On September 21, 2015, the Texas Historical Commission and the Bullock State History Museum are hosting the second annual Story of Texas Workshop. This year’s theme is Connecting Educators and Audiences. The workshop sessions will focus on improving the ways that volunteer and professional educators engage with students and teachers.
To promote this workshop, we are conducting a series of interviews. These interviews explore workshop topics and explain how those topics will help improve your programming. This week, our interview is with Humanities Texas, one of several statewide partners participating in the Story of Texas Workshop.
As the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Humanities Texas (HTx) supports projects and programs around the state that focus on history, literature, philosophy, and other humanities disciplines. One way that HTx supports qualified projects and programs is through awarding grants. HTx Director of Grants and Education Eric Lupfer explained to Madeline Clites (CHC Outreach) the details of the grants program and what HTx staff look for in grant applications.
Clites: What types of grants does HTx award?
Lupfer: The three major grants we award are mini-grants, major grants for community projects, and major grants for media projects. The main thing to remember when applying for any of these grants is that an applicant’s program or project must draw upon humanities scholarship and serve a public audience.
- Mini-grants can be as large as $1,500 and the deadline is rolling, so we accept applications throughout the year. Through the mini-grants program, we fund exhibitions, public lectures, teacher workshops, and many other types of public humanities programs.
- Major grants for community projects fund comprehensive public programs such as lectures, teacher workshops, and conferences. Applications are accepted twice a year (September 15 and March 15). The average award amount is $5,000.
- Major grants for media projects fund film, radio, and other interactive programming related to the humanities. Applications are accepted twice a year (September 15 and March 15). The average award amount is $5,000.
Clites: Where should an organization start if it’s interested in applying for a HTx grant?
Lupfer: The first step is to call our office. HTx works with many organizations that have never written grant applications before, and part of our mission is to help organizations that don’t have a professional grant writing staff. We can help applicants prepare competitive applications and offer ways to strengthen their projects. For example, if the Tom Green County Historical Commission is planning a lecture series on Texas in the Twentieth Century, we can share information and grant applications from similar programs that HTx has funded in the past. We've been making grants for more than four decades, so we are often helpful in identifying scholars on certain subjects.
Clites: What are the common mistakes made by applicants on grant applications?
Lupfer: Applicants should follow the directions and provide sufficient information about the projects they are proposing; mistakes happen when applicants neglect to provide required information. Applicants can avoid making easy mistakes by working with our staff. We are happy to read rough drafts of applications as long as they are submitted with enough time for review. Rough drafts for major grant applications need to be received a month before the deadline.
Clites: The grants administered by HTx are matching grants. Do you have any recommendations on securing outside funds to match a grant?
Lupfer: Our grants are matching grants and cover no more than 50 percent of the total project cost. However, it's important to emphasize that our grants can be matched with in-kind donations and/or cash. The donation of a facility or materials, volunteer time, and a percentage of a staff member’s salary all qualify as in-kind resources. That means that in order for an organization to secure the match for a $1,500 grant, it has to demonstrate that it is committing at least $1,500 in resources to that same project. The match can be cash, of course, but often the HTx grant is the only cash coming into the project. This is especially true for mini-grants.
Clites: HTx’s Grant Guidelines (PDF) state, “To ensure that a project is pertinent to its target audience, representatives from that audience should play a role in the project’s conception and design.” Why is this important? Will you give some examples of how organizations have engaged the public during the planning phase of a project?
Lupfer: It’s important for any organization to think about who they are trying to reach. They should figure out who their audiences are, and what kinds of programs those audiences want. For example, we are going to award a grant this afternoon to a public library for a genealogy workshop. The library developed this workshop in response to the number of constituents who expressed interest in learning how to conduct genealogical research. HTx wants to make sure the program is not just a passion of the organization’s director or select members. We are interested in supporting programs that ultimately make the humanities available to members of the general public.
We ask that applicants for major grants set up an advisory committee that includes, among others, a few people who represent the project's target audience. For example, if a project is aimed at the senior citizens of a community, the organization seeking funding might have the director or resident from an assisted living facility serve on the advisory committee. The application needs to demonstrate that the program is responding to public need and interest.
Clites: Has HTx ever awarded a grant to a County Historical Commission (CHC) or a history-related organization? If so, will you give some examples of the type of projects that were funded?
Lupfer: We can make grants to any kind of nonprofit organization. We can also make grants to any local, state, or national governmental entity, and federally-recognized Native American tribes.
A quick search in our database revealed that we have awarded more than 80 grants over the past 40 years to County Historical Commissions and their related foundations for a diverse range of projects. For example, we recently awarded a grant to the Friends of the Historic Motley County Jail for a documentary film. Other funded programs include public lectures, exhibitions, oral history workshops, and teacher workshops.
HTx makes small grants to organizations around the state that are working at the grassroots level; therefore we consider CHCs and other local history-related organizations as some of our primary partners in promoting the humanities in Texas.
Clites: Finally, are there other HTx programs that CHCs or other history-related organizations ought to know about?
Lupfer: Yes, many museums, libraries, schools, and historical societies across the state use our traveling exhibitions program to provide the communities they serve with engaging humanities programs. A complete list of our exhibition titles is available on our website.
Thank you to Eric Lupfer and Humanities Texas for this important information! Registration for the Story of Texas Workshop is now open. Sign up today and join us on September 21, 2015 to learn more about how your organization can fund outreach programs.