Nontraditional funding, or: how I learned to ask for money

Back in May I participated in a WebJunction webinar called “Finding Funds for Preservation.” The guest speaker was the Library of Congress’ Diane Vogt-O’Connor, who spoke candidly about the process of wooing potential funders as well as the potential for tapping non-traditional funding sources. She used the webinar as an opportunity to introduce the 2009 Foundation Grants for Preservation in Libraries, Archives, and Museums, a free PDF available from the Foundation Center and LC.

The presentation was valuable to me as a new librarian/archivist, especially as Diane addressed the need to network and not be afraid to ask potential grantfunders what they want to see in a grantee. She also highlighted the diversity of potential funding sources and emphasized the need to sell the concept, the impact, or “why bother?” of your project — not how you will do the work when/if you get the grant.

While I am still in the “cold call” phase of fundraising, I have come to appreciate the value of regional resources. The North Carolina Room lacks secure space for its special collections and archival materials, has no archival boxes or other storage, and these materials definitely have not been processed and described. Essentially, I realized, I would be starting an archival program from scratch.

With the blessing of our administration, I applied for a small grant to support the construction of a locking cage for our department through the North Carolina Preservation Consortium. I emphasized our stakeholders and what would happen if we did not get this grant, as well as steps I would want to take after gaining a secure storage area (boxes, etc). I researched many vendors for the most affordable price and kept the final estimate under the maximum grant amount ($2000). The result: last week I got notice that the grant application had been approved!

Our local genealogy society and historical society often have fundraisers to help purchase books they feel would be of use to the local history and genealogy collection in the North Carolina Room. This year, however, I asked my supervisor if we might be able to request funds for archival boxes and folders to process and house some of our genealogical manuscripts and special collections. We humbly requested $1000 altogether for the purchase of these supplies and were quickly approved by both organizations.

Also, this afternoon I found out that we have been awarded the IMLS Connecting to Collections Bookshelf, which includes books to help educate our staff about the care of special collections. It might be considered a “mini-grant” but it is another form of funding that we would not have had otherwise.

Traditional, large sources of funding such as LSTA provide incredible resources to libraries, museums, and archives doing large and impressive projects. Smaller grants provided by nontraditional, smaller, regional funders can help us take steps toward a legitimate archival program and resources to provide access to our community’s history.


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