The Workbench Series

The Workbench Series: Useable Tools for Creative Workers

Workbench Sessions    |     2022 Schedule





Capitalization for Grantmakers and Nonprofits GIA January 11 Learn
Accessibility Opportunity: Arts + Culture Partnership + Shared Virtual Communities Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities January 20 View recipients
Healthcare is not a Privilege The MetroHealth System March 10 View Resources
Fiscal Sponsorship 101 April 14 watch
Business Basics for Creatives SCORE Cleveland May 4 watch
Marketing Basics for Creatives  SCORE Cleveland May 18


In learning from Cleveland’s arts and culture communities, Assembly has seen the need for practical support, professional development and connections rise to the top as priorities for creative workers – from financial sustainability, accounting and health insurance to accessibility, equity practices and legal assistance.

Assembly worked in partnership with The George Gund Foundation and Grantmakers in the Arts to host an initial workshop focused on financial resiliency and capitalization for both grantmakers and nonprofit organizations.

With that and the observed priorities for creative workers, Assembly has devised Workbench Sessions: Useable Tools for Creative Workers

Who benefits?

The ultimate goal of this program is to boost the professional bandwidth and resiliency of our area creative workers and, in turn, grow the effectiveness of greater Cleveland’s arts and culture sector and creative industries. Stronger arts and culture means thriving residents, vibrant and safer neighborhoods, more effective education and community well-being.

Additionally, the financial impact of COVID on artists and arts groups has been well documented. But even prior to the pandemic, small- and medium-budget nonprofits lacked sufficient financial cushions to do long range planning, weather unexpected emergencies, or beef up for expansion. Assembly is well-positioned to provide support and resources to our creative communities that address these issues.

By hosting this series of programs, Assembly for the Arts will gain more insight into future programming and uncover areas of deep need for the arts community.

Financial Sustainability for Creative Nonprofits

While the overall Workbench Sessions are intended to address the needs of the full creative community, a specialized, separate track of entrepreneurship coaching will be offered for small to mid-size nonprofit organizations, artists and small creative businesses. Participation will prioritize BIPOC communities, BIPOC-led organizations, and organizations devoted to development equitable business practices. This work is supported by Huntington Bank’s Entrepreneur In Residence program.

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Session Descriptions

Capitalization for Grantmakers and Nonprofits

During this time of great economic uncertainty, the conversation about capitalization was developed to combat the “norm” of under-resourced arts nonprofits. This workshop and presentation will feature national expert Rebecca Thomas of Rebecca Thomas & Associates (RTA) and senior staff from Grantmakers in the Arts. GIA defines capitalization as “the accumulation of the resources an organization needs to fulfill its mission over time,” specifically for its financial health. These are specialized capitalization workshops are held separately for funders and nonprofit grantees, focusing on what each group can do to support the financial health of nonprofit arts and culture organizations.

Accessibility Opportunity: Arts and Culture Partnership RFP + Shared Virtual Communities

Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities is announcing a special funding opportunity for arts and culture nonprofits, businesses and individual artists to enhance the accessibility of their programming and spaces: $80,000 has been earmarked by the Board of DD to distribute to the arts and culture community for this program. CCBDD team members will provide information on this opportunity and share information on how your organizations and events can be included in their Shared Virtual Communities database.

Healthcare is Not a Privilege

Healthcare is a tough topic for creative workers. Lack of access to healthcare resources is all-to-familiar story in the arts and culture industries. The MetroHealth System is committed to offering healthcare support to our local creative communities and offers many free and low-cost services. Learn more about how you can access these readily available services and take steps toward a healthier life as a creative. The MetroHealth team will present, providing an in-depth look at their offerings and we’ll provide updates on our on-going conversations around healthcare and creative workers.

Fiscal Sponsorship 101

What is Fiscal Sponsorship exactly? And how can this benefit you as a creative worker? Hear from the Assembly from the Arts team on the basics of fiscal sponsorship, what you can expect and how you can tap into this program through Assembly and other organizations.

Beef Up Your Business

SCORE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Whether you are starting a new creative business or an established business needing to grow your cash flow, learn more from Mark Krosse a business support expert working through the Cleveland chapter of SCORE


Don’t forget the Contracts 
What am I signing and how do I protect myself and my work? From outlining your goods and services to holding others accountable for payment, contracts and agreements are a necessary part of being a creative worker. In this session, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts will provide a how-to guide and some best practices when it comes to reading and building your own contracts and agreements as a creative.

Building Race Equity: The CHROMA Guild 
The CHROMA Guild through Erie Arts & Culture advances opportunities and access to resources for creative and cultural professionals of color in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Learn more about this program and best practices for community organizing to build and offer resources to better serve BIPOC Creative Workers.

Street Performance Know-How
Destination Cleveland and ListenCLE will demystify the ins and outs of street and public performance, and how you as an artist can do this safely, legally and profitably. City ordinances will be simplified and explained during this session. Musicians and any artist interested in performing in public space will benefit from this dialogue.

Artist Career Consultants
Springboard for the Arts has a team of Artist Career Consultants, working and established artists with experience mentoring and teaching individual artists.

Request Fiscal Sponsorship


Not all community projects can afford to become their own nonprofit. The process requires time and resources that could otherwise devoted to the project itself. What’s more, this work is often ignited by members of the community who see a problem and are willing to create a solution out of their own pockets. We assemble for the greater good of the people. Through fiscal sponsorship, we can open access to grant funds for those incredible mission-driven projects. Foundations and some donors often solely fund tax exempt organizations for many important reasons—501(c)3 requires fiscal oversight of a board, public record-keeping, proof of public good, and comes with restrictions to certain activities such as lobbying.

Fiscal sponsorship allows approved projects to come under Assembly’s fiscal umbrella so that you can get to work, and we can help with financial oversight. The relationships with funders, creative freedom, ownership of intellectual property and project coordination all remain with the project creators.

If you have started a project for the greater good and are interested in applying for fiscal sponsorship, take a look at the process below.



Step 1: Inquiry

An artist, creative business or community group contacts Assembly to discuss the potential of fiscal sponsorship for a project. If the mission sounds aligned, they may be asked to fill in a survey as part of step 2.

Step 2: Written Request

The potential project will complete an application form to help Assembly assess capacity to implement the project and adhere to general grant and funding requirements. This includes a brief summary of the project, a projected budget and timeline.

Step 3: Staff review

Assembly staff reviews the written project (see new project criteria below). Projects are assessed based on the project criteria as well as alignment with Assembly’s mission as well as any potential risks that may be associated with sponsoring the project.

Step 4: Meeting

Assembly staff meets with project leadership to discuss the project and agreement in more detail. Assembly offers a high-level view of the arts and culture sector and may provide insights, suggest partners, help solidify a project or serve as a “thought partner” in other ways based on the project.

Step 5: Signed Agreement

Each party reviews and signs a written agreement. No funds will be distributed or requested for any new projects without a signed written agreement. The agreement requires the project entity to have a primary contact person, a physical address, and its own legal, tax and accounting identity (typically EIN or SSN).

[To open a bank account in which Assembly will distribute funds, the project entity will be asked for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Social Security Number. To apply for an EIN, the project may fill out IRS Form SS-4 ( Responsibility for adhering to the appropriate legal, accounting and tax obligations lies solely with the project entity.]

Project Funding Cycle

Individual Donations

Upon receiving a signed written agreement, Assembly develops a donation campaign page for the project to receive online, tax-deductible donations. The project entity will be given a discrete URL to distribute to potential donors. 

Grant Applications

Project entities are responsible for researching and providing application material for all grant proposals. If Assembly is required to submit an application, the project entity is asked to provide evidence that it is poised for successfully acquiring the grant. This will help Assembly deploy resources where they will be most effective. Potential evidence may be:

  • At least $500 procured or 25 distinct individual donations of $10 or more to the project through the donation page provided by Assembly
  • The project has been previously funded or has been directly invited to apply by the funder

We simply ask for at least one week’s notice to apply for grant funding for existing sponsored projects and at least 3 weeks notice if you are requesting fiscal sponsorship with the intent to apply for a grant. The entity’s final materials must be provided at least 48 hours in advance of the application deadline.

Reporting / Disbursement

Once funds are available, Assembly can provide an initial disbursement to get things started based on the project needs. As those funds are spent down, we ask project entities to submit monthly financial reports with receipts. Assembly is required to maintain full discretion and control over donated funds. We use the receipts to account for all of the grant funds and as funds are spent down, Assembly continues to replenish project funds.

Exit Policy

We consider fiscal sponsorship an incubator. We love when projects are seen through to the end or even “graduate” to become their own tax-exempt nonprofit. The fiscal sponsorship relationship ends when the project is completed or when either group requests an exit in writing. The primary reason Assembly may end a relationship before then would be an activity that would jeopardize the organization’s nonprofit status such as backing a candidate for office or other restricted activities. Ultimately, continuing or discontinuing fiscal sponsorship is subject to the signed written agreement.


Criteria for New Projects

Assembly offers fiscal sponsorship for a limited number of projects that are aligned with its mission to convene, coordinate, and collaborate with everyone who lives and works in Greater Cleveland to strengthen and support those in the region who create, present, experience and appreciate all forms of arts and culture. In order to be considered for sponsorship, the project and must meet the following criteria.

Legal Criteria

  • The project must fall within Assembly’s tax-exempt purpose including education, information gathering, supporting traditionally underserved communities, economic development and public policy.
  • The project must be aligned with Assembly’s mission.
  • The project may not conduct partisan political activities.
  • The project may not conduct activities in support of or opposition to a candidate running for public office.

Project Criteria

In addition to the above legal requirements, Assembly will give priority to projects that meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • The project is a collaboration of multiple organizations and requires a neutral intermediary to secure and manage financial contributions.
  • Sponsorship would expand opportunities for artists of color or minority-owned arts businesses and nonprofits.
  • The project expands accessibility to arts and culture for people with disabilities.
  • The project exemplifies cross-sector partnerships of arts and culture with other community service sectors such as education, health, safety, neighborhoods, economic development, transportation, democracy, diplomacy and others.
  • Project managers have relevant experience and/or include evidence that the project entity has the capacity to execute the proposed project.


Fee Structure

Assembly accepts 6% of all contributions for administrative services.


Additional Services for Sponsored Projects

Promotion: Assembly lists all sponsored projects on its donation page and encourages donors to contribute to creative projects in our region. Additionally, Assembly launches a giving campaign once per year, typically in the Fall, promoting all sponsored projects.

Counsel: As staff capacity permits, Assembly offers specialized counsel for projects where expertise exists such as budgeting, funder relations, business strategy, potential partners, or other strategic support as needed.

Request Fiscal Sponsorship

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    Fiscal Sponsorship 101