This year, we at the IMLS Office of Museum Services took a fresh look at our grant guidelines and categories with an eye toward making the grant application process easier and more accessible for museums of all kinds and sizes. On May 9, we posted the FY2013 draft guidelines on our website and, to date, we have received more than 100 comments. We conducted informational sessions at numerous conferences, we made this topic the centerpiece of our panel discussion sessions, and we met with national groups and associations as well as individual museum representatives.
We consolidated four of our previous funding titles under two umbrella categories: Museums for America (MFA), which will now include funding for the activities and projects that were supported previously under Conservation Project Support, and National Leadership Grants (NLG) for Museums, which will now include funding for the activities and projects that were supported previously under 21st Century Museum Professionals. Our commitment to all of these programs remains strong. A bonus for some museums is that they may now combine activities into one project whereas previously they would have had to apply to two different programs to fund overlapping work.
In 2013, there will be no restrictions on the number of applications a museum may submit to MFA or NLG-Museums. Our grant-making programs under MFA and NLG-Museums now align with the agency’s strategic goals by emphasizing learning experiences, community anchors, and collections stewardship. Applications submitted under each of these program areas will be reviewed by subject-matter experts. Museums submitting applications in more than one project category will compete with other museums in each category, not with themselves.
Other improvements in the grant guidelines include
- the elimination of Partnership Statements as a required element, with letters of commitment recommended instead;
- the transition of some application elements from Required Documents to Supporting Documents;
- the restructuring of and reduction in number of sections in the narrative;
- a revised presentation of eligibility criteria to make them more easily understood;
- and a revised Program Information Sheet to clarify the information sought and to make it easier to complete.
Finally, we received several suggestions to move the deadline date for applications from January 15. We wholeheartedly support this suggestion and will change the deadline for FY2014. The time required for final approval of new grant guidelines through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will not allow us to alter the date for FY2013, but we will open the Grants.gov portal and begin accepting applications as soon as we receive OMB approval.
We will work hard in the next few months to conduct webinars, to encourage museums of all sizes to apply for an IMLS grant, and to make sure our friends in collections and conservation know our commitment is as strong as ever. We will also keep close tabs on our grant activity, as always, but with a keen eye to monitoring any strong deviation in trends regarding applicants. We will be sharing more robust statistical information on applications and awards through our website.
Reviewing and evaluating our services is integral to our strategic plan and our organizational culture. We are committed to being the best stewards of government funds possible and to supporting small, medium, and large museums in their efforts to effect change in their communities. We will continue to be transparent about what we do and to solicit feedback from those we serve.
Thank you for your participation in this process. We look forward to continued communication in the months ahead and are already working on changes for FY2014 based on your comments and suggestions.