Find Nonprofit and Small Business Grants

Advance Search

Only Available for Paid Subscribers
Clear Filters
Search Filters

Inspire! Grants for Small Museums

Grants to USA Small Museums to Implement Projects in
Lifelong Learning, Community, and Access to Collections

Agency Type:


Funding Source:

Add to My Calendar 

Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)

Deadline Date:

11/01/18 11:59 PM ET


Request a Grant Writer

Grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to USA and territories small museums to implement projects that further the organization's priorities and strategic plan. Programs may fall in the areas of community anchors and catalysts, lifelong learning, or collections stewardship and public access.

IMLS Inspire! Grants for Small Museums is a special initiative of the Museums for America Program. This special initiative is designed to inspire small museums to apply for and implement projects that address priorities identified in their strategic plan. IMLS invites applications that focus on providing rich learning experiences for individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and circumstances; supporting partnerships aimed at assessing and addressing the needs of their communities; strengthening the role of museums as trusted stewards of the collections in their care; and/or expanding access to collections and associated resources.

IMLS invites applicants to consider whether their organization is a good fit for this special initiative for small museums. Applicants should think about a range of attributes that describe their organization, including but not limited to:
- Size of the staff and volunteer corps;
- Operating budget and sources of revenue;
- Number and types of objects in the collection;
- Size of facility and property;
- Types and numbers of audiences served; and
- Size relative to other organizations of the same discipline or within the same geographic region.

Projects may be structured at any of several stages of maturity: exploratory, piloting, scaling, or mainstreaming. A proposed project’s activities may be brand new to the institution, or they may implement learnings, perspectives, or competencies acquired during a previous project. A project may be an effort to intensify the impact of an approach that has been tested and found to be effective, or it may be structured as an opportunity to expand a function or activity that has been deemed successful.

Indicators (characteristics) of successful projects in the Inspire! Grants for Small Museums special initiative are as follows:
- Institutional Impact: The project addresses a key goal identified in the institution’s strategic plan.
- In-depth Knowledge: The project design reflects a thorough understanding of current practice and knowledge about the subject matter.
- Project-based Design: The work plan consists of a set of logical, interrelated activities tied directly to addressing the key need or challenge identified in the application.
- Demonstrable Results: The project generates measurable results that tie directly to the need or challenge it was designed to address.

There are three project categories within this special initiative. 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. Applications are welcomed 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. Projects are encouraged 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. Applications are welcomed 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. Professional development opportunities are encouraged 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 its 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. Applications are welcomed 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. Museums are encouraged 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;
- 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#: 184387

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Number of Grants:

Anticipated number of awards: 25

Estimated Size of Grant:

Average amount of funding per award experienced in previous years: $5,000-$50,000

Term of Contract:

- Anticipated period of performance: July 1, 2019– June 30, 2021. Project activities may be carried out for up to two years.

- Anticipated start dates for new awards: Not earlier than July 1, 2019. Projects must begin on July 1, August 1, or September 1, 2019.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

To be eligible for an award under this 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.

If my museum is located within a parent organization, can my museum apply on its own?

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.

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 (see 2 C.F.R. §3187.15(b))
- 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 (see 2 C.F.R. § 200.87)
- Pre-award costs

More on eligibility:

Pre-proposal Conference:

View this presentation before participating in a program-specific webinar:
- FY19 Choosing a Funding Opportunity:

This webinar provides detailed tips on completing required forms for all grant programs.
- FY19 IMLS Forms:

-View a pre-application webinar to learn more about the Inspire! Grants for Small Museums:

Pre-Application Information:

Cost sharing is encouraged but not required for this initiative, and will not be considered in the evaluation.

It is strongly recommended that applicants obtain a D-U-N-S® number, register with and, and complete and submit the application early.

- Due Date: Submit by 11:59 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time on November 1, 2018.
- Anticipated Date of Notification of Award Decisions: June 2019 (subject to the availability of funds and IMLS discretion)
- Beginning Date of Period of Performance: Not earlier than July 1, 2019. Projects must begin on July 1, August 1, or September 1, 2019.

Link to funding announcement:

Contact Information:

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

Apply online:

For technical assistance with the application:

Please contact the staff member listed under the category that best fits your project:

Lifelong Learning
Reagan Moore, Museum Program Officer

Community Anchors and Catalysts
Jill Connors-Joyner, Museum Program Officer

Collections Stewardship and Public Access
Mark Feitl, Museum Program Officer

Institute of Museum and Library Services
955 L'Enfant Plaza North, SW, Suite 4000
Washington, D.C. 20024-2135

CFDA Number:


Funding or Pin Number:


URL for Full Text (RFP):

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)