Archive for the ‘Tips for Grant Writers’ Category

What Good Oral History Is All About

Tips for Grant Writers, Voices from the Field | May 20, 2015 | By:

IMG_0409Troy Reeves oversees what he casually calls ‘oral history activities’ at the UW-Madison Archives, which is a part of the UW-Madison Libraries. He came to Wisconsin via Idaho, where he was Idaho’s Oral Historian (employed by their state historical society). Over the past eight years he has converted the UW collection’s audio oral histories from analog to digital and been extremely proactive around the state to support and facilitate oral history projects.

Since his arrival in 2007, Troy’s expertise as an oral historian has been highly sought after. In fact, he has been involved as a consultant in so many WHC-funded grants, we wonder if he has cloned himself to get all the work done. Until recently he was the only full-time oral historian at the state or university level.

Troy believes strongly in the power, and value, of oral histories. So we asked him to share with you some of what he does when he is working with groups to get oral history projects started on solid footing.

Important Things to Know about Oral History: A Short Essay on a Big Topic

I’ve been a professional oral historian for just about 16 years.  I still remember my first public presentation, back in 1999, on the topic. But not for what I said. Rather for the first question (really two) asked of me:

“Who are you?” And “What are you doing here?” Read More

Library Programs: What brings ’em in the doors?

Tips for Grant Writers, Voices from the Field | May 13, 2015 | By:

MaxGarland2Amy Lutzke is the Assistant Director at the Dwight Foster Public Library in Fort Atkinson and a founding member of the Friends of Lorine Niedecker. We have worked with Amy over the years on a number of WHC grant-funded projects, including book discussions and the annual Lorine Niedecker Poetry Festival.  From our perspective as a funder, she is an extraordinary project director -organized, pragmatic, responsive – and it is clear that she understands the power of both libraries and the humanities. She also knows Fort Atkinson, the library, and her community. Her projects are solidly grounded in that connection and fueled by an honest passion to bring out the best in her community.   
We asked Amy, “How do you make your big ideas into doable programs?” Here she generously shares with you some of what she has learned over the years.

 ◊ ◊ ◊ 

One of the first events I organized was a disaster. The Wisconsin Humanities Council was touring a play in commemoration of Wisconsin’s Sesquicentennial. It was a humorous look at Wisconsin history that I thought would be sure to get a decent audience.

Five people came and I was one of them. The tiny audience did love the show, but I felt horrible for the performers.

After that I began to think about how to make sure I had an audience for any program I went to the trouble to plan. Since I was new, I started by talking with my coworkers about possible barriers that might keep people from coming. In these conversations, I learned things about my new community.

For example, I learned that Wednesday night is church night in Fort and many individuals are involved in church activities that evening. The poorly attended play I mentioned was scheduled on a Wednesday. I also learned to check the school district calendar for potential conflicts. And, as you probably know, don’t bother scheduling something during a Packer game!

Now I worry less about having empty seats at programs.  To ‘bring ’em in the door,’ I try to follow this recipe:

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

Our Recipe for the Coming Year of Humanities Booyah

Humanities Programs in Focus, Our Working Lives Project, Tips for Grant Writers, Voices from the Field | January 27, 2015 | By:


Welcome! Humanities Booyah is a unique online magazine for people doing the everyday work of planning public programs and events. 

About a year ago, we launched Humanities Booyah and began publishing online content. For 2015, we have an ambitious editorial calendar set. We will continue to provide you insider information about the public humanities in Wisconsin. And, we want to do more for you.

It is easy to forget that you are part of a highly motivated, productive network of cultural program providers in Wisconsin. The work that each of us does is diverse. The impact of our programs can be both subtle and profound. Our audiences encompass everyone in the state. Our organizations are unique, and yet, many of the challenges we face, and successes we celebrate, are more universal. 

We are sharing stories here to open new possibilities…for collaboration…for conversation…for a more engaged community!

Read 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

Our new grant applications are here to make things easier

Tips for Grant Writers | March 26, 2014 | By:

Historic black & white photo of a woman breaking a bottle of champagne on board a ship

This photo is part of the Kewaukee Public Library’s collection of historic images recently made public called “Kewaunee Ships of War.” Here a woman christens a new vessel by breaking a bottle of champagne.


We know that writing a grant application can be hard work.

Mini-Grant awards come in all sizes, but none are larger than $2,000. And although your chances as a WHC applicant are much better than, say, winning the Powerball Lottery (since we fund close to half the proposals submitted every year), buying a lottery ticket might seem easier. Developing a project and writing a convincing application requires a good deal of effort. 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