Iowa Culture Leadership Cohort Program Guidelines

The Iowa Culture Leadership Cohort is a pilot skill building program for small to mid-sized Iowa arts, culture, history and humanities nonprofit organizations. This program, administered by the Iowa Arts Council and State Historical Society of Iowa, will address the needs and challenges these organizations face by providing training, networking and technical assistance. 

Potential applicants are encouraged to review all published material and contact Jennie Knoebel at 515-348-6324 or with questions well in advance of the application deadline. 

The Iowa Arts Council is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to eligible applicants. For technical support submitting the online application, please contact the Accessibility Coordinator, Jennie Knoebel at 515-348-6324 or, at least two weeks in advance of application deadlines. 



Application Deadline
Applications must be submitted online by 11:59 p.m., August 25, 2023. 

Participants Selected 
Applicants will be notified of program participation no later than September 1, 2023. 

Program Dates 
The program will run for two years from July 1, 2023 - June 30, 2025. 

Action Plan Proposal and Final Report 
Participating organizations will be required to submit an action plan proposal by June 14, 2024 and a final report by August 1, 2025. 


Program Overview

Year One (July 1, 2023 - June 30, 2024) 
The first year of the program will focus on skill building through three, full day in-person workshops, which will be held in a location central to program participants. Participants will be surveyed after being selected to determine their greatest needs to develop the agenda for the workshop days. Workshops will be facilitated by outside experts with participation from State Historical Society of Iowa and Iowa Arts Council staff. Workshops will occur during the following weeks. Participants will be surveyed to determine which day of that week works best for the group: 
  • Week of October 2, 2023 - Operations Workshop for all participants 
    • Topics may include: budgeting, volunteer management, board development, core documents 
  • Week of November 27, 2023 - Sustainability Workshop for all participants 
    • Topics may include: financial resource development, leadership succession planning, audience development 
  • Week of February 26, 2024 - Divide cohort into two workshop series - Collections Management & Exhibits and Arts Programming (this may change depending on participating organizations) 

Organizations are encouraged to have key leadership consistently participate in all three workshops. This may include an Executive Director and the Board Chair or similar type roles within the organization. 

There will be one on one calls with each organization and staff to touch base in the months when workshops are not scheduled. These calls will be focused on information that was discussed during the workshops to answer any follow up questions.  

Organizations will be partnered with a statewide mentor to offer additional guidance and support throughout the program.  

Toward the end of the first year, each of the organizational participants will need to submit a short action plan that will identify the most critical, immediate need for their organization where additional hands-on, onsite training and technical assistance would be most beneficial for their future operations and sustainability.  

Year Two (July 1, 2024 - June 30, 2025) 

Selected organizations may receive resources to support the additional training and assistance identified in their action plan. Support will be provided to each organization to help them accomplish their goals over the course of the second year.  

Eligible Applicants

Organizational Eligibility 
  • Organization identifies as either an Arts, Cultural or Humanities Organization.  
    • Arts Organizations are defined as an organization whose primary mission and purpose is focused on the arts.  
    • Cultural Organizations are defined as organizations whose primary mission and purpose is culturally focused or meets the definition of the interpretive sciences.  
    • Humanities Organizations are defined as an organization whose primary mission is focused on the humanities.  
  • Organization is located and incorporated in Iowa under the Iowa Nonprofit Corporation Act and holds an active federal 501(c)3 tax-exempt status.  
  • Organization has an active registration to do business in the State of Iowa with the Secretary of State’s Office. 

Overall Operational Standards 
  • Organizations must have annual cash operating expenses of less than $500,000 at the time of application based on their last completed fiscal year. 
  • Organization must have a minimum of one dedicated staff or volunteer position that works for the organization year round and is responsible for oversight and management of the organization.  
  • Organization must have been in existence since June 1, 2020. 
  • Organizations who receive funding through the Cultural Leadership Partners (CLP) program are eligible to participate, but preference will be given to organizations outside the CLP network. 

Online Application Submission

Applicants must submit an application via the Iowa Arts Council’s SlideRoom, an online application portal. Applications will not be accepted in any other format. Late, incomplete or ineligible applications will not be accepted. Applicants can access the current online application requirements at Applicants must create a login to view the full application requirements for the program. Applicants can visit  for technical assistance related to the online submission. 

Panel Review

Applications determined to be eligible will be reviewed by a panel of staff. Applications are reviewed and ranked based on the published scoring rubric. The panel will select applicants to participate in the program based on their scores and a consideration of the types of challenges each organization is facing. Peer to peer learning works best when the participating organizations are confronting similar challenges. Decisions of the panel are final and may not be appealed due to dissatisfaction. 

Decision Notification

Applicants will be notified of decisions via email by September 1, 2023. Applicants are notified of the status of their application whether they are or are not selected to participate. Applicants will be contacted if any additional information is required and are encouraged to refrain from contacting staff for application status updates until final decisions are made. 

Application Questions and Scoring Rubric

Applications will be evaluated on the following criteria. The rubric is on a scale of 12 points. Application questions are for reference only. Applicants must review and complete application requirements in the SlideRoom portal.

Applicant Profile

Provide an overview of the organization, including:

  • types of programs and services offered
  • how they help the organization accomplish its mission
  • number of patrons, visitors, students the organization serves each year
  • description of the community the organization is in and what community the organization currently serves, including overall demographics such as geographic boundaries and the age, race/ethnicity, ability and socio-economic status of people served
APPLICANT PROFILE: 3 points possible
3 Applicant demonstrates a record of programming or services that clearly advances its mission and serves its community and audience. Community impact is strong. 2 Applicant offers average programming or services that relate to its mission and serve its community or target audience. Community impact is clear. 1 Applicant’s programming or services are limited and/or it is unclear how they relate to its mission and serve its community and target audience. Community impact is unclear or inadequate.

Readiness to Engage

Share why the staff and/or board feel that it is an appropriate time in your organization's life to engage in a multi-session, capacity building program. Briefly share any anticipated major changes in organizational leadership over the next two years.

READINESS TO ENGAGE: 3 points possible
3 Clearly demonstrates that it is the right time for the organization to participate in this program. 2 Demonstrates that it may be the right time for the organization to participate in this program. 1 Whether or not it is the right time for the organization to participate in the program is unclear.

Program Participants

Two representatives from each organization are required to fully participate in the program. Describe who from the organization will be participating in program, including:

  • Who will be participating in the program
  • How long they have been with the organization and their role
PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS: 3 points possible
3 Identified program participants have a leadership role within the organization and would be able to implement organizational improvements. 2 Identified program participants have a role within the organization and may be able to implement organizational improvements. 1 Identified program participants' role within the organization is unclear or inadequate. It is unclear if they would be able to implement organizational improvements.

Overall Application Quality

Overall Application Quality: 3 points possible
3 The applicant has made a clear case for participation in the program. 2 The applicant has made an adequate case for participation in the program. 1 The applicant’s case for participation in the program is unclear or inadequate.