Funding Sources for Historical Repositories

Types of Funds

A historical repository may rely on many of sources for operating funds. Public taxes, grants, membership fees, donations, sales, rentals and fund-raising events may contribute to the operating budget.

The historical repository’s leadership is responsible for determining funding priorities under the repository’s mission and strategic plan, and for deciding where and how to get money to support these priorities. In fund-raising, the governing board and key staff members play important roles. The governing board identifies sources and methods of obtaining support. Staff provide information about the organization and its needs. 

Major categories of funding sources for grants or donati​ons:

  • Private sector funds
  • Public sector funds
  • Local fund drives

Private Sector Funds ​

Donations and/or grants can come from individuals, corporations and foundations. Look for a person or organization matching your repository’s needs and interests. A good place to start locating private funders is The Foundation Center​. Examples of Oregon foundations that provide support include the Collins Foundation and the Meyer Memorial Trust.

Public Sector Funds

These include federal and state funds or grants from government agencies such as lo​cal legislative bodies, and state and federal granting agencies.

Federal funders include: 

  • The National Endowment for the Humanities Division of Preservation and Access
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services
  • National Historical Publications and Records Commission

State funding sources that may assist Oregon historical repositories include the Oregon Cultural Trust and the Oregon Heritage Commission.

Local Fund Drives

Local fund and membership drives may provide resources for operating expenses. For large capital campaigns or specific projects, historical repositories may investigate professional fund-raising firms and grant funds. Grants are not usually a source for general operating funds, as granting agencies prefer to support repositories that already show ongoing, stable sources of income.

Successful fundraising efforts combine a variety of activities targeted at specific sources for identified needs. 

Here are examples of how funding can work:

  • A public program might receive arts funding from city or county government, a corporate sponsor or other organization such as the Oregon Heritage Commission. 
  • Building renovations might qualify for support from a historic preservation group. 
  • Processing or care of historical materials may qualify for grants from state or federal agencies. The donor of the materials might provide funds to defray processing expenses.

The Importance of Grant Funding

Grant funding can provide support for special projects, allowing a repository to accomplish goals otherwise out of reach. In some cases grant funding is available to start a repository or establish a program in a particular subject area. Grant proposals in which multiple repositories collaborate on a project can save on costs, build local relationships and have more long-term impact than individual projects. For this reason funders often look favorably on them. 

Successful grant projects provide evidence that the repository is capable of administering  a​nd sustaining special projects over time. Knowing this can help in planning and carrying out additional grant projects in the future.

Obtaining a Grant

Target a need that is eligible for funding. Grants can fund a range of activities: 

  • Consulting services for planning or collection evaluation
  • Processing (arrangement and description) of collections
  • Purchase of appropriate storage materials
  • Outreach and public programs
  • Staff education and training

A grant proposal/application generally consists of a description of the project’s objec​tives, a plan of work, a proposed budget, mechanisms for evaluating the success of the project, and plans for sustaining the work of the project once the grant ends.

Find funding sources available to Oregon repositories.​​​​​​​​

Finding ​Funding Sources

Contact Mary Beth Herkert, SHRAB Coordinator, for additional advice.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​