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Your Museum Needs Money—Now What?


Finding and securing funding opportunities for your museum can help advance not only your museum’s goals, but your personal ones as well. It can be a daunting task and many give up or take a defeatist attitude saying, for example: “No one is funding the arts anymore.” Funding is out there, but you have to work to find it; and then work even harder to obtain it. It takes tenacity to continue the hunt. I’ve spent countless hours into the night perusing opportunities just to discover fifteen minutes into reading the full abstract that our program would not qualify for this particular funding opportunity. But just as Columbus did not give up, I continue my search. I might not discover what I’m looking for, but along the way, I just might find sources for other co-worker’s programs.

To help you get started, I’ve compiled a list of free sites:

Sites for the Foundation Center

Established in 1956, Foundation Center is the leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide. Through data, analysis, and training, it connects people who want to change the world to the resources they need to succeed. Foundation Center maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. and, increasingly for global grantmakers and their grants, a robust, accessible knowledge bank for the sector. It also operates research, education, and training programs designed to advance knowledge of philanthropy at every level. Thousands of people visit Foundation Center’s website each day and are served in its five library/learning centers and at more than 470 Funding Information Network locations nationwide and around the world.

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This Foundation Center site lists the 100 largest U.S. grantmaking foundations ranked by the market value of their assets, based on the most current audited financial data in the Foundation Center’s database as of November 16, 2014. What makes this a valuable site is the ability to click on the foundation and be immediately directed to their website. Listings are also available by U.S. foundation total giving; top corporate grantmakers by asset size and by total giving; and top community foundations by total assets and total giving.

The Foundation Center site has links to Philanthropy News Digest which posts requests for proposals (RFPs) submitted by grantmakers every day. Each RFP listing provides a brief overview of a current funding opportunity offered by a foundation or other grantmaking organization. This link also allows you to subscribe to the RFP Bulletin, a free listing of new RFPs delivered weekly by e-mail. is your place to find and apply for federal grants. Search for federal grants by keywords or more specific criteria. All discretionary grants offered by the 26 federal grant-making agencies can be found on You do not have to register with to find grant opportunities. However, to apply for a federal grant you will need to be registered with the System for Award Management (SAM). It is highly advisable to register weeks before you plan to submit a proposal.

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance

The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) provides a full listing of all Federal programs available to State and local governments (including the District of Columbia); federally-recognized Indian tribal governments; Territories (and possessions) of the United States; domestic public, quasi- public, and private profit and nonprofit organizations and institutions; specialized groups; and individuals. CFDA contains detailed program descriptions for 2,285 Federal assistance programs. You can search by program or agency. The site contains contact information for all regional offices, including phone numbers.

Office of Management & Budget Intergovernmental Single Point of Contact List by State

Under Executive Order 12372, some states require federal grants applicants to submit a copy of their application for state government level review and comment. The state offices listed on this site coordinate federal financial assistance and may direct federal development. It is estimated that the Federal Government will outlay $500 billion in grants to State and local governments. Executive Order 12372, “Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs,” was issued with the desire to foster the intergovernmental partnership and strengthen federalism by relying on State and local processes for the coordination and review of proposed Federal financial assistance and direct Federal development. The Order allows each State to designate an entity to perform this function. This site lists those entities with addresses, phone numbers, and for those States that have a home page for their designated entity, a direct link has been provided.

The Grantsmanship Center Finding Foundation Funding Sources by State

Click on any state on the map of the U.S. to access information specific to a state’s top grantmaking foundations; community foundations; corporate giving programs; and State website homepages. You have the ability to dive deep into this site since direct links are provided for all foundations and corporations listed as well as contact addresses with phone numbers and the geographic focus of the grantmaker.

Sites of Government Made Easy

To find state and local agencies, this site has the main government website for each state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories and associated states.

This link provides an A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies with links to those agencies. It can be surprising to see the names of granting governmental agencies that the general public may have never known existed.

Find information and services for nonprofits, including grants, loans, assistance, taxes, management and more. While some links listed are listed elsewhere in this article, there are others direct links to specific programs such as grants and programs through the Environmental Protection Agency; grants and contracts through the Department of Education; grants and funding through Health and Human Services; funding through the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships; the Save America’s Treasures Grant Program; and state and local funding directories for nonprofits.

Federal Grants Wire

This site currently indexes 2,900 federal grants and loans organized by sponsoring agency, applicant type, subject area and a convenient directory if you are unsure where to begin. You are able to search by applicant type or subject.

USA Spending

This single, free, searchable and publicly accessible site was mandated by the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (Transparency Act). You are able to click on Spending to search/browse recipients according to type of funding (grants, loans, contracts, etc). The site gives you the ability to view not only prime awards, but sub-recipients as well; often seeing what is funded and by whom can be enlightening.

U.S. Small Business Administration

This is a site for those museums that are for-profit entities. This site lists federal, state and local governments that offer a wide range of financing programs to help small businesses start and grow their operations. These programs include low-interest loans, venture capital, and scientific and economic development grants. The site has a Loan and Grant Search Tool to get a list of financing programs for which you may qualify, or visit the resources they list to learn more about small business financing programs.

Fundraising & Grants Directory

The Fundraising & Grants Directory is provided at no cost to visitors. Since 1996, Fundsnet Services has provided resource information about grants, fundraising, philanthropy, foundations and 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations to those in need of funding and research for their philanthropic efforts and missions. This is a robust site; however, where other sites allow you to restrict your search to foundations in your state, this site lists them alphabetically. This site allows you to search by categories ranging from arts and culture to very specific, narrowly focused information on Latino grants and women grants. This site also provides a link to obtain information on international grants and funders.

Grant Opportunities

Past Perfect Museum Software shares information they collect on National Grants and Regional Grants (listed alphabetically by granting agency) as well as State Grants (listed alphabetically by state).

The SPARK Grant-Finder Tool

The SPARK Grant-Finder Tool helps you locate funding for your Physical Education, After School, Early Childhood, Classroom Activity or Coordinated School Health program. Grants can be used for curriculum, teacher training or equipment.

In closing I might add that although The SPARK Grant-Finder Tool is geared toward schools as awardees, museums can obtain funds for qualifying after school programs. Thinking outside the box can be the key to finding funds. For example after school program funds can be obtained from a variety of funders ranging from faith-based to social services organizations. Thinking outside the box may also include tweaking a program in order to fit a funder’s mission. While I would never be a proponent of totally revamping a program to meet the funding opportunity, often small changes can get a square peg in a round hole.

Good luck and happy hunting!

Ms. Montgomery is a Certified Public Accountant and has planned and/or developed conferences, seminars and workshops for AAM and the Illinois CPA Society, and is a published author in both fiscal and human resource topic areas. She is the Director of Resource Allocation for the Illinois State Museum.

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