Author Archive

Grants 101: Be Good, Be Brief, and…

Tips for Grant Writers | December 2, 2015 | By:


Be Good, Be Brief, and…Be Gone, a board member of the historical museum I once directed used to advise me.  A retired corporate executive and the organization’s treasurer, he was fond of dispensing aphorisms with a wink in his eye.  He taught me, a graduate student with more words than available pages, the importance of a one-page memo.  He taught me how to get to the point.

One challenge of writing a strong grant proposal is Read More

Announcing Fall Major Grant Awards

Humanities Programs in Focus | November 3, 2015 | By:


We are excited to announce the fall round of Major Grant awards!

Six is the magic number this fall. We are so proud of the six projects that received Mini-grants at the end of August, and pleased to announce the following six organizations are receiving WHC Major Grants for their outstanding projects. 

In reading this list you will see just how much important public humanities work is being done in our state. These are conversations about race and culture, about immigration and getting to know one another better. Read More

Grants 101: Working With Humanities Experts

Tips for Grant Writers | July 1, 2015 | By:

Grant Program Director Mark Livengood shares some tips for grant writers periodically here as part of Humanities Booyah. Mark consults in person and over the phone with people all the time, listening to ideas and talking through potential public humanities projects. He is approachable and insightful. He also notes that some questions come up again and again. This week he gives us some of his talking points on the subject of Humanities Experts. 

We have clearly stated  criteria for judging grant proposals listed in our Grant Guidelines. One is that projects should be firmly grounded in the humanities: “Strong public humanities programs engage humanities experts and community members so that both local knowledge and academic expertise are respected.”

So what, exactly, do we mean by ‘humanities expert?’

Ojibwe artist Wayne Valliere works with students

Ojibwe artist Wayne Valliere works with students as part of a 2013 WHC Major Grant-funded project called “These Canoes Carry Culture: Birchbark Canoe Building for At-Risk Youth.”

When describing the grant proposal they’re working on, people sometimes ask me “What does the WHC mean by humanities expert?”  I usually mention the definition included in our grant guidelines.  In the spirit of the WHC’s Working Lives Project, I’ve reformatted that definition into a brief position description for a WHC humanities expert: Read More

Grants 101: Writing a Strong Budget Description

Tips for Grant Writers | February 25, 2015 | By:

by Mark Livengood, WHC Grant Program Director, writing to an imaginary applicant as if responding to an imaginary grant proposal draft.

Pen, calculator and WHC budget form 

To:  Grant Applicant

From:  Mark Livengood, The Friendly Curmudgeon

Re:  Your Budget Description

Overall, your major grant application is looking really good.  The project description clearly communicates interesting humanities content, identifies solid humanities experts, and suggests the involvement of strong community partners.  In terms of your project budget, the figures balance and you have more than the required one-to-one match.  Nice work.

Still, several of your proposed expenses will likely raise questions from reviewersRead More

Grants 101: Grant Consultation

Tips for Grant Writers | November 5, 2014 | By:

Photo from the Milwaukee Public Library

“The Rotunda and Eagle at the Milwaukee Public Library” by Peter Murphy used by permission from Doors Open Milwaukee

As a new executive director at Historic Milwaukee, Inc., I took the opportunity to call in fall 2013 regarding future grant submissions.  After a highly productive conversation, I learned that our project would be a good candidate for a major grant.  In early 2014 I emailed a draft of the grant application and we reviewed it over the phone a few weeks later.  I had specific questions regarding our budget, our proposed humanities experts, and our marketing expenses.  Since we had received a prior grant for the same project, there were suggestions about how our proposed event differed from the previous event, including lessons learned by our organization.  

~Stacy Swadish, Executive Director of Historic Milwaukee, Inc., which received a WHC major grant in June 2014 for Doors Open Milwaukee

Consulting with grant applicants is one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job as Grant Program Director.  Not only does it enable me to synthesize my training and experience in interesting ways, it also teaches me a great deal about the wide range of dedicated people and the public humanities projects they are developing across the state.  The catalog of funded projects on this website highlights projects awarded WHC grants since 2011.  

Grant consultation happens in various ways.  Read More

Timeless Tips for Graduates

Humanities Programs in Focus, Voices from the Field | June 18, 2014 | By:

Aerial image of graduates seated listening to the commencement speech at UW-Madison.

Photo by Jeff Miller, UW-Madison, University Communications © Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System

“Dad said I would always be ‘high minded and low waged’ from reading too much Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Maybe he was right.”  —Jim Harrison, The English Major

In the interest of full disclosure: last month I read one of Harrison’s more recent novels, and I still read essays by the ol’ sage of Concord.  I’ll skip any remarks about the low-wage business since my parents taught me that talking about money is impolite, so let me just say that several Sundays ago I was reading Emerson’s “Literary Ethics,” an address he gave to the Dartmouth College graduating class of 1838.  Yes, that’s the correct date.

Because June is traditionally graduation month, and because my job allows me to write a few hundred words for the general public from time-to-time, I thought I’d pass along some of Emerson’s timeless tips to those donning caps and gowns and whistling Pomp and Circumstance these days.  Read More

Museums and the WHC: Connecting Wisconsinites

Humanities Programs in Focus, Voices from the Field | May 21, 2014 | By:

Wisconsin Maritime Museum

Museums help visitors make connections: between people and the natural environment; between the present and more complex pasts; between familiar and unfamiliar communities.  Given this role, perhaps it is not surprising that the American Alliance of Museums estimated there are 850 million visits to American museums annually.

Last week the Wisconsin Federation of Museums sponsored Wisconsin Museums Week to showcase the hard work and positive impacts museums have across the state.  This year’s theme: “Museum Collections Make Connections.”  I hit the road to touch base with three museums to see what kinds of connections they are making with their recent WHC mini-grants.

Read More

Grants 101: The Importance of Detail

Tips for Grant Writers | February 11, 2014 | By:

Farmer on a tractor in a field of alfalfa.

Rex Dobson cutting hay, June 2005. Photo by Mark Livengood, used with permission from the Rex Dobson Ruby Ellen Farm Foundation.

“The devil’s in the detail,” one of my friends, a life-long farmer, used to say. This compact traditional expression fit him as well as the red wool cap he wore nine months of the year. Taciturn in disposition, he was widely acknowledged for producing the best bales of hay for miles around, a distinction due, no doubt, to the close attention he paid to the details of his fields and his machinery.

Had my friend written a grant to the WHC, I’m confident his proposal would have reflected such concern.

Read More