By Office of Museum Services Staff
The Office of Museum Services recently published grant guidelines for the FY2017 National Leadership Grants for Museums. This is part of a series of blogs highlighting the new grant guidelines and offering tips for applicants.
Recently IMLS posted its 2017 guidelines, or Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), for the National Leadership Grants for Museums program (NLG-M).
NLG-M is the vehicle by which IMLS meets fieldwide needs. We invest in leaders –institutions and partnerships– that understand the challenges and opportunities facing the field and devise plans to move the field forward.
We expect proposals to demonstrate deep familiarity with previous work on the project topic. We want to see that the expertise needed to achieve results is represented in the proposal, so multi-institutional efforts, collaborations, and expert advisors are important. We are also looking for tangible results such as tools, resources, and research findings that will be useful to a broad segment of the museum field.
An important change to note about the FY 2017 program is that we increased the funding cap for both research and non-research projects from $500,000 to $1,000,000. We are still eager, however, to consider projects at a variety of funding levels.
Rapid Prototyping Opportunity within NLG
NLG-M now includes a funding level that will support one-year, rapid prototyping projects budgeted between $5,000 and $50,000, with no cost share required. This opportunity replaces the Sparks! Ignition Grants for Museums.
If you have an idea for an innovative solution to a fieldwide challenge that requires some funding to rapidly develop, test, iterate, and retest, this funding level is for you. Remember, whether you succeed, fail, or come out somewhere in between, we want you to report your results to the field; tell others what worked, what is promising, what needs more tweaking, and what they should not try at home.
National Leadership vs. Museums for America
Sometimes people have difficulty determining whether a project fits best within the National Leadership for Museums or the Museums for America grant program. If your project is focused on the needs of your museum and your community, then Museums for America is a better grant program for you. If, on the other hand, you have been working in a certain area for years and have created an innovative program at your museum or in your community that is having spectacular results, it could be time to consider scaling it up for adoption by others in the field. This is where NLG-M can be useful.
We also recognize that efforts to advance the field are made by many types of institutions. So, while Museum for America is limited to institutions that meet IMLS’s museum eligibility, NLG-M also accepts proposals from institutions of higher education and organizations or associations that engage in activities designed to advance the well-being of museums and the museum profession. See the NLG-M eligibility requirements in the NOFOs.
We will continue to accept applications in three project categories – Learning Experiences, Community Anchors, and Collections Stewardship. We’ve expanded both the descriptions of the three project categories and examples of projects we will support under each. Read through the NLG-M NOFO and let the project examples guide your thinking. Do you have new ways for museums to use digital media for learning or to create learning ecosystems among community based organizations? Are there innovative ways to serve communities going through rapid demographic shifts? Have you been experimenting with cutting edge collections care methods or with new strategies to facilitate digital access to collections?
We encourage you to read the full FY17 NLG-M NOFO for details. Visit the NLG-M webpage for information about the NLG-M webinar (Monday, October 17, 2016, at 2:00 p.m. EDT) and for a list of staff contacts.