Funding Sources for Historical Repositories
What types of funds are available?
A historical repository may rely upon a number of sources for operating funds. Public taxes, grants, membership fees, donations, sales, rentals and fund-raising events may contribute to the operating budget. The historical repository’s leadership is responsible for determining funding priorities (in accordance with the repository’s mission and strategic plan) and deciding where and how to obtain the money to support these priorities. In fundraising, the governing board and key staff members play important roles. Staff members provide information about the organization and its needs. The governing board identifies sources and methods of obtaining support.
There are four main categories of funding sources for grants or donations:
Private sector funds (donations and/or grants) from individuals, corporations, and foundations. Look for a person or organization that matches your repository’s needs and interests. A good place to start locating private funders is The Foundation Center. http://foundationcenter.org/. Examples of Oregon foundations that may provide support include the Collins Foundation and the Meyer Memorial Trust.
Federal and State funds are public sector funds or grants from government agencies such as local legislative bodies, and state and federal granting agencies. Federal funders include the National Endowment for the Humanities Division of Preservation and Access, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. State funding sources and other programs that may assist historical repositories in Oregon include the Oregon Cultural Trust, and the Oregon Heritage Commission.
Local fund/membership drives may provide resources for general operating expenses. For large capital campaigns or specific projects, repositories may wish to investigate professional fund raising firms and grant funds. Note that grants are not usually a source for general operating funds; granting agencies prefer to support repositories that can already demonstrate ongoing stable sources of income.
Historical repositories are encouraged to investigate funding sources in their local areas. The successful fundraising effort combines a variety of activities targeted at specific sources for identified needs. For example: A public program might be supported by city or county government through its funding for the arts, a corporate sponsor, or another organization such as the Oregon Heritage Commission. Building renovations might qualify for support from a historic preservation group. Processing or care of historical materials may qualify for grants from state or federal agencies, or in some cases the materials’ donor may provide funds to help defray processing expenses.
Why is grant funding important?Grant funding can provide support for special projects, allowing a repository to accomplish goals that would otherwise be out of reach. In some cases, grant funding may be available to start a repository or establish a program in a particular subject area. Grant proposals in which multiple repositories collaborate on a project can save on costs, build local relationships, and may have more long-term impact than individual projects. For this reason, funders often look favorably on them. Successful grant projects provide evidence that the repository is capable of administering special projects and sustaining them over time. This can help in planning and carrying out additional larger grant projects in future.
How do we get a grant?
Activities that may be eligible for grant funding include: consulting services for planning or collection evaluation; processing (arrangement and description) of collections; purchase of appropriate storage materials; outreach and public programs; and/or staff education and training. A grant proposal/application is generally comprised of a description of the project’s objectives, a plan of work, a proposed budget, mechanisms for evaluating the success of the project, and plans for sustaining the work of the project once the grant period is over.
List of funding sources that may be available to Oregon Repositories
Tips for writing a successful grant include:
Have one person write the grant for a unified voice (although input on the content should be sought from all appropriate staff/board members).
Be sure to carefully read and follow the funder's guidelines.
Be sure that all ideas/activities in the grant flow logically from one particular need. A focused grant is much more likely to be funded than a grant that proposes a variety of loosely-related activities.
Have others edit and read the proposal once it is written. Some funders are willing to read draft grant proposals and provide feedback.
Be sure that your language is clear and concise.
More information is available from the NHPRC on grant funding.