Talking Spirits at Forest Hill Cemetery

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum produces “Talking Spirits” at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison. After receiving a Major Grant in 2016, 1400 school kids met the four characters whose stories bring Wisconsin connections to the Civil War conflict to life. Here Cynthia Gordon Oakley, played by Erin McConnell, shares her story of nursing her husband back to health and improving conditions in hospitals for all veterans. Photo by Meg Turville-Heitz.

The Wisconsin Humanities Council administers the only grant program in the state devoted to the public humanities.

Throughout the state, we help bring communities together by supporting projects in schools, libraries, museums, churches, historical societies, colleges and civic groups.


We award Mini Grants of up to $2,000 and Major Grants of up to $10,000.
  • There are four Mini Grant rounds. Applications must be received by: February 1, May 1, August 1 or November 1. Decisions are made by a WHC board subcommittee within one month of the deadline.
  • There are three Major Grant rounds. Applications must be received by: April 15, August 15, or December 15. Decisions are made by the WHC board in the following June, October, and February, respectively.

How competitive are our grants?

How competitive are these grants?

Between 2000 to 2012, the WHC received an average of 58 applications for Mini Grants in the four rounds combined. We funded 59% of those applications. The average award was $1,632. In the same time period, the WHC received an average of 37 applications for Major Grants in the three rounds combined. We funded 51% of those applications. The average award was $7,657.


Six secrets to successful WHC grant applications:

  • Our grants require a 50% match. In-kind match and cash both count!
  • We can’t fund capital expenditures or stand-alone archival projects.
  • Applicants must be affiliated with a not-for-profit, Wisconsin-based sponsor and include a humanities expert as part of the planned program.
  • We can’t fund projects whose purpose is advocacy.
  • The project must engage the public in the humanities. We look for opportunities to make history, culture and conversation happen.
  • We can offer guidelines, draft proposal review, intensive brainstorms and a lot of conversation about what will help make your project come to life.
Oneida women beading

‘Beading Culture: Raised Beadwork and the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin’ exhibition and programs received a major grant of $7,150.00, awarded to Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters in 2016. (l-r) Sandra Gauthier, Judith Jourdan, and Betty Willems at an Oneida Nation Arts Program workshop, 2013. Photo credit: Anne Pryor. Images courtesy of James Watrous Gallery.

What does a successful grant proposal look like?
  • It reflects the interests or needs of the community …
  • It builds or strengthens connections between communities and their organizations …
  • It brings people together to explore and share ideas and to reflect on what we hold in common, and where we differ …
  • It fosters observation, inquiry, analysis, reflection …
  • It has its feet firmly planted in the humanities and engages the skills of experts and community members in ways that promote insight and meaning, and it respects local knowledge and ways of knowing. …
  • It promotes Wisconsinites’ understanding of the character and conditions – past, present and future – of our lifestyles and homescapes…
  • It helps institutions do what they do better.
WHC grants have:
  • Helped survivors of human trafficking give public voice to their experience, thanks to a workshop at a women’s college.
  • Fostered dialog at a city library to heal race relations by exploring the realities of subtle racial undertones all around us.
  • Helped a library build civic pride in its community’s history of building U.S. warships.
  • Given voice to Viet Nam veterans’ personal memories through a traveling collection of snapshots.
  • Told overlooked stories of street-level history through a documentary project accessible by mobile phone.

Request for Proposals/RFPs 

Does your project explore the legacy of race and ethnicity in Wisconsin?

The Wisconsin Humanities Council has a special interest in funding projects that engage in, or foster, meaningful community conversations about issues of race and ethnicity. Projects should use humanities expertise to support community dialogue, which may not advocate for particular political positions, but may speak directly to current concerns, such as police-community relations.   Click here for more information.

Does your project have a work related component?

As part of our Working Lives Project, we are seeking applications for public humanities projects that explore the past, present, and future of work. Working Lives grant proposals should follow the regular grant application process. Want to learn more? Visit the Working Lives Project website and consider this opportunity for funding.

Instructions and Application 

Our Grant Guidelines are a first stop for more information and the Grant Application Instructions will lead you step-by-step through preparing a proposal.

Please note:  Adobe Acrobat Reader must be used to fill out the Grant Application and Project Personnel Forms

If you have any questions or if your plans include producing a video, audio or digital humanities product, please call us at (608) 265-5595 or email Meg Turville-Heitz for additional information and the special application form for digital projects

Need help? 

If you or your organization have never applied for a grant, or you just want some feedback on an idea you aren’t sure about, please contact us to discuss your idea. We may be able to help!  It might be anything from helping to brainstorm an idea or connecting with a humanities expert. We are happy to read drafts, but please allow three weeks to a month before the application deadline for review.

Hear Here project launch in La Crosse

Visitors and residents to La Crosse dial in to a toll-free phone number to listen to “Hear Here” stories adn oral histories collected by UW-La Crosse students. The project received a Major Grant in 2014. Image: Students and Project Director Ariet Beaujot at the March 2015 Launch March 2015. Photo credit: Hanqing Wu. Image courtesy of ‘Hear Here’

Resources for Applicants 

We understand, writing a competitive grant proposal can be challenging. To help you in the process, we publish a regular series of tips, called Grants 101, on our Humanities Booyah online magazine. Be sure to subscribe! And check out these online resources that may be helpful:

Meg Turville-HeitzIf you have any questions or if your plans include producing a video, audio or digital humanities product, please call us at (608) 265-5595 or email Meg Turville-Heitz for additional information.