Webinar: Find Funding: The National Trust Grants Program

By Diana Maxwell posted 09-15-2016 17:02


An updated webinar was held on December 19, 2018. Read the post and watch the recording

On Wednesday, September 14, as part of Preservation Leadership Forum’s webinar series, I hosted a 30-minute webinar about the ins and outs of the National Trust’s grant program. You can listen to a recording of the webinar and download a PDF version of the slides.

Attendees had a chance to ask questions, and I answered as many as I could at the end of the presentation but ran out of time before all the questions could be addressed. Here is a selection of the remaining questions (edited for clarity) that represents some of those asked most frequently about the National Trust grant program.


The Dumbarton Oaks Park Conservancy in Washington, D.C., received a grant in 2016 to complete a digital database and 3D model of the park’s features. | Credit: Priya Chhaya

What is the total grant amount available through the Preservation Fund Grant?

Preservation Fund Grants max out at $5,000 per project.

Who do the three letters of endorsement usually come from?

The letters usually come from someone who is supportive of the project. We see letters from State Historic Preservations Officers (SHPOs), local partners of the organization, politicians, historical societies—all kinds of groups and people.

My organization owns our building. Do we need to submit a letter of consent?

No. The letter of consent only applies when an entity other than the applicant owns the building/site.

Is there a time limit on applying for a grant after a flood has occurred?

There is no official time limit on applying for emergency funding grants, but you should get in contact with us as soon as possible. Generally speaking, you need to apply within a few months of the event.

Do you begin reviewing applications and making decisions as soon as applications are received, or do you wait until the deadline has passed to begin reviewing applications?

We don’t review any applications until after the deadline has passed.

Decisions are made at eight weeks—when are awards mailed out?

We try to get grant agreements out to grantees within two to three weeks of notification, though it can sometimes take longer. Once the signed agreement comes back to us, we submit that to our finance department to release the payment, which typically takes two to three weeks as well.

If our application is not successful, do you explain why funding was not awarded?

We don’t explain it in the initial notification, but if you email us (grants@savingplaces.org), we can discuss it further.

If we already have a grant from one of the funds (the Mitchell fund, for example), does this make us ineligible to apply for other National Trust grants?

Yes and no. That project is ineligible for further grants—you can’t have two National Trust grants for the same project (or the same phase of a project, if it’s a large one). However, you remain eligible to apply for grants toward other projects.

Having received a grant from the National Trust, can an organization apply for other grants in future years?

Yes. An organization can receive as many as three grants from the Trust within a two-year period.

Are churches eligible for grants?

Yes, churches are eligible.

Can a government agency apply for planning funds to use on a privately owned building?

Yes, though the ultimate use of the building would be considered during the grant review process. We would be more likely to fund it if it will ultimately have a public use than if it were going to be private residence.

A site does not have to be designated, nationally or otherwise, but you need to be able to show why it’s historically significant on your application. That can be easier if your site is designated.

What is the definition of a nonprofit organization? Can an entity qualify based on being a nonprofit at the state level?

We determine nonprofit status based on IRS 501(c)(3) designation. For organizations that do not have this IRS designation, we may be able to use a fiscal agent to grant to the project.

Would a historic school in partnership with the local preservation group be eligible for funds?

Yes! One of the groups needs to be a 501(c)(3) and an Organizational Level Forum Member.

Can grants be matched with funds from the SHPO Historic Preservation Fund?

Yes! That’s a great way to match funds.

We are seeking funding to freshen our museum presentation—for example, by adding interactive or audio components to provide a simulated historical context for our house museum. Would the Mitchell Fund be a good fit? What about for the restoration of our textiles and furniture?

This could work, but you’d need to be careful about your eligible expenses, since we can’t fund the purchase of any real property. In this example, we could fund a consultant to help you plan new interactive components, but not the actual displays. Similarly, we could fund a plan for the restoration of textiles or furniture or a study from a conservator, but not the restoration itself.

Can we work with a preselected architect, or do we have to go back out to bid?

You can work with a preselected architect, but at least three competitive bids/quotes must be obtained for any procurement of services that exceeds $50,000.

Diana Maxwell is the grants manager for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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