Applying for federal funding is hard even in the best of circumstances. During the last two years, when federal relief funding was allocated for museums via federal granting agencies, there was a Hunger Games-level of frenzy.
It was already an incredibly stressful time and it was made worse for museum staff because there just wasn’t enough funding available to support the existing museum ecosystem. There’s a profound dissonance here as the museums most in need of relief funding don’t have the time, mental capacity, or experience to apply via the federal granting system. It’s difficult to justify the effort, especially when there’s not enough to go around. This is a fatal flaw, and it has the potential to destabilize the museum field. It would behoove all of us to advocate for more funding and more equitable access to these funds. That way the museums who need relief funding the most can access what they need to survive.
However, change is slow. While we wait for the entire federal funding process to be redesigned, I provide seven actions for all of us to take so that we’re ready to apply for federal funding in 2022.
7 Actions to Take for Museum Funding Readiness
There are a seven actions museum staff can take now to help improve future access to funding:
- Gather all the necessary supporting documents that will be needed for any funding application including: incorporation documents, IRS determination letter (nonprofits), strategic plan, profit and loss statement for the last completed fiscal year, and a list of board members.
- Create an account in your federal funding grant portal. For US museums that’s Grants.gov. It’s of course not as simple as creating an account. There are a series of verification steps to go through and can take 6-weeks or longer. You will need a verified account before you can apply for any federal funding.
- Crunch the numbers ahead of time on what amounts are needed for operational costs, documentation of museum losses, and what amount of funding is needed to move forward.
- Diversify your efforts and use Lucidea’s free grants directory to identify other grant opportunities. The directory is a database that captures need-to-know grant information and offers faceted searching. You can also download a free e-copy of the grants workbook to familiarize yourself with grant strategy and use the four grant project templates provided.
- Educate yourself with the latest funding relief efforts, advocacy opportunities, and resources available. Sign up for auto-alerts, newsletters, etc. in order to passively collect the information you need.
- Connect with all of your local representatives and provide regular updates on how the museum is faring, how it’s been impacted, and what it needs.
- Encourage your national representatives to support museums and increase the amount of funding available. Not sure where to start? Check out Museum Advocacy: How to Write a Letter to Congressional Representatives for tips on what to include in your letter and for information on where to send it to your representatives.
For all of us who still can’t control much of what’s happening in our little part of the world, there are a number of actions we can take to advocate for what we need. Take advantage of any quiet periods available to you to chip away at the list and accumulate the resources you need. The more you prepare now, the better place you’ll be in to react to funding calls.
Rachael Cristine Woody
Expert Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, collections management, and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. In addition to several titles published by Lucidea Press, Ms. Woody is a regular contributor to the Think Clearly blog and a popular presenter. She also partnered with Lucidea to develop a free grants directory and database; use it along with a free grants workbook to familiarize yourself with grant strategy and use the four grant project templates provided.
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