How to Determine Museum Grant Eligibility: A Check List

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

August 12, 2020

When applying to grants there are two things we need to determine right away before any of the work begins: the museum’s eligibility and suitability to the grant opportunity. 

Just because there are museum grants out there doesn’t mean that your museum or your project are appropriate for every one. Each granting agency and the funding opportunities they provide all come with eligibility requirements. These requirements are in place to ensure all grants are awarded to museum projects that support the granting agency’s mission. Additionally, even if eligibility markers are met, the project will need to meet further suitability indicators. So, in order for your museum project to be competitive for a grant opportunity you must first determine: 1. The museum is eligible for the grant; and 2. The museum project you have in mind is suitable for the grant opportunity.

This is the first of two posts; here I will explain the difference between eligibility and suitability, and provide an eligibility checklist.

Eligibility vs Suitability: What’s the Difference?

Museum grant eligibility is a set of criteria that determines whether or not you are allowed (by the granting agency) to apply for that grant opportunity. Eligibility markers for grants typically indicate what type of organization is allowed to apply (501(c)(3), municipal, private, corporate), what type of project is allowed (digitization, programming, capital, etc.), and any additional eligibility markers the granting agency wishes to use as a filter to ensure the applications they receive meet their funding criteria. 

Eligibility Checklist with Explanation

What markers should we look for to determine if our museum and project are eligible for the grant opportunity? Here’s a checklist to lead you through the museum grant eligibility points of consideration (below). I’ve provided an explanation and examples for each checklist point of consideration.

  1. Is your organization type allowed to apply? Most grants will allow nonprofits to apply, some allow applications municipal organizations, and a smaller number will allow private or corporate organizations to apply.
  2. Is your project type eligible? Grant opportunities will specify the project types they wish to fund. Examples of project types are: digitization, capital, web resources or publications, programming, research and development, etcetera. Determine what type of project you’re proposing and check to make sure it’s an eligibility match with the grant opportunity criteria.
  3. Does your museum’s mission and project match the granting agency’s mission? While you may be an eligible organization type, and your project may be an eligible project type, it’s still critical to double-check that your museum’s mission and the work your project will do also helps to support the granting agency’s mission. If it doesn’t, then your project is not eligible to apply.
  4. Check any additional eligibility requirements that may be in place. For example, some grants choose to honor upcoming anniversaries and support projects with collections related to the anniversary. Other grants may wish to help support hidden or under-represented collections, and will fund projects that meet that collection criteria.

The Concise Eligibility Checklist

Now that you understand each checklist option, here’s the quick-glance, yes/no version to use during your grant opportunity review (below). Remember, if you answer “No” to any of these points of eligibility then your museum project is not a fit for the grant opportunity and you shouldn’t apply.

  1. Is your organization type allowed to apply? 
  2. Is your project type eligible? 
  3. Does your museum’s mission and project match the granting agency’s mission? 
  4. Are there any additional eligibility requirements that my museum or project need to meet?

Come back next week for part two and the suitability checklist.

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

Consultant, author, and blogger Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, collections management, grant writing and the future of museums for a wide variety of clients. Read Rachael’s book for Lucidea Press, A Survivor’s Guide to Museum Grant Writing. And check out Lucidea’s market leading CMS, Argus, that empowers museum professionals to make their collections more visible, accessible and engaging than ever before.   


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