Grant Application Guidelines

Eligibility | Application logistics | Budget | Content | Adjudication




Am I eligible?

All applicants must:

  • Have an office or address in Maine, or have at least one member of the project who possesses a Maine address;
  • Be a 501(c)(3) organization, a government organization (such as a federally recognized Indian tribal government or organization or state/local/city government), a church, or an education organization (school or school district, public or private institution of higher education).
  • Not have received another MHC grant in this current year (with one exception: organizations may be awarded both an MHC and an Arts & Humanities grant in the same year). If you have questions around timing and eligibility, please call us to discuss.
  • Not currently have an overdue final report for a previous MHC grant. Applications will only be considered when recipients have submitted a complete on-time final report on the previous grant.

While we do on occasion make awards to the same organization in consecutive years for exceptional projects, we do not make this a regular practice.

What is a fiscal sponsor, and do I need one?

If your organization is not a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, you will need a fiscal sponsor. The Council of Nonprofits has a helpful resource sheet on fiscal sponsorship.


Application logistics

I’ve never filled out a grant application before. Can you give me some advice?

Call us at 207-773-5051! We can counsel you through the entire process. The Maine Community Foundation also offers some helpful tips for writing a strong grant proposal.

Do I need to talk to you before beginning the application process?

It is not required that you talk with us before submitting an application, but we strongly recommend it. Past applicants have found it very useful to check in with us about their idea and get advice—we can recommend humanities scholars, for example, or help you to fine-tune your project to better fit our guidelines.

We have office hours for grant queries (207-773-5051):

  • Mondays: 12 – 5
  • Thursdays: 12 – 5
  • Fridays: 9 – 5

Or, email us anytime to set up a time to talk.

What will I need to include with my application?

Applicants must supply: contact information, a narrative that clearly explains the proposed project, and detailed budget information.

How flexible are your deadlines?

Our grant application deadlines are firm; online applications will not be accepted after midnight on the deadline date. Late applications will not be reviewed.

Are there any timing requirements?

Grant events must not be held sooner than eight weeks after the application deadline. This ensures that MHC has enough time to adjudicate the grant and successful applicants have enough time to get the project off the ground after notification. This timing requirement is firm.

Can we include additional documents with our application, such as brochures, photographs, and letters from supporters?

It can be very helpful for your application to include such types of additional documentation.

My department is part of a university. There are three programs at the university applying for grants. How will you tell our applications apart? Do I use the name of my department or the name of our host organization?

Please use the name of the university or umbrella organization, and specify that the project director is a member of your department or unit, so it is clear that each application belongs to a different department. Beginning your project description with the name of your department will also be helpful for us as we review the application. For example, “the History Department at the University seeks funding to support a public lecture series.”

We’re a collaborative of nonprofits seeking support for a joint project. How do we apply?

One organization must apply on behalf of the collaborative. Partner organizations should be listed as such in the narrative, and their role in the project and any personnel they will be supplying should be outlined in detail. It would also be helpful to include letters from the collaborating organizations that explain their roles and contributions. Our review committee views such collaborations very favorably.

I understand you offer a draft review for Major grants. Is this required?

The draft application review process is NOT required, and it is not used as a screening process. We offer it as an opportunity for you to get substantive feedback that can be used to strengthen your application.



Can we attach our budget in our own format instead of completing the budget information section of the application?

No. It is important that we have comparable financial information from all applicants in a similar format. This will help insure a fair and accurate review.

What is in-kind support?

In-kind support means items or services that are provided for your project at no cost. For example, if a consultant has agreed to provide free services for the project, you should list the fee that s/he would normally charge for the same service. If you hold an event in a venue that has agreed not to charge you, the usual cost of renting that space would be an in-kind cost. Any work performed by volunteers should be tallied at the rate at which that person would normally charge for their services and included as in-kind support. (A couple of broad guidelines: professional tasks might range between $15 – $50/hour; administrative tasks might range between $10 – $20/hour.) The dollar amount you list here should be the actual or estimated cost of obtaining and/or using the same item.

Please feel free to contact us if you need help in determining in-kind costs.

Do you offer funding for operating expenses?

We do not provide funding for operating expenses. Operating expenses include support for ongoing activities or overhead expenses such as rent, insurance, utility bills, office supplies, or staff salaries.

Do you fund PR/marketing expenses?

We do, but we typically prefer it to be a minor portion of your budget, not the primary thing for which you’re seeking funding.

Can paid staff time be used as a cash match?




What are the humanities?

The humanities explore the human experience by encouraging reflection on its nature and value through literature, history, philosophy, and culture. The humanities also encompass time-tested methods of inquiry—discussion and dialogue, historical and critical analysis and interpretation, and scholarly investigation.

Humanities projects funded by MHC bring historical, cultural, or ethical perspectives to bear on topics and issues of interest to our communities. These may take many different forms, but they often share the following characteristics. They:

  • Engage participants in thinking critically about fundamental questions of value, purpose, and meaning.
  • Promote better understanding of ourselves and others, past and present.
  • Are conducted in a spirit of open and informed inquiry, providing multiple viewpoints where applicable.
  • Involve partnerships between community organizations, cultural institutions, and scholars in the humanities.

What do you look for in a successful application?

Have an interpretive focus.

Draw topics and themes directly from one or more disciplines of the humanities and create a way for your audience to put the topic into context. For example: a performance of multicultural music is an arts project. It becomes a humanities project if something is done to help the audience understand the history or the cultural significance of the music. This could be accomplished through narration between program items or a pre-concert lecture by a humanities scholar. The goal is to give the audience a chance to understand the art and its context.

Involve a humanities consultant/scholar.

A scholar or subject matter expert can help to frame and conceptualize a project. Indication of expertise can include a college-level teaching position; an advanced degree; a record of scholarship, publishing, speaking, or professional experience; or an acknowledged reputation for special knowledge.

Include a public program, or planning for a public program.

Public programs are the heart of what we do, and outreach to the public needs to be a central part of your project. This outreach can engage either the general public or specifically targeted audiences, such as professional, ethnic, or community groups. Our preference is for programs to be free. Describe plans to use the materials or findings generated by the project by partnering with a library, historical society, or other resource that can distribute the results of your project after it ends.

Provide balanced viewpoints.

One of the hallmarks of the humanities is the ethic of nonjudgmental discussion.  All projects must evidence a spirit of inquiry, a balance between critical and celebratory perspectives, and provide a range of viewpoints and informed opinions, consistent with MHC’s educational, non-partisan mission. This is especially true when projects treat highly charged issues.

Provide at least a one-to-one financial match.

The grant award must be matched by either cash or in-kind support, or a combination of both, which may come from a third-party or directly from the applicant. In other words, 50% of the total project costs must come from sources other than an MHC award. In-kind contributions may include time and materials, office space and equipment, travel, donated services, and other non-cash donations. It is important to MHC to show that grant funds leverage additional resources, so please include ALL match, even when it is more than 50%.

Do you fund ongoing programming?

We do not. However, if you are looking to expand or revise existing programming or pilot something new, we’re definitely interested.

How do I find a humanities scholar?

We  encourage you to look at higher education faculty and departmental web pages to find someone who might be a good fit for your project. We can help you to identify a humanities scholar and clarify their role if you’d prefer a helping hand. Just give us a call!

What types of project formats are allowed?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but we frequently see project formats such as:

    1. Conferences, lectures, and discussions
    2. Websites
    3. Technical assistance – training in use of video, oral histories, fee for a professional such as a photographer
    4. Feature-length films (pre and post-production only)
    5. Cultural tourism attractions
    6. Oral histories
    7. Civic Reflection programs
    8. Radio/podcast productions
    9. Video/online visual media productions
    10. Exhibitions
    11. Projects that link schools and their communities
    12. Teacher seminars
    13. Theatrical performances that include analysis or interpretation using humanities disciplines

What types of projects do you NOT fund?

  • Art performances or projects, unless their primary role is to foster analysis or interpretation using humanities disciplines.
    • The Arts and Humanities Grant Program, offered in partnership with the Maine Arts Commission, can accommodate greater emphasis on the arts, but must still include a robust humanities component.
  • Publications, unless integral to public programs.
  • Grants to individuals, or to pay students for projects that are being done for academic credit.
  • Grants primarily for group or individual travel.
  • Projects designed as fundraising ventures (MHC-funded projects need not be free, but participation costs should be reasonable for the type of program being presented).
  • Projects that engage in advocacy or discriminate against persons or groups.
  • Capital expenditures, construction, or restoration costs.
  • Equipment valued in excess of $100 (except in extraordinary circumstances).
  • Normal organizational operating costs, indirect or overhead expenses unrelated to the project.
  • Projects that have NO connection to Maine.

My project will be an exhibit. Do you have any special guidelines?

The following would be helpful to consider as you put together your application:

    • Design Plan:Provide a general sketch of the exhibit layout.
    • Object List:By category with examples.
    • Script:Outline of exhibit script – Give us a general idea of how you’ll tell the story and what the visitor’s experience will be.
    • Process of creation:Describe how the exhibit will be constructed and by whom.
    • History:Description of previous exhibits in Maine on same topic.
    • Sites & schedule information:Provide confirmed and projected list.
  • Future plans for exhibit:Expected long-term use of exhibition and related materials. For example, will a traveling version of the exhibit be made available to schools?

My project will be an oral history. Do you have any special guidelines?

When evaluating oral history proposals, our committee looks for the following:

  • Theme: The most successful oral histories are developed carefully around a theme and represent far more than simple conversations with an informant.
  • Interviewers: Who will be conducting oral history interviews and what training they have, or will be given, in recording technologies as well as in taking oral histories.
  • Interviewees: Who will be interviewed and on what basis they will be selected or recruited.
  • Content: Sample questions and themes to be explored; a script is even better.
  • Dissemination of resulting interviews: Public programs and/or products that will result from oral history research. One essential part of any history project is thinking of ways in which a larger audience can see your stories.
  • Recording instruments: Indicate whether video or audio recorders will be used and describe.
  • Additional documentation: Indicate any activities that will be undertaken to additionally document the oral histories (such as photographs).
  • Short and Long-term Plans: Show how you will develop transcripts and make provisions for archival storage to assure continued public access to the project. Shorter term activities might include writing a series of local history articles for a local newspaper; transforming oral histories into an exhibit in a local museum; using edited oral history tapes for walking or automobile tours of a community; painting historical murals in schools or on downtown buildings; or showing edited oral histories on local TV.

I’m interested in creating a visual or online media project. Do you have any special guidelines?

Due to the substantial cost of feature-length film productions, we only fund pre-production (scripting / treatment) or post-production (finishing, distributing, and programming related to) elements of film and media projects. In the narrative, applicants should include a description of the following:

  • Rationale: Why film or video is an appropriate medium for the subject matter.
  • Treatment: Approach(es) to subject and themes, and length of film with specific details on script or, if no script is anticipated, on how the film will be conceptualized.
  • Post-production: (if applicable) Activities, including distribution, development of interpretive materials and public interpretive performances relating to the final stages of launching a film.
  • Qualifications: Description of director’s other films (If this is included in project director resume, simply state “see resume.”).
  • Distribution: Expected use and need for film, distribution outlets, and promotion plan.
  • Public Program: Plans for attracting audience and engaging them in discussion.
  • Business Plan: Budget for all phases of film production, indicating projected sources of funding.

We are also very interested in podcasts, short-form film, or other media projects. Please keep in mind that the project needs to have a connection to Maine.

I’m interested in creating a website. Do you have any special guidelines?

We do not fund organizational websites or other digital infrastructure. We do, however, fund projects that focus on the creation of new content or functionality that creates or enhances an online humanities experience. Some things to consider:

  • Rationale – How will the site be used?
  • Who will the audience be, and how will you reach them?
  • User experience
  • Maintenance – after creation of the site, will it continue to be added to, and if yes, how will that ongoing maintenance be supported?
  • Qualifications of those involved in design and creation of the site.

I’m not sure how to approach an evaluation of our project.

Evaluation can be so much more than simply counting how many people attend your program. This brief overview from the Maine Community Foundation may be helpful as you think about how to measure the success of your work and use that measurement to build better programs in the future.



How are proposals reviewed?

The MHC has a Grants Committee, which reviews all Major Grants. A subcommittee of the Grants Committee reviews Mini Grants and Arts & Humanities Grants. Arts & Humanities Grants are also reviewed by the Maine Arts Commission. We make our decisions based on review criteria such as the strength of the proposal’s humanities content, any proposed collaborations, the feasibility of the scope of work, and the capacity of the sponsoring organization.  We also take into consideration how often an organization has applied (or not), size and type of organization, and geographic spread.

When will I know whether my application has been approved or declined?

Applicants are typically notified of our decision within six weeks of the deadline date.

Do you award partial funding?

We will sometimes award partial funding. We do try our best to ensure that the amount awarded will still allow you sufficient resources to create a high quality program.


Still have questions?

If you still have questions about eligibility, proposal requirements, or anything else, please contact us.


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