Opportunity & Rapid Response Grants Guidelines

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The Pop Culture Collaborative’s Vision and Purpose

Throughout America’s history, the most transformative cultural shifts—from slavery abolition to Reconstruction, “I Have A Dream” to “Yes We Can,” #BlackLivesMatter, the DREAM-ers, and Love Is Love—have been achieved by movements and leaders who have awakened people’s deep yearning to belong in a pluralist America. In each case, the tug-of-war between belonging and exclusion sparked a portal moment—a cracking open of the public imagination about what this nation is capable of becoming.

We believe our nation is on the precipice of another historic breakthrough: a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the American people to decisively choose to move in the direction of pluralism and justice. How will we respond to this call for transformation? Will we submit to authoritarian narratives that entice us to retreat back into the systems of exclusion and violence that stain our past, or will we step boldly through the portal and onto the path towards our pluralist future?

Americans have the opportunity to ask: What society do we yearn to create and who can we empower to lead the way? If, as civil rights scholar Vincent Harding once said, America is “a country that has yet to be born,” the pop culture for social change field can help prepare and guide millions of people through this process of becoming something new by clearing away the detritus of our nation’s past, replacing fetid, crumbling ideas and norms with ones rooted in justice, care, and connection.

Together, artists, organizers, strategists, and researchers can create the stories that help the American public understand and interpret the choices we face through the lens of our shared commitment to becoming a pluralist nation.

Over the long-term, the Collaborative is working to support the growth of a pop culture for social change field capable of building the yearning in most Americans (more than 150 million people) to actively co-create a just and pluralist society in which everyone is perceived to belong, inherently, and is treated as such. The Pop Culture Collaborative defines a pluralist society as a culture in which the majority of people in a community and nation are engaged in the hard and delicate work of belonging together in a just and equitable society.


Individuals/organizations with fiscal sponsorships as well as nonprofits and for-profits in the United States are eligible for Pop Culture Collaborative grants.

To be considered, proposals must engage, affect, center, and/or support at least one or all of our multi-community focus areas: people of color, immigrants, refugees, Iindigenous peoples, and/or Muslims, particularly those who are women, queer, transgender, and/or disabled. Initiatives with an intersectional and intentional focus on gender justice, LGBTQIA rights, disability, democratic fairness, pluralist values, and economic justice are highly prioritized.

Ineligibility Criteria

The following categories are not eligible for Pop Culture Collaborative grants:

  • Initiatives outside of the United States.
  • Projects that have a narrative change focus but do not incorporate pop culture strategies.
  • Projects not designed to reach mass audiences of at least 1 million people, or to create infrastructure or research insights that will support projects that reach this scale.


The Collaborative seeks grantee partners working at the intersection of pop culture and social change who:

  • Are artists, activists, organizations, strategists, researchers, and/or others who identify culture change as a clear outcome of their work and pop culture strategies as a critical aspect of their culture change efforts.
  • Demonstrate emerging or pathbreaking leadership around long-term narrative and culture change strategies in the arts, entertainment, digital, mass media, and/or social justice sectors.
  • Prioritize authentic and equitable leadership and/or partnership from the communities most directly affected by the work.
  • Have the ability to clearly define how their work fits into a long-term narrative change strategy and theory of culture change.

Please see our list of past and current grantees for examples of the types of programs and organizations that the Collaborative supports.

We typically do not fund:

  • Production costs for movies, television, or digital video (with the exception of rapid response grants). We are able to fund projects focused on content development and distribution.
  • Long-form or short-form documentary films. We occasionally support innovative mass audience campaigns associated with nonfiction content in our effort to support new audience engagement models.
  • Communications work (talking points, pitching and media coverage, social media) unless it is directly integrated into a cultural strategy campaign.


Opportunity Grants are for emergent initiatives, projects, and research; time-sensitive gatherings, retreats, or convenings; and/or critical experiments at the intersection of pop culture and social justice.

Grant Amounts and Timing: Opportunity grants can be awarded for up to $50,000. Proposals (considered only upon request) are approved year-round on a rolling basis and should be completed within four to 12 months.

Opportunity grants are not necessarily hooked to external timing (please see our rapid response grants for time-sensitive grants), but based on the timing and needs of the artists, initiative, and/or organization. Opportunity grants tend to be focused on project that are:

  • New and/or in early stages of development.
    Seed funding for early-stage projects include conducting research; implementing an experimental cultural strategy; developing field or narrative infrastructure or networks; and/or designing or testing a mass audience activation campaign. (For example, much of our artist-led pipeline projects such as new writers rooms models were seeded with Opportunity grants.)
  • Convenings and gatherings.
    • One-time or a series of small group gatherings (in-person or virtual) that foster connections or strengthen relationships among stakeholders in specific sectors of the pop culture for social change field (e.g., cultural strategists, entertainment artists, social justice organizations, culture change researchers); or cross-sector convenings that bring stakeholders across sectors together to learn, forge bonds, and/or develop strategy.
    • Genius banks: in-person gatherings of experts in issues, sectors, communities, and/or genres that can help advance a big narrative idea, develop a specific cultural campaign, etc. (For example, pop culture audience engagement campaigns often use genius banks for early partner gathering and brainstorming.)

Opportunity grants can cover the total cost of a gathering or be applied to the budget of gatherings that cost more than $50,000.

Rapid Response Grants are intended for cultural organizing efforts, pop culture campaigns or other activations, gatherings/convenings, cultural research, narrative strategy design, and/or implementation that directly anticipates and/or responds to an acute and time-sensitive political and/or cultural moment. Examples include creative storytelling projects coupled with large-scale public spectacles (for instance, flash mobs, art installations on the National Mall, or red carpet takeovers), cultural organizing, public campaigns, gatherings/convenings, time-sensitive research, and narrative strategy design and/or implementation.

Grant Amounts and Timing: Rapid Response grants can be awarded for up to $50,000. Proposals (upon request) are approved year-round on a rolling basis and projects should be completed within four to 12 months.

The Collaborative prioritizes rapid response grants that:

  • Are time-sensitive. Proposed initiatives must be formed in response to recent and unanticipated or fast-approaching acute political, news or cultural moments. We expect applicants to describe how the timing of their initiative is urgent and pertinent to the coming months, given the acute challenge they are responding to.

    Examples of time hooks include the introduction of the Muslim travel ban, the emergence of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the premiere of a particularly relevant television show, or a major awards telecast.

    Rapid response grants are not intended for initiatives that are in need of a quick funding infusion based on an internal project timeline.

  • Focus on narrative. Rapid response grants must intend to disrupt dangerous and/or advance authentic narratives about the Collaborative’s focus areas—people of color, immigrants, refugees, Indigenous peoples, and/or Muslims, often with an intersectional focus on gender justice, LGBTQIA rights, disability, democratic fairness, pluralist values, and economic justice.
  • Intend to reach mass audiences. Coupled with a rapid response hook, a grantee project should intend to move narratives that reach and engage mass media audiences (1 million+ people) or empower or guide those with the power to do so. While not all projects reach the million-people goal, all strategies must have an audience strategy that shows how the final outcomes could result in stories and/or audience experience that would reach audiences of this size.

All approved Opportunity and Rapid Response proposals will fall under at least one (and sometimes more) of the Pop Culture Collaborative five priority grantmaking program areas, including:

PROGRAM AREA 1: Artists Advancing Culture Change

The Pop Culture Collaborative provides grants to artists and organizations or companies that support artist cohorts, from various disciplines, locations, and industries to bring their artistic vision to mass audiences, while also contributing to field-wide efforts to build public yearning for a pluralist America.

We seek to create a large, networked community of artists who believe that their creative work and leadership have the power to inspire millions of Americans to actively co-create a pluralist society.

Areas of interest include:

  • Supporting artists and cultural organizations to conceptualize, develop, and produce creative works that can help build public yearning for pluralist culture in America.
  • Supporting artists to gather for shared learning, networking, community-knitting, and power-building, especially spaces that bring artists into direct and meaningful connection with frontline activists and culture change strategists.
  • Helping artists and organizations develop the methodology, networks, infrastructure, pipelines, and leadership skills needed to redistribute access and power in their respective industries to historically excluded communities.

See past and current Artists Advancing Culture Change grantees.

PROGRAM AREA 2: Building the Pop Culture for Social Change Field

The Pop Culture Collaborative supports artists, activists, strategists, researchers, and other practitioners in the entertainment, social justice, and philanthropic fields to build a robust pop culture change field capable of achieving widespread narrative and cultural change at scale. Together, they can form narrative networks that have the knowledge, connections, skills, and infrastructure that can align and create transformative narrative environments in our society.

Areas of interest include:

  • Creating resources and/or infrastructure that support the design, testing, and/or activation of long-term pop culture strategies.
  • Developing, testing, and strengthening partnerships among artists, the entertainment industry, and social justice movements via convenings, cohorts, campaigns, and/or programs.
  • Designing, testing, and/or advancing narrative infrastructure (convenings, emergent technologies, community knitting spaces, and programs) that create access and long-term career sustainability for the next generation of pop culture–focused strategists, campaigners, and artists.

See past and current Building the Pop Culture For Social Change Field grantees here.

PROGRAM AREA 3: Culture Change Research

The Pop Culture Collaborative supports grantees to unearth new data, develop analysis, and share insights with and among entertainment, social justice, and philanthropic sectors in order to inform content development, advance cultural strategies, and activate collaborations in the pop culture for social change field.

Areas of interest include:

  • Audience Research. Research that helps the field understand who the people in key audiences are, what motivates their beliefs, (e.g., media, culture, family, economics), and how their beliefs compel and shape their behaviors.
  • Industry Research. Research that delves into the ecosystem of a specific field of cultural production (e.g., television industry, music industry, or sports broadcasting industry) to inform and/or activate short- and long-term culture change strategies.
  • Impact and Evaluation Research. Research that examines and analyzes past and current pop culture change experiments, campaigns, and/or partnerships; utilizes formal evaluation and longitudinal impact methodologies to understand impact; and/or leverages trend tracking and analysis to make sense of current narrative environments and cultural norms, or anticipate future patterns in pop culture content creation, consumption, and engagement.

See examples of past and current Culture Change Research grantees.

PROGRAM AREA 4: Movement-Led Pop Culture Narrative Strategies

The Pop Culture Collaborative supports social justice organizations and initiatives to design, coordinate, and activate long-term narrative change strategies at the pop culture (mass audience) level.

Areas of interest include:

  • Design and implementation of multilayered culture change strategies, including content/story strategy design and audience experience design.
  • Reimagining and testing new roles and relationships between the social justice and entertainment fields to advance the development of narratives, story creation, and audience activation opportunities.

See examples of past and current Movement-Led Pop Culture Narrative Strategy grantees.

PROGRAM AREA 5: Innovations in Mass Audience Activation

The Pop Culture Collaborative supports initiatives, bold experiments, and exploration of emerging activation models to ensure that just, authentic narratives about historically marginalized communities are deeply integrated into our nation’s narrative landscape and strategically leveraged to build widespread public yearning for a just and pluralist America.

Areas of interest include:

  • Design and implementation of audience activation campaigns (with intended audiences of at least 1 million people) focused on pop culture content.
  • Experimentation with mass audience audience engagement strategies.
  • Organizing and/or partnerships with pop culture fandoms.

See examples of past and current Innovations in Mass Audience Activation grantees.