please send your comments and feedback to