Webinar: Find Funding: The National Trust Grants Program (2018 Edition)

By Forum Online posted 01-17-2019 12:18


Thank you to everyone who tuned in to the most recent Forum Webinar, “Finding Funding: The National Trust Grants Program.” Diana Maxwell, manager of grants at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, provided attendees with an overview of the National Trust's grant opportunities, including a summary of what's available and tips for applying.

One of our grantees, the Cherokee Ranch and Castle. | Credit: Cherokee Ranch and Castle Foundation

We could not get to all the questions we received during the webinar, so we are answering them (lightly edited for clarity) here. If you have further questions about National Trust grants, please call (202) 588-6277 or email 

General Questions

For the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund, is the match financial? Are you able to accept in-kind donations as well?
The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund requires a 1:1 cash match. In-kind donations are not eligible as a match.

Could you repeat what you said about whether or not we can apply for more than one grant?
You can apply for more than one grant, but only one grant will be awarded per organization in any round. Only one grant will be awarded for a particular project phase, and no more than three grants will be awarded in any two-year period to a single grantee.

Is National Trust funding only available for buildings, or can projects that preserve historic vessels listed on the National Register of Historic Vessels apply for any of the funds?
Funding is available for a variety of preservation efforts, including vessels and landscapes.

If a grant application is turned down, is it possible to resubmit essentially the same application, but with improvements?
Yes. We will want to see how your project has progressed since you last applied. For example, have you done more planning or raised more funds? Please be as specific as possible.

I noticed that our previous executive director did not complete the necessary follow-up for a grant we received. Can I submit a new request, or do I have to figure out the outcome info from the previous grant?
Please contact our grants office at for assistance with any open grants. We can work with you regarding your specific situation.

Do you no longer have the Gwyn Turner Fund?
The Gwyn Turner Preservation Services Fund for Alabama does still exist. However, to streamline the process for applicants, we have now rolled it into the overall grant program of the National Trust Preservation Fund (NTPF). There is one common application for all the funds that make up the NTPF.

Can the National Trust provide any links to recommended consultants for things like historic structure reports (HSRs)? Or do we have to do that research on our own?
Unfortunately, because we receive applications from all over the country, we do not have a list of recommended consultants. You might consider reaching out to your state historic preservation office or a local or statewide preservation nonprofit organization, as they have more insight into local vendors and services.

Do the nonprofits applying to your funds need to have IRS tax-exempt status?

Could you describe the top things you are looking for in the three letters of endorsement required for applications?
We don’t have a list of things we’re looking for per se. The letters are helpful if they show that the project has support from the community or, if they are from a partner organization, if they can speak to the work the applicant does and/or demonstrate that the named partner is indeed a partner on the project. They should provide support for either the applicant’s organization or the project specifically from a person who has knowledge of the subject.

If we're applying for a project in progress, can we use the architect already involved, or would we have to get quotes and start with a new firm? The cost won't reach $50,000.
If your project has an existing relationship with an architect or other consultant, please include their information in the application for approval. At least three competitive bids/quotes must be obtained for any procurement of services that does exceed $50,000. This provision applies only to portions of the project supported by NTPF grant funds.

Can you talk about the Save America's Treasures Fund?
While the National Trust is no longer directly involved with the Save America’s Treasures grant program, you can learn more about through the National Park Service. More information is available on their website.

Are any funds available for flow-through grants? (We are a nonprofit that awards grants for historic preservation to local communities.)
Flow-through grants would be tricky, since many of our grants are pretty small. Please contact our grants office at to discuss details

If we apply for a transportation vehicle, does it have to be listed on the National Register to be eligible for a grant from the National Trust?
Listing on the National Register is a not a requirement for eligibility for any of our grant funds.

Some of the grant limits, even with matching funds, fall short of the kinds of fees that I see for the studies you have noted as examples. HSRs, National Register nominations, condition assessments, etc. often cost in excess of $30,000. Are there exceptions to the funding limits? Do you foresee these limits increasing any time soon? (Have they ever increased with inflation?) What if funding and matching funds fall short of the estimated cost of the project?

The funding amounts for many of these funds are very low. Is there any effort to increase these amounts? $1,000 to 15,000 doesn't go very far for professional services.
We do recognize that the funds we offer are not enough to cover some projects. We are limited in a couple of ways: first, by the amount we have available to grant, since the funding comes from endowed grant funds, some of which don’t have a very large corpus, and second, in what we can pull from them each year while keeping the funds self-sustaining. We have increased the maximum amounts in several funds in recent years, and we continue to do that when it is possible. The general idea is that our grant funds are seed money for a project, a small amount that may get work started or, even beyond the match, help the organization raise other funds. We have found that the National Trust’s support of a project often is a helpful tool in raising further funds.

Is it possible to get feedback on last year's African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund? We made it to second round.

How do you get reviewer feedback from the grant committee?

If you were rejected for a grant, can you get specific individual feedback from a program officer?
To receive feedback about your grant application, please contact our grants office at with the name of your organization, the round you applied for, and the name of your project.

African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund (AACHAF) Questions

Can you receive funding for the same project from both the AACHAF and the NTPF?
We generally do not fund the exact same project twice, but you are welcome to apply to another fund for a different phase of your project. Note that National Trust grant funds cannot match each other—an AACHAF grant could not provide the match for a Preservation Fund grant.

Is there a grant that would be applicable for exhibition and programming around African American cultural heritage based around the reconstruction of a specific African American cultural heritage site, but not explicitly the preservation of that original structure?
Yes, please visit our guidelines page to learn more about the Programming and Interpretation category of the AACHAF.

Does the AACHAF cover excavation projects?

Does the AACHAF grant cover architectural survey/inventory?

Would a project focused on building organizational capacity to implement a program aimed at preserving African American culture and community be eligible—even if it isn't focused on an edifice?
Generally yes, but please visit our guidelines page to determine which project type your application would fall under and whether the specific costs would be eligible.

Are there word or character limits in the letter of intent (LOI) form?
Yes, the limits are listed under each question. Spaces do count as characters.

What should the LOI show—the history, the needs for facility, etc.?
You can preview the LOI without creating an account on this page in our grants portal. In the box on the right of the page, look for text that says, “To view application forms without creating an account, click here.”

How many LOIs did you receive for the AACHAF grants last year, and how many were invited to the full proposal?
In its inaugural year, the AACHAF garnered an extremely large response, receiving more than 800 LOIs. Of those, we invited 50 to complete a full application. In the end, 16 projects were funded.

Can AACHAF grant funding be used to help with minor rehab projects to multiple historic homes (rather than one building) in a historic African American neighborhood?

To receive an AACHAF grant, is it mandatory to have the photo, name, and location of the project published? Or could the site remain anonymous?
A site could not remain anonymous. We promote the AACHAF grant recipients widely, and the projects should have some level of public access. We want to celebrate our grantees and tell the stories of their sites. We have previously awarded a grant to a project at a site the specific location of which could not be publicly revealed—and certain photos of which could not be used—for religious reasons, and we were able to work within those parameters.

Are there priorities within the AACHAF for addressing particular aspects of African American cultural heritage?
At this time, we aren’t focusing on any specific aspects. We’re looking for projects that can tell the African American story overall. We do like to be as geographically inclusive as we can, and we have received fewer applications from the western United States—but that’s not a specific priority.

Are there templates/strong examples we can use when drafting LOIs?
We don’t have templates available.

Does the AACHAF require a match?
No, but a match is looked upon favorably.

What is the average dollar request from the AACHAF?
The average request last year was $109,000. Please visit our guidelines page for request limits per category.

Can places associated with black history in Oregon, which is our organization’s focus, be considered a landscape? Last year's funding went to buildings and one historic district.
This could be considered a landscape—it’s certainly a cultural one, even if it’s composed of separate physical landscapes. This would qualify for the AACHAF.

Can an African American church apply to both the National Fund for Sacred Places and the AACHAF?
Yes, as long as it meets the guidelines for both programs. Grant funding from the AACHAF would not be able to provide the match required for the Sacred Places fund.

The National Fund for Sacred Places

Can a small congregation submit for the sacred places?
Absolutely. Any congregation can apply, as long as it is healthy.

Can a separate nonreligious nonprofit organization with a mission of preserving and operating a church building apply for a Sacred Places grant on behalf of a congregation/building? Or would the congregation need to apply?
A separate nonprofit could apply on behalf of the church, as long as it has an existing partnership with the church for fundraising. The church needs have an active, healthy congregation, and the building must be owned by the congregation.

Does a church have to be listed in the National Register to be eligible for a Sacred Places grant?
It does not have to be listed, but it does need to be eligible. You can read more about the level of significance we’re looking for here.

Does the Sacred Places fund require a match?
Yes. Any grant under $100,000 requires a 1:1 cash match, while grants of $100,001 or more require a 2:1 cash match. (For example, a $200,000 grant will require the grantee to raise an additional $400,000 in matching funds.) The grant amount will not exceed 50 percent of the project cost.

Do “sacred places” include Indian petroglyph sites and other similar sites?
No. For the purpose of this grant fund, sacred places are limited to properties originally built as houses of worship and owned by an active community of faith.

Selecting a Fund

Which fund would support hiring a historian to prepare a historic district nomination for a small town?

Would any of your funds cover surveying costs of a small, rural African American community of fewer than 25 people soon to be owned by a nonprofit?
Survey work or national register nominations could be supported by a number of our funds. Please email with more specific details so that we can provide personalized answers

What fund would be best for restoring and preserving a currently empty African American church building?
This project could be eligible for the AACHAF, and planning work could be supported by the NTPF and potentially other funds, depending on where the church is located. Restoration work could be supported by the Johanna Favrot Fund or the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund

Would any of your funds be suitable for legal costs to obtain ownership of a long-closed and abandoned African American church and the related cemetery?
Possibly, though our legal intervention ability is limited, and many of our funds don’t allow funding for the purchase of a property. Please email with more specific details.