How to Get Funding for a Small Museum

by Carey Stumm

Approximately 75 percent of the museums in the United States are small institutions that are run mostly by volunteer staff with a budget under $250,000 (resource 1). Seeking funding for these institutions to cover operation, education, preservation, and collection management is imperative to their survival. Federal, state, city, and private funding is available to assist museums if volunteers or staff make the time to actively fund raise on behalf of the museum.

Funding Sources

Apply for a Federal Grant. The National Endowment for the Humanities offers grants up to $6000 for small institutions to cover preservation costs. The National Institute for Conservation offers a grant program for small museums to hire conservators to come in and assess their collection, storage facilities, and train staff on caring for items in the collection. The Institute for Museum and Library Services has a Museums for America Grant that funds education, exhibition, collection management, policy creation, and training. The program offers grants in the amount of $5000 to $150,000 for two- to three-year projects.

Seek out funding in the local community. Many cities and towns have local community foundations that can help museums find donors. Fund-raising events can also be fun for the local community. Throw a historical re-enactment, have a themed ball, gala, or street fair.

Contact your state's art council or government office to find out what type of assistance is available to a small institution. Most states will have an agency dedicated to museums, historic sites, or small nonprofits.

Look into corporate sponsorship for exhibits or public programming. Corporations are generally required to donate to the nonprofit sector and they also benefit by having their name displayed at the museum.

About the Author

Carey Stumm is an archivist at a history museum in New York City and a professor of museum studies in a university graduate program. She has been a grant writer for museums for six years and has written about media preservation, art, and transportation history. Stumm has a master's degree in library and information science.

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