CERF+

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

If you have questions, we have answers.

Have you wondered about the new plus sign in our name, the new directions in our work, our budget, or the assistance we’ve traditionally provided to craft artists in emergency? See below for answers. If you have a question that isn't answered here, ask us

WHY HAS CERF CHANGED ITS NAME TO CERF+?

We felt the name Craft Emergency Relief Fund no longer fully described the scope of our work to both safeguard and sustain the careers of craft artists. The “plus” acknowledges that our work has grown to include helping artists lessen and/or prevent the impacts of emergencies.

Individual donations and other unrestricted contributions go into the direct assistance we provide to craft artists, along with program expenses and operating costs (staff salaries, fundraising and administrative costs, etc.). All of our programs rely on staff members to coordinate them, and each of our staff members does work that relates to providing direct assistance to craft artists, and to our emergency readiness and recovery programs.

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WHY DOESN’T CERF+ MAKE LARGER GRANTS? THESE GRANTS AND LOANS DON'T SEEM LARGE ENOUGH TO HELP AN ARTIST RECOVER FROM SOMETHING LIKE A FIRE OR SERIOUS HEALTH PROBLEM.

It’s one of our goals to increase CERF+’s grant and loan support — but even if we could provide assistance at many times our current levels, that would not be enough to take the place of adequate health or business insurance and good business practices. That’s why we’re developing emergency prevention and response resources, improving emergency response coordination within the arts sector, and helping artists get the business insurance they need.

Our beneficiaries often say the immediacy of our post-disaster aid, arriving with minimal red tape long before an insurance check or other responders can help, is a vital part of what we  provide. We hear consistently about the tremendous lift and morale boost that help like ours provides to beneficiaries who know it comes from the community of artists, businesses, publishers, galleries, schools, show promoters, and others that support CERF+.

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HOW HAVE GRANT AND LOAN AMOUNTS CHANGED SINCE CERF+ STARTED IN 1985?

Assistance in the early years ranged from $200-$500 per person. Today the maximum grant is $5,000 and the maximum no-interest loan is $8,500. We are also very engaged in brokering other kinds of assistance for our beneficiaries, such as booth fee waivers at craft shows and discounts/donations of equipment and supplies. Our goal is to expand and grow our fundraising capabilities, so that we can continue to increase the amount of our financial assistance for emergency relief — but to do this in a way that is sustainable.

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HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHETHER A PARTICULAR CRAFT ARTIST WILL RECEIVE A GRANT, AND THE AMOUNT OF GRANT MONEY AN ARTIST WILL RECEIVE?

Our goal is to distribute grant funds as equitably as possible, based as much as possible — recognizing that each emergency is unique and personal — on objective criteria. The maximum grant for each applicant is determined by the severity of the emergency. An advisory committee, comprised primarily of board members, rates each application on:

  • Quality of the applicant's work
  • Professionalism (as indicated by submitted materials)
  • Impact of the grant on the applicant's ability to recovery
  • Impact the applicant's career has had on the craft field (local, regional, or national)

The scores are used to determine grant amounts relative to the emergency severity. Some applications are very easy to score, with artists clearly rating well on all criteria — and they will get the maximum level available for their level of emergency. Sometimes it’s more difficult to determine an artist’s level of professional involvement in the field. The ratings give us objective criteria to use, so grant money is distributed fairly according to merit and need.

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HOW MUCH ARE LOANS, WHAT ARE THE TERMS, AND HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET ONE?

The maximum CERF+ Emergency Recovery Loan is $8,500. CERF+’s loans are interest-free and have five year repayment terms. In addition to the standard supporting documentation required with a grant application, the loan applicants are required to submit a 12-month cash flow projection and a loan repayment related business plan. As with a grant request, an eligibility and award determination will be made within two weeks of receiving a complete application.

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HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHETHER AN ARTIST WILL RECEIVE A LOAN, AND THE LOAN AMOUNT?

The committee that reviews grant applications also reviews loan applications. The same application is used for both grants and loans, and an artist can apply for both with a single application. A similar rating and calculus is applied to loan applications, with ability to repay used to determine maximum loan amounts.

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DO YOU EXPECT THE LOANS TO BE REPAID?

Yes, we expect the recipient to make every effort to repay the loan. Because the loans are for emergencies they are, by nature, high-risk and if we think an artist is unlikely to be able to repay, we steer that artist to a grant. Some artists prefer one over the other (grant or loan), and some apply for both. By targeting and budgeting for a particular repayment rate, we are able to maximize support levels with the funds we have available.

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HOW SIGNIFICANT IS THE "BROKERED ASSISTANCE" YOU PROVIDE TO ARTISTS?

Brokered assistance is a very important component of the package of assistance CERF+ provides. When we can arrange for booth-fee waivers at craft/art shows, donations of tools, machinery and supplies, or other goods and services, our assistance to a beneficiary can substantially increase. CERF+ works and continues to build relationships with a number of generous show producers, manufacturers and suppliers. While we can’t always match our in-kind partners with a given artist’s need, their contributions to our beneficiaries’ recoveries are significant.

For our small staff, brokering services is very labor-intensive — both in soliciting goods and services and in maintaining these relationships with our partners. It’s worth it, though. For an artist after a devastating event, receiving a donated table saw, kiln, or booth-fee waiver can be huge.

We also provide businesses with a valued opportunity to help craft artists in emergencies. We offer a structure for that decision-making and those transactions, and we vet applications so that businesses have a reasonable assurance that their donations are being well-used. These donations inspire good will and loyalty from artists.

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HOW LARGE IS THE CERF+ STAFF? COULD VOLUNTEERS DO THIS WORK?

As we’ve progressed from being volunteer-run to a professional organization, we have gone from no staff in 1985 to 6.5 salaried staff members today. We continue to have volunteers who work with us on projects and events, and our board serves without compensation.

While it would theoretically be possible to raise and distribute some funds as an all-volunteer operation, it would be very hard to sustain the organization. Passionate volunteers got CERF+ started, but they were ultimately unable to maintain and grow the organization without paid staff. At CERF+, our volunteers, a dedicated board, a hardworking and skilled staff, and contributors large and small have together built an organization that is thriving after nearly three decades and has a promising future.

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Where can I find information on CERF+'s budget? What part goes to program services, fundraising, and administration? 

Timely information about CERF+’s budget can be found in our biennial report and in our Form 990s.

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WHAT PROGRAMS DOES CERF+ OFFER AND HOW ARE YOUR PROGRAM DOLLARS DIVIDED UP AMONG THESE PROGRAMS?

CERF+’s programs are focused in two areas – providing artists with the resources, information and networks they need to sustain their careers through any kind of setback, and providing a package of emergency relief assistance to professional craft artists when they suffer career-threatening crises.

The division of program dollars among our programs varies from year-to-year depending on the demand for emergency relief assistance and our ability to raise foundation, government, and other funding support for our preparedness/mitigation programs, and other related initiatives.

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DOES CERF+ HAVE AN ENDOWMENT? DOES IT HOLD BACK FUNDS SO YOU DON’T RUN SHORT?

We do not have an endowment, but at the suggestion of the Nonprofit Finance Fund, we maintain a fund reserve of a minimum of $200,000, so that we have funds at the ready should an unforeseen emergency occur.

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THE NATIONAL COALITION FOR ARTS PREPAREDNESS & EMERGENCY RESPONSE THAT CERF+ HELPED CREATE — WHAT IS IT DOING, AND WHO’S FUNDING IT?

CERF+ co-chairs the National Coalition for Arts Preparedness & Emergency Response with South Arts. Over the past five years, this cross-disciplinary task force of veteran “art responders” (national arts services organizations, the National Endowment for the Arts, regional, state, and local arts councils and community foundations) has built a three-pronged approach of educational empowerment, resource development and public-policy advocacy. The primary focus has been meeting the needs of individual artists, the most underserved group within the arts community — but the Coalition has also been tackling issues facing the organizations that support and serve artists during emergencies.

With generous support from funders such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation the Coalition has:

  • Created information and resources specific to the needs of artists and arts organizations in the areas of emergency planning, preparedness, response, and recovery;
  • Improved emergency communication and coordination within the arts sector;
  • Built relationships with general relief providers, including National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (the VOADs) and FEMA;
  • Raised awareness about the importance of emergency readiness and business-continuity planning among artists and key stakeholder groups at the state, regional and national levels;
  • Created tools to support arts organizations interested in serving their constituencies (artists and other arts organizations) in the wake of disasters.

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WHAT ORGANIZATIONS ARE INVOLVED WITH THIS COALITION?

As of yet, there is no formal membership required to participate in the National Coalition for Arts Preparedness & Emergency Response. The following organizations serve on  the Coalition’s Steering Committee:

The Actors' Fund of America
Americans for the Arts
Artist Trust
CERF+
Fractured Atlas
Grantmakers in the Arts
Joan Mitchell Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
New York Foundation for the Arts
San Diego Foundation
South Arts

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ALONG WITH HELPING BUILD A BETTER SAFETY NET FOR ARTISTS, ARE THERE OTHER BENEFITS TO CERF+ OR THE CRAFT FIELD IN WORKING WITH THIS COALITION?

We now have a better understanding of what other arts organizations do, and good contacts within those organizations. The beneficiaries of those relationships are the craft artists we serve. For instance, the Actors Fund — whose program, AHIRC.org, is an up-to-date, comprehensive, unbiased database of health care resources for artists, performers, freelancers and the self-employed — has helped some of our beneficiaries negotiate their medical bills, saving them a great deal of time and money.

One benefit we did not anticipate is the advantage to the craft field of having one of its organizations take a place at the national arts table. Until CERF+ began working on forming this coalition, craft had not been part of the ongoing national dialogue among arts organizations and arts funders. Now the craft field’s interests are being represented in national arts policy discussions.

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WHAT HAS CERF+ BEEN DOING TO HELP ARTISTS GET THE BUSINESS INSURANCE THEY NEED?

In 2010, CERF+ released "Insuring Creativity: A CERF Business Insurance Survey," reporting the results of our survey — to which almost 3,000 craft artists, belonging to six major craft media organizations, responded.

Before starting this research, we had been doing seminars and presentations on insurance at national art shows and conferences, and artists were telling us about the difficulties they’d had in getting appropriate coverage for their studios. When we began talking with people in the insurance industry about this issue, they asked questions about the craft-arts field that we could not answer — so we did the survey to help us and insurers understand practices in the craft field that relate to business insurance. Now we have data, and our report is available for organizations that want to put together plans for their members, and to agencies and underwriters who may be interested in this market (see above for mention of two new plans that were created in response to our research).

In 2012, we published The Business Insurance Guidebook for Artists. In 12 pages this pocket-sized booklet covers the basics of business insurance, including business property, liability, flood, earthquake, and other types of coverage.  It also covers steps to take to get business insurance coverage.

In addition to this valuable new resource for artists, CERF+ is available to organizations that need assistance in locating underwriters, or devising an insurance program for their members. We think the field needs a variety of products to meet the diverse needs of craft artists — and we’re finding that organizations like ours can play a key role in helping their members find appropriate insurance.

Both the Studio Protector and CERF+ websites have listings of insurance programs that we know about that are aimed at artists. We’ve also worked with several companies to help them create plans that are suited to our market. We talk to craft artists individually to answer questions about purchasing business insurance and to direct them toward helpful resources. Our websites have primers on business insurance, listings of resources, and articles on subjects like disaster insurance. We expect to be adding to those offerings in the future.

In 2012 CERF+ began a foundation-supported pilot project in which 20 prior recipients of CERF+ assistance will receive first and second year funds to help them purchase their first business insurance policy.

Our program director, furniture maker Craig Nutt, has a blog on the Studio Protector website on his efforts to make his own studio more disaster-ready, and he takes on topics like business insurance.

Note: If you have a question that wasn’t asked in this FAQs, please send it along to Cornelia Carey or call her at: 802/229-2306

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Photos (L-R): Teri Greeves (photo by Craft in American), Watershed, Lyn Hunter