Solving the Funding Puzzle: A Quick-Start Guide to Library Funding Resources
by Senovia Guevara
Whether you’re looking to introduce new technology, digitize a special collection, or launch a new training effort, getting funding is often the first key to success. Basic tasks include identifying how your current project aligns with a potential funder’s priorities and open funding opportunities. It’s also imperative to know funders’ guidelines and policies and what kinds of programs have been funded in the past. If you’re new to seeking out funding for a project, you may also need to brush up on your grant-writing skills.
|A number of agencies specialize in funding projects at libraries, museums, and archives.
Pam MacKellar, co-author of several library and grant-related resources, says, “My best advice to people who are seeking grant funding is to develop your project before looking for funding. Knowing what you want to accomplish allows you to locate funders with priorities that match your objectives.” Thorough planning, including determining how your project’s goals relate to a funder’s interests, is essential. But identifying the funders that could align with your project can be challenging. Before you put keystrokes to a search engine and let Google surprise you with pages and pages of results to weed through, review the lists below to zero in on resources that will inform you about the grant application process and how to find potential funders for the project you have in mind. While this review is meant for beginners, even seasoned grant writers may discover a new resource or two.
Here is a short list of good places to get started.
- The University of Wisconsin has a page, Finding Funding for Libraries and Library Workers, in which readers can find past and current funding opportunities (Memorial Library 2017).
- The OCLC Next blog has a post, “Getting a Million Dollar Digital Collection Grant in Six Easy Steps,” that promotes the idea of starting small in funding to build on successes later (Surface 2017). Beyond the tantalizing title, author Taylor Surface includes excellent tips on what to consider before completing an online grant application. In addition, he links to a state program that focuses on digitization projects while reminding readers to not forget local and state resources for funding opportunities (Surface 2017).
- As for print resources, The ALA Book of Library Grant Money (edited by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell) and the Annual Register of Grant Support: A Directory of Funding Sources (published by Information Today, Inc.) may be worth a look (Gerding and MacKellar 2017). Writing Successful Technology Grant Proposals: A LITA Guide, by Pam MacKellar, and Winning Grants: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians, co-authored by Stephanie K. Gerding and Pam MacKellar, may also be worth a review if you need to learn more about the grant process.
GRANT-FINDING TOOLS AND FUNDING RESOURCES
Use these sites to learn more about grants and other funding opportunities and identify potential funding agencies and their priorities.
This site provides users with an opportunity to access Foundation Center funding information locally. If you aren’t familiar, get acquainted. It offers several general resources that may prove helpful, including a database with U.S. foundation information. On the Find Us page, type in a ZIP code and a Google map becomes populated with local access spots for training and help with grant resources. A spreadsheet below the map delivers more information on each listing, providing location contact information and hours. Subject guides are often included as the main URL link in the message that pops up. These guides can provide valuable information to learn more about resources for local, regional, and national funding opportunities. Make sure to call and confirm access policies for the public before you plan your visit.
Once you’ve identified some funding candidates, this resource will help you learn more about a specific nonprofit organization, charity, or foundation. By simply completing a search, users can get a summary about the organization that includes its mission, programs, and strategic funding goals.
Both GrantSpace and GuideStar are provided by Candid, which also publishes Philanthropy News Digest ( philanthropynewsdigest.org). Sign up for free to find out about current requests for proposal and other funding opportunities.
Foundation Directory Online
In addition to general resources, the Foundation Center provides an opportunity to identify funding focused on libraries. Users can select from two options: exploring the data tool or exploring training. The data tool opens up a map that can show results several different ways. The subject list is limited to fewer than 20 options that can be chosen, but can be expanded into several sub-categories related to that term. Completing a search provides the user with general data about funding in that category with a total list of grants, funders, recipients, and the dollar value of grants. Clicking on the details link provides myriad datapoints: geographic locations, number of grants, grant descriptions, grantee names, etc.
A training tab is available as well on the page, which gives the user three options for training: webinars, in-person, and e-learning. Webinar attachments are available for download, while watching the webinar requires the user to log in to the WebJunction Course Catalog page. As of this writing, there is an option to enroll in a self-paced e-course focused on grant seeking for libraries by WebJunction.
Northeast Document Conservation Center
The Northeast Document Conservation Center’s main page has a Funding Opportunities link that allows you to find a variety of grants that include federal, state, regional, and foundation grants in the area of digitization and preservation. Many of the grant sources listed will overlap with resources listed elsewhere in this article, but will specify grant opportunities that may be of interest. Tips for fundraising and grant-writing are also available.
Library Grants Blog
The Library Grants Blog was identified on several resources reviewed for this article. Although the funding may not be focused solely on library technology and digitization projects, it’s a resource worth considering. If you want to stay up-to-date on funding options that cover a spectrum of library-related issues, bookmark this blog.
BEST BETS FOR LIBRARY GRANTS
A number of agencies specialize in funding projects at libraries, museums, and archives. Visit these sites to learn about specific grant opportunities to target.
CLIR: Digitizing Hidden Collections
The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) has a tab for Fellowship and Grants that provides information on two programs that may be of interest to those looking for funding to digitize: Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives and Recordings at Risk.
The IMLS page provides an abundance of information to those seeking information about funding for libraries. Clicking on the Grant Programs tab provides a long list of programs that offer funding, including Save America’s Treasures and National Leadership Grants for Museums. Reviewing the blog is a good way to get an idea of the projects that have been funded by IMLS in the past.
National Archives: National Historic and Public Records Commission
Reviewing the National Archives’ Grant Opportunities page provides information to several active grant opportunities. Check out the Eligibility link in the sidebar, which offers users information on what is funded and what is not, including restrictions. The Application Instructions link delivers important information to review before deciding to start on the application. All grant seekers must apply on Grants.gov (National Archives 2019). Interested in determining what prior applicants have successfully received grants for? Try the Grants Organized by State and Territory link, which contains information from 1976 on. Entries include grant recipient name and a few lines describing the project.
National Endowment for the Humanities
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is “one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.” In addition, its site notes that “NEH grants typically go to cultural institutions, such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television, radio stations and individual scholars.” Under the Grants tab, users can search for grant programs and past awards, review featured grant programs, and see examples of projects that have been funded by the NEH.
Grant Types and Terms
If you are new to this, you will quickly learn there are many different types of funding models. Here are three you should know:
- Program grants may be the most familiar. Funds are made available to support a particular project for a set period of time.
- Planning grants help you “in developing an action plan that includes estimated costs and a timeline—the grant can be for your organization or a project” (Staines 2016).
- Matching grants are “a grant or gift with the specification that the amount donated must be matched on a one-for-one basis or according to some other prescribed formula” (Council on Foundations 2018).
Don’t understand what is meant by a demonstration grant? Need to know what a public support test is? Look to the Council on Foundations’ Glossary of Philanthropic Terms to get a better understanding of the terms associated with grants and grant-making (cof.org/content/glossary-philanthropic-terms).
Unexpected Sites to Check for Grant Opportunities
Your State’s Website
You may find sources of funding from local foundations or state grant programs you may have never thought about. As an example, typing “library grants” in the State of Michigan page brought up a listing of smaller grants and funders that may not normally make it on someone’s list to review.
College and university grant-writing libguides may prove to be a treasure trove of information that you might not have considered because of the intended audience—college students and researchers. These guides can offer information that may be very relevant to your interests and your project, with many of them likely to be free. What kinds of information might you find on your local university grant writing/funding guide? Suggestions for grant-writing books and ebooks—as well as links to webinars, seminars, online training courses, and self-paced learning modules—are just some examples.
There’s an App for That
The Grants.gov site offers many resources for learning about how to find, apply for, and keep up-to-date on funding opportunities. It is available on desktop and mobile (Apple App Store and Google Play downloads available). Using the Search Grants tab provides a window that offers many options to search for open grants. Want to search through closed and archived grants to get a better understanding of what funders may be open to the project you’re interested in? There’s an opportunity to do that as well on the screen. Clicking on a link that comes up in the search brings the user to a synopsis of the grant information, as well as offers an option to apply for the grant and to subscribe to customized email notifications.
The Learn Grants tab links to the Grants Learning Center page, which provides links to many information topics, including Grant Systems, Grant Programs, Grants 101, Grant Terms, and Grant Eligibility. The Applicant tab offers eight different options for users, including checking eligibility, registering on the site, and applicant training. Grants.gov’s Community Blog (blog.grants.gov) provides information on what a Funding Opportunity Announcement is. Knowing about this term is key to keeping up-to-date on current government grant opportunities. The blog also covers grant-writing basics, eligibility, the definition of a grant, and applicant information.
Surface, Taylor. “Getting a Million Dollar Digital Collection Grant in Six Easy Steps.” OCLC Next, OCLC, 22 June 2017, oclc.org/blog/main/getting-a-million-dollar-digital-collection-grant-in-six-easy-steps.
Memorial Library. “Funding for Libraries and Library Workers.” University of Wisconsin–Madison Libraries, 13 Sept. 2017, library.wisc.edu/memorial/collections/grants-information-collection/resources/funding-for-libraries-and-library-workers.
Gerding, Stephanie K. and Pamela H. MacKellar. Winning Grants: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians, Second Edition, ALA Neal-Schuman, 2017.
Staines, Gail M. Go Get That Grant!: A Practical Guide for Libraries and Nonprofit Organizations, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.
Council on Foundations. Glossary of Philanthropic Terms. Council on Foundations, 11 Oct. 2018, cof.org/content/glossary-philanthropic-terms.
National Archives. NHPRC Application Instructions. National Archives and Records Administration, 2019, archives.gov/nhprc/apply.
National Endowment for the Humanities. About the National Endowment for the Humanities (neh.gov/about) and Grants (neh.gov/grants).
Senovia Guevara has an M.P.A. and several years’ experience in academic and corporate libraries.