Even though many museums charge an admission fee, many still rely on additional funding through donations and grants to cover operational costs. Museums also use grant money to cover the costs of special projects, such as community outreach and education programs. Educational grants cover everything from exhibits to school group visits and come from nonprofit organizations, government entities and private foundations.
Museums for America
Museums for America is a funding opportunity offered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Grants are available for projects in three main areas: learning experiences, community anchors and collections stewardship. Grants of $5,000 to $150,000 are good for up to three years. If an applicant requests a grant of more than $25,000, it must have matching funds in place from a non-government source. Museums in the United States with tax-exempt status are eligible. Separate grant programs are available for African American history and culture museums and Native American/Native Hawaiian museums. IMLS releases grant guidelines 60 to 90 days prior to the application deadline, which typically falls in December each year.
National Endowment for the Humanities
The National Endowment for the Humanities, which is funded by the federal government, offers implementation grants for museums, libraries and cultural organizations. According to the NEH, these grants go to museum projects such as special exhibitions, book or movie discussions programs, living history presentations and educational mobile apps that relate to the museum. The NEH specifically looks for projects that relate to the humanities disciplines of history, religion, anthropology and art history. Applicants must apply through grant.gov. Grant amounts are based on project needs, number of applicants each year and available funding. Applications are typically due in January each year, with the 2015 grant program application due on Jan. 14. The NEH awards grants in August.
Small Museum Association
The Small Museum Association grant program is open to current and past members of the Small Museum Association. Each year, the SMA offers four $2,500 grants to fund educational programs at a member institution. The application requires the name and contact information for the museum as well as type of museum, hours, annual budget, number of visitors per year and staff and volunteer numbers. The application should also include a description of the educational project for which funding is sought. Grant recipients must agree to provide progress reports to update the SMA on the funded project. Applications are due in January of each year. The SMA grant program awarded its second grant in 2014 and plans to award two additional grants yearly.
Regional and State Grants
Along with major national grant programs open to museums across the country, numerous state grants exist for museums in specific states or geographical areas. For example, the Oregon Heritage Commission provides $100,000 in grants every two years to heritage museums in Oregon. Museums can use the grant money for various projects, including heritage education and interpretations. Applications are available in January and due in April each year, with the 2015 application due on April 30.
- Institute of Museum and Library Services: Museums for America Grant
- Small Museum Association: Small Museum Grant
- National Endowment for the Humanities: Museums, Libraries and Cultural Organizations Implementation Grants
- Oregon Heritage Commission: Museum Grant Program
- Institute of Museum and Library Services: Guide to Funding Programs and Opportunities
- TOSHIAKI ONO/amanaimagesRF/amana images/Getty Images