Getting Started Checklist
___ Make sure your organization is an eligible applicant
___ Determine which of the organization's needs or resources would be an eligible project and does it fit into the grant program's project categories
___ Understand the funding tiers
___ Read through the Grants Manual
___ Request an account to MNHS Grants Portal
___ Plan to meet the application deadline
___ Review instructions for completing the application
___ Contact the Grants Office to ask questions
The state legislature's grant program appropriation sets the general parameters for applicant and project eligibility. The appropriation specifies funding for history programs and projects operated or conducted by or through local, county, regional or other historical or cultural organizations; or for activities to preserve significant historic and cultural resources. In short, an eligible project must demonstrate a direct connection to Minnesota history or cultural heritage.
- 501(c)(3) non-profits, units of state and local government, federally-recognized tribes, and educational institutions, can apply for grants. Individuals are ineligible to apply.
- Both the applicant and the project need to be eligible prior to submitting an application (including pre-application).
- Grant projects must be ready to begin once the grant is awarded. This includes applicable permissions from the grantee’s board or governing entity.
- Applicant must have the legal authority to implement change including adjacent areas as stated in the grant proposal regarding real property (historic property) or collections.
- All applicant organizations must reside in the state of Minnesota.
Qualifying for a cooperative project
While one of the participants has a central or large role in managing the project, all participants must contribute in a substantive way to accomplish the project activities. These contributions and obligations should involve two or more forms, such as financial support, contributed time and labor, professional or technical expertise, access to facilities or equipment, use of intellectual property, and/or access to resources.
The lead participant is the grant applicant and must be eligible as defined under eligible applicants and agree to provide administrative services and oversight to, and assume legal and financial responsibility for, the terms of the grant. The project director and authorized officer must be an employee or board member from the lead participant’s organization.
The contributions and obligations of each participant must be defined in a formal, written Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). If funds are awarded, all participants will be required to sign the MOU which will be sent to the lead participant with the grant agreement. The Grants Office will generate the MOU from answers provided in the application. The MOU provides documentation that demonstrates the participants have agreed to coordinate the responsibility to carry out the project activities and will abide by grant requirements. The MOU will be in effect for the lifecycle of the grant.
Any product produced from a cooperative project must remain available to the public. This should be explained in the enduring value and sustainability sections of the application.
For construction work, a demonstration of control of the property through a deed or valid lease must be included with the application and the property owner must sign a letter of agreement that governs the use of the property for 5-20 years, depending on the amount awarded by the grant.
Similarly, the owner of the item or collection must also demonstrate ownership and responsibility.
Advice on completing the application for a cooperative project
The following information must be included in the grant application:
Is this a cooperative project? Select yes. A drop-down will appear with the following questions:
- Participants: Name and contact information of participants(s) involved
- Purpose: What is the purpose, goal, and/or common mission of the cooperative project? Why is this cooperative project important to all participants?
- Roles and responsibilities: Clearly describe and outline the agreed-upon roles and responsibilities of each participant to ensure project success. The roles and responsibilities should align with the grant application.
- Benefits: How will the public access the results of the cooperative project? How will each participant benefit from the cooperative project?
- Reporting: How will the effectiveness and adherence to the terms between the participants be reviewed? How will it be evaluated? Describe who will be responsible for collecting, collating, and submitting information as it pertains to the project activities.
- Funding: Clearly describe any grant funds, the amount and budget category (personnel, contracted services, etc.) that will be provided to non-lead participant(s). If grant funds will not be provided to non-lead participants(s), state that.
Restrictions for a cooperative project
- Vendors, consultants, fiscal agents (sponsors), and contractors are ineligible participants.
- Individuals, for-profit corporations and organizations, and federal agencies are inappropriate participants.
- The Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage structured grant application cannot be used to apply for a cooperative project.
The type of project determines the size of the grant, the application procedure you must follow, and the review process for your application. Matching funds are encouraged but not required. A pre-application, which provides an opportunity for an initial screening to ensure your organization and the proposed project are eligible to receive a grant, is required for large grant applications.
Small Grants (requests of $10,000 or less)
The small grants are awarded quarterly (see Deadlines), and applications are due on the second Friday of January, April, July, and October. These grants primarily fund projects that can be completed within 12 months. Small grants award notifications are sent eight weeks after the application deadline. While there is no pre-application process for small grants, Grants Office staff are available to discuss your project as you prepare your application. If not funded, you will receive feedback on your application so that you can strengthen it and re-apply in another cycle.
Structured grants, a simplified small grant option, are tailored to specific types of projects, such as developing a disaster plan for a small repository, acquiring microfilm, or conducting a museum self-assessment. All structured grants are small grants, and follow the small grants process listed above; however, the applicant must simply use the appropriate short form structured grant application rather than the standard Minnesota Historical & Cultural Heritage Grants application form.
Large Grants (requests over $10,000)
Large grants are much more competitive than small grants, and involve a multi-step application and review process. Grants at this level are administered in accordance with negotiated terms of a grant agreement appropriate to the project needs. Large grants typically fund projects that can be completed within 6-18 months. There is one large grant round offered each year. The application process for large grants will take approximately 5 months, with award notifications sent out approximately 12 weeks after the final application deadline.
Fundraising and match
A funding match is not required at any level in the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grants program. Matching funds, however, are always encouraged and are listed as an additional criterion for evaluating grant applications. Demonstrated match is one indicator of community buy-in and commitment to a project. A match also demonstrates a community’s investment in seeing a project through to completion. The presence of a local match for larger grants can be a measure of your organization’s capacity to carry out your project and of your project’s long-term sustainability. Having match can be a tiebreaker in particularly competitive grants rounds.
Your organization should have the matching funds in-hand when you submit your final application. Fundraising efforts further demonstrate an organization and community's support and engagement in a project. Successful grant applicants begin fundraising efforts well in advance of applying for a grant, and are able to quantify the funds collected to date at the time of application. The Minnesota Historical & Cultural Heritage Grants program offers applicants a way to bridge the gap between fundraising achieved to date and actual project budget.
The Constitutional Amendment and Legislative Appropriation language specifically states that grant funds may not be used to substitute for traditional funding sources your organization has received in the past. The appropriation language also requires Minnesota Historical Society to administer the program under "existing grants mechanisms," which means expenses considered ineligible under other Society grants programs are typically ineligible under the Minnesota Historical & Cultural Heritage Grants program.
What is funded
Eligible costs include, but are not limited to:
- Direct costs that are integral to completing the eligible project (these must be justified in the grant application’s budget)
- Equipment purchases directly needed to carry out project objectives (e.g., recording device for an oral history project)
- Standard federal rates for mileage. Out-of-state travel needs must be justified in the application.
- See category descriptions in the Grants Manual for additional costs related to specific projects. All costs must be clearly justified in the grant application.
What is not funded
Any ineligible costs included in an application will be removed from consideration as part of the approved budget. Ineligible costs include, but are not limited to:
- Tuition expenses
- Indirect costs, also referred to as administrative or overhead costs
- General organizational operating costs
- Salary or benefits of current full-time staff
- Cost of moving a building, structure, or monument
- Expenditures and activities incurred before or after the project dates stated in the executed grant contract.
- Costs and projects related to compliance or mitigation with state and federal laws related to historic preservation
- Costs to prepare applications for the state and federal tax incentive programs
- Projects to remodel or modernize the interior of historic properties, unless the cost is related to interior building systems or ADA accessibility routes or restrooms that make historical public spaces accessible to all
- Ongoing costs of internet hosting service
- Extended service warranties or ongoing annual service contracts
- Development of web presence that serves only as a brochure or web-based store for the organization
- Royalties paid to authors from the sale of publications
- Legal fees
- Any item not listed in the approved budget, unless written permission is received from Grants Office in the form of an amendment to the grant contract
Note: The grant portal website is most compatible with Google Chrome, and may not work correctly in Internet Explorer and other browsers.
In order to submit a grant application you must provide basic information about the organization you represent when you request an account.
Go to the grants portal and fill out the “Request an account” form.
- Your full name
- Your email address: Provide a contact email address, not a generic organizational email. This email will become the username of your login
- Your phone number
- Name of the organization or unit that is applying
- The organization's federal employer identification number (FEIN)
- Mailing address. Be sure that this address has a mail receptacle that is checked regularly.
- Project title and project summary. Provide a few sentences of background on the project. This is not an application, but it helps determine if you are seeking your grant from the correct funding source. You can include an estimate of the project’s expected timeline.
- Amount requested. Give an estimate of the amount of funding that you will seek, as this helps determine if you are seeking your grant from the correct funding source.
Once the Grants Office reviews your request, you will receive an email either approving or rejecting your request. Additional information or clarification may be requested. If approved, you will receive a username and randomly-created password to access the grants portal. Save your login information, as the Grants Office does not keep login information on file.
Accessing your applications
The Grants Office only accepts applications through the grants portal. Before you apply, familiarize yourself with the information contained in the Grants Manual. The manual contains instructions and requirements for pre-applications, final applications, and attachments. Grants Office staff are available to discuss your project with you at any stage of the process.
Pre-applications for large requests
A pre-application is a draft application using the standard Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant application form. It is critical that you complete the pre-application as thoroughly as possible. The more specific you are in the pre-application, the better the advice from reviewer will be as you prepare your final application.
- A pre-application is required for large (requests over $10,000) grant applications.
- Prior grant applications and past grant awards do not substitute for a " pre-application.”
- Pre-applications cannot substitute for project planning.
Final application for large requests
After the project director receives the pre-application comments, you will be able to edit and revise the application before the final deadline.
Final application for small requests
Small grant applications do not have pre-applications. Applications that clearly address the grant guidelines and meet professional standards are most likely to be recommended to the Minnesota Historical Society's Executive Committee or Council for approval. Proposals requiring clarification or missing information will be returned to applicants with feedback designed to help the applicants strengthen their proposals for resubmittal in the following round.
Logging in and filling out a grant application
When you log in, start at the main menu of the grants portal. This is where you will be able to create and track your grant proposal. This is also where you will file your final report if your project is funded.
Create a new application from the main menu by clicking on the "Create a Request" button.
A number of grant application forms will be listed. This manual only provides information on filling out the MHCHG application forms for standard and structured grants. To open a blank grant application form, click on "Create New Request" next to the name of the appropriate grant program.
Save your work often to avoid losing it! If you click the "Save" button and you receive an error message, you must correct the error(s) and re-save your work. For example, applicants often make the error of leaving a required field blank. To avoid this error, make sure that there is at least one letter or word in each narrative field. If you get an error message at the top of the page after you hit the save button, it is usually because one of the narrative fields is still blank. When that message comes up, scroll down the page to find the blank field, it will be highlighted in red.
Note: If you do not correct the errors, the portal will not save your application. There is no way to retrieve an application once it is deleted.
Step-by-step application sections
- Applicant: The organization name that you entered in your original account request will automatically populate the applicant field.
- Mailing address: If your organization has multiple locations you can select the location from a drop-down menu, otherwise the mailing address will be the one you entered on your account request form. The address will be abbreviated as "headquarters" on the application.
- Project director: Select the name of the person with the applicant organization who has primary responsibility for the project and who will work with the Grants Office throughout the project's duration. The Project Director should be someone within the applicant organization. Vendors, contractors, consultants, and hired grant writers are not appropriate project directors. If the person's name does not appear in the list, contact the Grants Office with his/her full contact information. The majority of correspondence will be conducted electronically. Therefore, it is crucial to have an updated and valid email address in the grants portal for the project director.
- Authorized officer: Select the name of the individual legally authorized by the organization to conduct its business and accept grant funds on behalf of the organization. Vendors, contractors, consultants, and hired grant writers are not appropriate authorized officers. If the person's name does not appear in the list, contact the Grants Office with his/her full contact information.
- Applicant organization type: Select applicable description from drop-down menu.
- Applicant county: Select applicable county from drop-down menu. List the county in which the applicant organization is located.
- Governance/board members: List the names of all current board or governance members separated by a comma. Example: Jane Doe, William Sparks, Susan White.
- Sponsored entity: If your project will be conducted through a sponsorship, select yes and provide complete contact information for the organization being sponsored. All parties must have a vested and active interest in the project (see "Cooperative project" for more information).
- Project title: Provide a succinct, but descriptive title for the project in the space provided.
- Brief project summary: Provide a brief one-line narrative statement of the project's goals.
- Geographic focus of project: Select all counties that the project will affect or choose "Statewide" if the project includes the entire state. Highlight county desired on the left and select > to move the county name into right column.
Historic property (If applicable)
Historic preservation project categories cover the full range of historic preservation activities. Eligible projects include identifying, evaluating, and registering historic resources; preserving historic resources through bricks and mortar grants; developing planning studies and preservation education projects; and heritage tourism activities.
- Property name: If your project is a historic preservation project involving a specific historic property, provide the historic name (rather than a different current name). You can look up the historic name here: http://nrhp.mnhs.org/.
- Address: Physical address of the property, not a post office box.
- City: City in which the property is located.
- Property location county: Select applicable county from drop down menu.
- Select appropriate box for "listed in" or "eligible" for the National Register of Historic Places
Note: The property must be listed in the National Register of Historic Places to be eligible for a grant project involving construction. For all other projects, properties must be listed or have been determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places in order for it to be eligible for grant funding.
If the request is $10,000 or less, check the box next to "Small request." For budgets greater than $10,000, check the box next to "Large request."
Budget line items:
- This is a line-item budget. Line items are individual expense items designating expenses for a specific purchase or service. For example, the payment to a carpenter to install porch spindles would be one line item and the purchase of roof shingles would be another.
- Indicate whether each item will be charged to the grant amount or to one of the applicant match columns. Match is optional. If you are not claiming match as part of the project budget, all of your expenses will appear in the "Grant amount requested" column. The form will calculate the line and column totals automatically.
- This portion of the application serves as a foundation for your project's approved budget, which becomes part of the grant agreement. Do not submit the budget as a single line item with all costs added together. Be as detailed as possible.
- Do not upload a document showing a detailed budget in the "Request documents" section of the application as a substitute for filling out this section of the application. If the budget form is incomplete, the application will be rejected.
For each budget item start by clicking on the green "+" button at the upper right of the "Budget line items" box, then:
- Budget item: Enter a short but descriptive name. Do not enter a dollar amount.
- Budget item cost to be paid by grant: Enter the amount of the item to be charged to the grant award. Do not include decimals; enter whole numbers only.
- Cash match for budget item: Cash match must be applied to a specific budget expense in the line item directly related to the project. Cash match for the project may be money in the applicant's accounts designated for the project, or it may be funds received from another source at the time the grant application is submitted. You cannot use "Cash match" to describe the line item. Contingency is an acceptable line item for cash match that will be used if the project goes over estimated cost. Do not include decimals; enter whole numbers only. Cash match is optional.
- Cash match source (if applicable): Provide the name of the source of the cash match. Funds from the State of Minnesota cannot be used as match.
- Cash match status (if applicable): Anticipated funds may be listed, but listing them commits the applicant to raise them for the project. Funds listed as anticipated should be relatively secure; keep in mind that one of the review criteria.
- In-kind match for budget item - name of person: Enter the name of the person proving the in-kind time. In-kind match will largely include services provided by staff salaries (including fringe benefits) and unpaid volunteers that represent actual work that will occur on the project. They cannot include general administration of the organization, grant administration, or audit costs.
- In-kind match for budget item - hourly pay rate: Enter the rate of pay of the person providing the in-kind time. Calculate the value of in-kind services according to the person's training/expertise and the work they provide for the project. If professional, technical, or clerical persons provide services in the area of their training/expertise for the project, calculate the value of their services at their usual hourly rate of pay. However, if the same people provide work outside of the area of their training/expertise, calculate the value of their services at the current state minimum hourly pay rate.
- In-kind match hours (if applicable): Enter the number of in-kind hours the person listed above is anticipated to work on the project.
- In-kind match amount (if applicable): This will calculate automatically based on the rate of pay and hours entered above. Click "Create budget request" button to save and return to the application.
Amount requested (use total from above): Enter the total "Grant amount requested" from the budget table. The amount requested line item should be the same number from the "Grant Amount requested" column in the budget table.
Match offered: Enter the totals under "Total match" from the line item budget.
Tips to remember:
- Fill in the "Amount requested" and "Match offered" fields below the budget form in the application. Make sure that these numbers match the numbers in the budget form.
- Cash match is tangible. It corresponds to costs of actual purchases (e.g., the materials line above).
- In-kind match is intangible. It corresponds to personnel costs - for example, how much you would pay volunteers for the work they are doing; or, the amount of time put in by paid staff as part of their work day (figured by their regular rate of pay).
- Use whole numbers only. Do not enter decimals in your proposed budget.
- Cash match and in-kind match must be associated with a line item. Applicants cannot assign generic "cash" to a project.
- Do not include ineligible expenses in your budget ("Overhead" line item). Ineligible costs will be removed from the budget by grants staff.
How were the above figures determined? Describe how the budget was determined in the space provided. Include names of potential vendors from which you may purchase equipment or supplies. Describe how project personnel salaries and hours were determined. For construction, was prevailing wage used to figure the estimate costs?
Tips to remember:
Use the "How were above figures determined?" field to provide information about how your budget figures were reached. For example, for the Materials line item, on the example detailed budget, include vendor quotes, price comparisons, etc.
Note: Do not exceed the character limit for your narrative responses to the application questions. Check the guidelines for additional requirements for the specific category in which you are applying.
- Describe the specific purpose of your project, including its scope and goals.
- Do not exceed the 6500 character limit.
Need and rationale (select one)
- Select the need and rationale statement that best fits the project from one in the drop-down menu.
Need and rationale
- This question addresses one of the review criteria: showing how a project fills a demonstrated need. What user needs does it address?
- Demonstrate demand for the project. How does this project fit into your current and future activities and, if applicable, those of your partner organization?
- What research, activity or conditions led you to decide that this project is a priority?
- If this project implements recommendations from planning or evaluation activities, or a survey or assessment, include a copy of the assessment report or your long-range preservation plan.
- Do not exceed the 3250 character limit.
Work plan and timetable
- Provide a detailed work plan and a schedule showing the sequence and duration of each task. If your project is divided into phases, what planning or testing have you done that demonstrates you can accomplish each phase in the time allotted? What planning have you undertaken to prepare for this project?
- The project category guidelines may specify additional information required in completing this section.
- Do not exceed the 4000 character limit.
- List those who will work on the project, their qualifications, and the specific tasks they will carry out.
- Explain any special training planned for those who will work on the project. If specialized training is required for staff or volunteers, how will it be acquired? Some of the work for grant projects is specialized and usually done by an outside professional. If professionals, contractors, or consultants will be hired for the project, what qualifications will they need?
- If vendors/consultants/contractors are already selected, it is critical the procurement (hiring) process meets the requirements of the grant program. Describe the process used.
- If a person from your organization will do some or all of the work, what work items will they complete and what are their qualifications and experience? Who will oversee your project and what are their qualifications and experience? Describe how grant funds used to pay for the organization's personnel will be supplemental (see Appendix D)
- See Appendix I for procurement requirements.
- Do not exceed the 4000 character limit.
Note: The Minnesota Legislature requires grantees and grantmakers to report on the number of jobs created through the Legacy Amendment. Taking into account your personnel and work plan needs for your project, estimate the following:
- the number of hours newly-hired project staff will work on the grant project
- the number of hours existing part-time staff will dedicate to the grant project
If you are hiring outside consultants or contractors, or purchasing goods from a vendor, estimate the total number of consultants/contractors/vendors you expect to employ for the grant project.
Enter the totals in the appropriate boxes on the application form, or a zero if the information is not applicable. These are required fields, so every box must have data entered in it.
- Describe why and how the outcomes and benefits of your project will have a lasting impact and value for your users or your organization.
- Do not exceed the 3250 character limit.
- Describe your capacity to carry on the work beyond the life of the grant. What impact on your budget do you expect your project to have?
- Do not exceed the 3250 character limit.
Use the evaluation metrics table to describe the project's impact and how you will evaluate its success. What effect did the project have on your organization, staff, volunteers, patrons, or local community (your audience)? How will you know if it was worthwhile developing this project? What standards are you measuring against? How will you analyze the results? Each project should have at least one short-term and one-long term goal. Any application without at least one evaluation metric will be considered incomplete.
Complete the evaluation metrics table. Similar to the budget, choose the green "+" in the upper right corner to add each evaluation metric. For each metric:
- Timeframe: Choose the timeframe from the dropdown menu (short-term, intermediate, or long-term).
- Expected impact: Describe the impact of the project on your organization/community. Each impact must demonstrate a change in people's knowledge, status, or behavior. To be measurable, establish a way to survey when and how these changes occurred.
- Progress indicator: Briefly explain how you will measure the impact the project has on your audience?
- Click "Create evaluation metric" to save.
Application attachments and required documentation
- Upload required application attachments to the "Request documents" box.
- Attachments sent via postal mail or email will not be accepted.
- Do not upload zip files. PDFs are the preferred file format.
- Use descriptive naming conventions on all documentation, (e.g., "WinningProjectProposal.pdf" or "Images_1-32.pdf" or "Photo_ Key_First_Floor.docx."
- Combine like items (e.g., photographs, drawings, etc.) into as few files as possible.
- Upload organizational files, such as audit or 990 materials, to the "Request documents" box.
See the Grants Manual for required documentation for each grant category.
All required attachments must be uploaded to your application in the grants portal by end of day on the deadline date. It is strongly encouraged to include the required attachments with the pre-application. Material sent by any other means cannot be accepted or considered.
Nongovernmental organizations applying for $25,000+
The State of Minnesota Grants Policy (#08-06) requires a review of the financial stability of nongovernmental organizations applying for grants of more than $25,000. To comply with this requirement, applicant organizations must submit an acceptable financial record (listed below) as part of their application materials. Any items of significant concern must then be discussed and resolved to the satisfaction of Grants Office staff before a grant can be awarded.
Failure to supply an acceptable financial record with your application will result in disqualification for the grant round. Whichever record you submit must be the most recent available and no more than three years old.
- Form 990
- Form 990-EZ
- Certified financial audit
- Year end financial report
Records that cannot be accepted
- Form 990-N
- Bank statement
- Balance sheet
The Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grants Program is a competitive process involving administrative and content review by Grants Office staff, peer reviewers, the Historic Resources Advisory Committee (HRAC), and the Minnesota Historical Society’s Executive Council.
Small and structured grants ($10,000 and less): Applications are reviewed by one or more Grants Office staff members with expertise related to the project category and administrative policy. Those that are selected will be recommended to the Society's Executive Council for approval, and those requiring revision or those that are ineligible will be returned to applicants with constructive feedback. The Grants Office encourages unsuccessful applicants to re-apply for an eligible project during a future grant round. Notifications of the Executive Council’s decision are sent approximately eight weeks after application deadline.
Large grants ($10,001+): Once the deadline passes, pre-applications are reviewed by one or more Grants Office staff members with expertise related to the project category and administrative policy. Constructive feedback is provided to the applicant to strengthen the final application. Final applications are reviewed by Grants Office staff and other subject area experts. For grant applications requesting funding of $100,000 or greater, an additional peer review is conducted by a qualified professional unaffiliated with the Minnesota Historical Society. Final Applications, along with staff and peer reviewer comments, are provided to the HRAC for consideration at a public meeting.
Based on their evaluation and the review criteria, the HRAC recommends approval or denial of each application and forwards their recommendations to the Executive Council for final action. You will be notified of their decision in writing. Notification of the HRAC’s and Executive Council’s decisions are sent out approximately 12 weeks after final application deadline. In some cases, special conditions may be required on approved projects; the conditions will be outlined in your grant contract. Once awarded, large grants are subject to increased fiscal oversight and require ongoing reporting to Grants Office staff.
Those interested in grants offered through MNHS, including the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grants, are welcome to attend a Grants Office Open House. Open houses are held on the first Thursday of every month (except for July and November) at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. These events are an opportunity to meet grants office staff to discuss project ideas, eligibility requirements, and the application process. See the Events and deadlines page for upcoming open house dates and times.