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Museums for America Grant Program

Grants to USA Nonprofit, State, and Local
Museums for Capacity Building Activities

Agency Type:


Funding Source:

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Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)

Conf. Date:


Deadline Date:

12/14/18 11:59 PM ET


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Grants starting from $5,000 to USA and territories nonprofit or municipality-affiliated museums for projects that increase their capacity to serve the public. Funding is intended for ongoing or new museum activities within three funding categories that promote museums as a center of learning, as strong community anchors, and as stewards of collections.

There are three project categories within the MFA program. Your project must align with one of them:

Lifelong Learning:

IMLS supports the unique ability of museums to encourage exploration, analysis, and questioning for people of all ages and backgrounds and to foster discovery, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and problem solving. IMLS welcomes applications for projects that position museums as unique teaching and inquiry-focused institutions within today’s formal and informal learning ecosystem. Successful projects will provide high-quality, inclusive educational opportunities that address particular audience needs. IMLS encourages projects that support cross-disciplinary and inquiry-based methodologies and utilize current research in cognitive and behavioral science as well as best practices developed in museums and other informal learning environments.

Projects may include, but are not limited to, the following activities:
- Enhanced museum resources that foster early, digital, information, health, financial, media, civic, and other types of literacies;
- Interpretive and educational programs, product development, and delivery;
- Exhibition development, design, and fabrication (non-construction);
- Digital learning resource development, design, and delivery;
- Programs designed for audiences of specific backgrounds, geography, or circumstances (for example, rural communities or persons with disabilities);
- Professional development/training for formal and informal educators;
- Learning partnerships with schools and development of museum resources and programs in support of K-12 school curricula;
- Learning partnerships with schools and other entities and development of museum resources and programs in support of career preparedness and workforce re-entry for all ages;
- Programs and partnership development for out-of-school audiences; and
- Program evaluation, visitor studies, and market analysis to guide the development, the redesign and/or effective delivery of learning experiences.

Community Anchors and Catalysts:

IMLS promotes the role of museums as essential partners in addressing the needs of their communities by leveraging their expertise, knowledge, physical space, technology, and other resources. IMLS encourages applications for projects that empower museums to transform their roles in their communities from being community resources to being community anchors or catalysts. IMLS welcomes applications that strengthen a museum’s capacity for improving social well-being such as through civic engagement and contributing to the creation of livable, sustainable communities. Successful projects will develop and implement new approaches to community collaboration to tackle local challenges. IMLS encourages professional development opportunities for museum staff to understand and apply current practices in community collaboration and asset-based community development.

Projects may include, but are not limited to, the following activities:
- Creating trusted spaces for community learning, debate, and dialogue;
- Building new partnerships to strengthen community connections through exhibitions, programs, and events;
- Conducting community-focused planning activities;
- Implementing audience-focused studies and evaluation;
- Applying cross-sector partnership development models and programs to define shared visions for community improvement; and
- Working with the community to create measures and gather information to understand project progress and impacts.

Collections Stewardship and Public Access:

IMLS supports the role of museums of all types and sizes as trusted stewards of museum collections as the natural, cultural, artistic, historical, and scientific foundations of our shared heritage and knowledge. Through the careful and responsible management of collections and their associated documentation, museums facilitate access to information, ideas, and connections for people of all ages, backgrounds, and interests. IMLS welcomes applications for projects designed to maximize the long-term preservation of collections as well as those that seek to strengthen a museum’s ability to manage and shape its collections through curatorial proficiency, the development of well-grounded policies, and project-based technical training for museum staff, volunteers, and interns. IMLS encourages museums to contribute to shared,
sustainable systems and networks to make their collections and associated resources more accessible, to facilitate discovery of collections and related information, and to deepen engagement with those collections.

Projects may include, but are not limited to, the following activities:
- Planning for the management, care, and conservation of collections;
- Cataloging, inventorying, documenting, and registration of collections;
- Implementing and enhancing Collections Management Systems in a sustainable manner;
- Planning and initiating digitization activities, including creating digital tools, training, and platforms that allow expanded public access to and use of the museum’s collection and related information;
- Developing partnerships that address barriers to accessing museum collections and related information;
- Conducting conservation surveys and assessments (click here to learn more about conservation surveys);
- Executing conservation treatments;
- Rehousing collections; and
- Planning and implementing environmental improvements (non-construction) for museum collections storage and exhibit areas.

The following list includes some examples of generally allowable costs, both for IMLS funds and for cost share (if applicable), under this announcement:
- Personnel salaries, wages, and fringe benefits
- Travel expenses for key project staff and consultants
- Materials, supplies, software, and equipment related directly to project activities
- Equipment to improve collections storage and exhibit environments
- Third-party costs
- Publication design and printing
- Staff and volunteer training
- Internships/fellowships
- Indirect or overhead costs

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 148060

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Number of Grants:


Estimated Size of Grant:

Grant Amount: $5,000–$250,000

Average amount of funding per award experienced in previous years: $170,000

Term of Contract:

Beginning Date of Period of Performance: Not earlier than October 1, 2019. Projects must begin on October 1, November 1, or December 1, 2019.

Anticipated period of performance: October 1, 2019–September 30, 2022. Project activities may be carried out for one to three years.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

To be eligible for an award under this MFA Notice of Funding Opportunity, you must be an organization that meets all three of the following criteria:

1. You must be either a unit of State or local government or be a private, nonprofit organization that has tax-exempt status under the Internal Revenue Code;

2. You must be located in one of the 50 States of the United States of America, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau; and

3. You must qualify as one of the following:
(a) A museum that, using a professional staff, is organized on a permanent basis for essentially educational or aesthetic purposes; owns or uses tangible objects, either animate or inanimate; cares for these objects; and exhibits these objects to the general public on a regular basis through facilities that it owns or operates.
1) What types of institutions are included in the term “museum”? If they otherwise meet these requirements, “museums” include, but are not limited to, aquariums, arboretums, art museums, botanical gardens, children’s/youth museums, general museums (those having two or more significant disciplines), historic houses/sites, history museums, natural history/anthropology museums, nature centers, planetariums, science/technology centers, specialized museums (limited to a single distinct subject), and zoological parks.
2) What does it mean to be “using a professional staff”? An institution uses a professional staff if it employs at least one staff member, or the full-time equivalent, whether paid or unpaid, primarily engaged in the acquisition, care, or exhibition to the public of objects owned or used by the institution.
3) What does it mean to “exhibit the objects to the general public”? An institution exhibits objects to the general public if such exhibition is a primary purpose of the institution. An institution that exhibits objects to the general public for at least 120 days a year is deemed to exhibit objects to the general public on a regular basis.
An institution which does not have the exhibition of objects as a primary purpose and/or does not exhibit objects to the public for at least 120 days a year may be determined to be eligible as a museum under certain circumstances.
(b) A public or private nonprofit agency that is responsible for the operation of a museum that meets the eligibility criteria in 1, 2, and 3(a), applying on behalf of the museum.

A museum located within a parent organization that is a State or local government or multipurpose nonprofit entity, such as a municipality, university, historical society, foundation, or cultural center, may apply on its own behalf if the museum:
- Is able to independently fulfill all the eligibility requirements listed in the above three criteria;
- Functions as a discrete unit within the parent organization;
- Has its own fully segregated and itemized operating budget; and
- Has the authority to make the application on its own.
When any of the last three conditions cannot be met, a museum may only apply through its parent organization.

IMLS may determine that a nonprofit organization that is affiliated with a museum is eligible for this program where the organization can demonstrate that it has the ability to administer the project and can ensure compliance with the terms of this Notice of Funding Opportunity and the applicable law, including the IMLS Assurances and Certifications. The applicant organization must submit an agreement from the museum that details the activities that the applicant and
museum will perform and binds the museum to the statements and assurances made in the grant application.

Native American tribal organizations may apply if they otherwise meet the above eligibility requirements.

The following list includes some examples of unallowable costs, both for IMLS funds and for cost share (if applicable), under this announcement:
- General fundraising costs, such as development office staff or other staff time devoted to general fundraising
- Contributions to endowments
- General operating support
- Acquisition of collections
- General advertising or public relations costs designed solely for promotional activities other than those related to the specific project
- Construction or renovation of facilities (generally, any activity involving the construction trades is not an allowable cost)
- Social activities, ceremonies, receptions, or entertainment
- Research projects
- Pre-award costs

Pre-proposal Conference:

Applicants are invited to participate in a pre-application webinar to learn more about the Museums for America grant program, ask questions, and listen to the questions and comments of other participants. Staff are also available by phone and through e-mail to discuss general issues relating to the Museums for America grant program.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018
3:00-4:00 PM Eastern

Participant call-in number: 866-299-7945
Participant PIN: 5680404#

Webinar Link:

Schedule of webinars and instructions for accessing them from your computer:

Additionally, applicants are invited to view two pre-recorded webinars

Pre-Application Information:

Deadline: December 14, 2018 by 11:59 PM U.S. Eastern Time

Anticipated Date of Notification of Award Decisions: September 2019

There is no limit to the number of applications your museum may submit to this announcement.

If you have questions about whether specific activities are allowable, call IMLS staff for guidance.

For the Museums for America program, at least 1:1 cost share from non-federal sources is required.

Before submitting an application, your organization must have a current and active D-U-N-S® number (a unique entity identifier), System for Award Management ( registration, and registration. Check your materials and registrations well in advance of the application deadline to ensure that they are accurate, current, and active.

You must register with prior to submitting your application package. The multi-step registration process generally cannot be completed in a single day. If you are not already registered, you should allow several weeks before the grant program deadline to complete this one-time process. Do not wait until the day of the application deadline to register.

You will need your user ID and password that you obtain during the registration process to submit your application when it is complete.

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Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Lifelong Learning contacts:

Sandra Narva, Senior Program Officer

Reagan Moore, Museum Program Officer

Community Anchors and Catalysts contacts:

Steve Shwartzman, Senior Program Officer

Ashley Jones, Museum Program Specialist

Collections Stewardship and Public Access contacts:

Connie Bodner, Supervisory Grants Management Specialist

Kelsey Monahan, Museum Program Specialist
202-653-4753 help line for assistance with hardware and software issues, registration issues, and technical problems. The help line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except for federal holidays, on which it is closed:


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Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming

USA Territories: American Samoa (USA)   Guam (USA)   Puerto Rico (USA)   Virgin Islands (USA)   Northern Mariana Islands (USA)

USA Compact Free Associations: The Federated States of Micronesia (USA)   Marshall Islands (USA)   Republic of Palau (USA)