A great workshop and thoughts on finding funding in tough economic times.

Last week I had the opportunity to listen and participate in a lively day-long pre-conference workshop in Charlotte. The conference was the annual meeting of the Association of African American Museums and the workshop host was the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.  The workshop was organized by the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission as part of the Gathering Place Project funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The workshop focused on a pressing need faced by every institution, large or small, MONEY!  Called Gathering, Growing, and Gleaning Vital Resources for our African American Museum Spaces, we were forced to think about sustainable practices in saving our institutions from financial decay even as we are more often focused on the preservation of the “stuff” in our institutions.  To figure out where your institution is going financially, it helps to know from whence you came and the path that brought you to these questions.  Institutions should undertake a self assessment to study where its expenses lay, where it garners income, and where the weaknesses in those two pillars exist.

Further, as institutions consistently face smaller and smaller budgets during this economic downturn, it is amazing to see creativity in action to accomplish big goals with small funds.  We were treated to several presentations from archivists and museum professionals who demonstrated that non-traditional, low cost, approaches to sharing history through exhibition and programming can be very effective in bringing new visitors and sometimes generating additional, unexpected, revenue.  Insightful evidence of such programs was provided by Holly Smith of the Southern Historical Collection, Belinda Tate of the Diggs Gallery, and Bamidele Demerson of the International Civil Rights Museum.  Holly shared how she overcame challenges in mounting exhibits and programming in academic settings, and Belinda taught us to reach into the community for interactive exhibits.  Most interesting for me in Belinda’s presentation was her discussion of the Happy Hill Community exhibit – which became a tool to collect community history, art, and support for Diggs’ programming from a local neighborhood.  Bamidele shared with the group his challenges in creating meaningful exhibits in an historic space.

My section of the day featured discussions of finding funding from a variety of granting organizations.  I provided the introductory presentation for our panel as a way to demonstrate the variety of funders that can be found in the public and private sectors.

Click here Finding Funding to view my introductory powerpoint and hints on finding funders!

The basics of considering a grant application:

  • Identify a Need  – Know thyself
    • What is the problem?
    • How does my plan address the problem?
    • Can I do what I want to do with the resources I have? What do I need to have in place to apply?
  • Identify Funding Sources
    • Who should I approach for funding?
    • How do I obtain information about potential funders?
  • Develop Proposal
    • What are the goals and objectives of the program?
    • How will the program be carried out?
    • How will I budget the program?
    • What type of proposal format should be used? (e.g., forms or letters)
    • Contact program officers at potential funders – ask questions, follow protocol
  • Submit Proposal
    • Am I following the funder’s application procedures and deadlines?
    • Am I sending the proposal to the appropriate contact?
    • Am I sending all required materials in the appropriate format?
  • Follow-up
    • Was the proposal accepted?
    • If not, why?
    • Should I submit a revised proposal?
    • If awarded funds, follow grantor’s rules regarding publicity, reporting, and governance.

As a grant writer and reviewer, I always have an eye to the stability of the organization and its ability to achieve the goals of a grant project.  If an organization cannot keep its house in order, it most likely cannot meet the needs or goals of a grant project. So, bottom line, when considering writing a grant proposal, be sure that you can DO the things you propose to do in the grant project! Don’t over-assume your abilities – being realistic will benefit you in the long run!

LeRae Umfleet

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About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on August 14, 2013, in Grants and Funding, museum governance and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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