African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund: Guidelines & Eligibility
Grants from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund are designed to advance ongoing preservation activities for historic places such as sites, museums, and landscapes representing African American cultural heritage. The fund supports work in four primary areas: Capital Projects, Organizational Capacity Building, Project Planning, and Programming and Interpretation.
Grants made from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund will range from $50,000 to $150,000. In 2022, the National Trust awarded $3 million to 33 projects. Read more about them here. Since establishing the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund’s National Grant Program in 2017, the National Trust has supported more than 200 preservation projects nationally.
2023 National Grant Program
Read the answers to some of our frequently asked questions here. It will be updated as new questions come in.
The National Trust, in consultation with the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund National Advisory Council and external reviewers, will select grant recipients by considering, among other points, the following criteria:
- The historic significance of the property to be assisted and its association to African American cultural heritage
- The extent to which the requested assistance will make a difference in preserving, restoring, interpreting or managing the historic property or site, including what other funds might be leveraged by an existing award
- The level of local support for the project, demonstrated through letters of support and information collected on the full application such as site visitation information, volunteer statistics, and other related metrics
- The potential of the project to be a catalyst for further positive action to benefit other historic properties, neighborhoods or communities
- The adequacy of plans and resources for future maintenance of the property or the continuation of the activity for which grant support is requested
- The ability and willingness of the applicant to carry out the proposed plans or activity within the project’s time frame if awarded
- The amount of additional resources being brought to the project, either through additional cash investments or donated materials and services
While this is not an exhaustive list, there are several themes we are particularly interested in:
- Activism and Protest Movements
- Achievement and Innovation (education, science, business, politics, etc.)
- Architecture and Black Architects
- Black Architects in Modernism
- Arts, Culture, and Creative Expression
- Cemeteries and Burial Grounds
- Education (Not Rosenwald School Specific)
- Free Black Settlements and Agricultural History
- Historically Black Colleges and Universities
- Churches and Sacred Places
- Sites of Enslavement
- Heritage Landscapes
- Sports & Recreation
- Green Book Sites
- Statewide African American preservation organizations
- Reconstruction Era Sites
- Rosenwald Schools
- Women’s History
- LGBTQ+ History
- Cities (addressing issues of displacement, gentrification, and affordability, and advancing solutions for historic urban redevelopment)
- Rural (advancing solutions to grow local economies, heritage tourism, and preservation of Black history
- Black Craftmanship and Craftspeople as expressed in the Built Environment
Grant-funded projects must focus on African American cultural heritage. If applying for an Organizational Capacity Building grant, the organization’s primary mission must be focused on African American cultural heritage or have demonstrated a commitment to this work.
Eligible applicants include:
- Public agencies: State or local agencies including boards, commissions, departments, accredited public colleges or universities, offices, agencies, public bodies, or political subdivisions of the state or of a county or municipality. Examples include state historic preservation offices, city and county preservation offices and planning departments, state and local commissions focused on different aspects of heritage, and publicly owned historic sites and museums.
- 501(c)(3), and other (federally designated) nonprofit organizations: A broad-range of 501(c)(3) organizations are eligible to apply, including state and local preservation organizations, churches, accredited private colleges or universities, historic sites, museums, historical societies, and genealogical associations.
Applicants that have received previous National Trust financial assistance are eligible provided that all grant requirements are current.
The minimum grant amount is $50,000. The maximum amount depends on the project category (See below, under Eligible Activities and Expenses). Requests below the minimum amount will not be reviewed.
Only one grant will be awarded per organization in any grant round. Only one type of grant will be awarded for each project phase. Grant recipients from previous rounds of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund's National Grant Program are eligible to apply.
There is a two-step process to be considered for a grant from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund:
- Letter of Intent
Deadline: Monday, December 19, 2022 at 11:59 pm local time.
A preliminary indication of interest and capacity. All Letters of Intent must be submitted through the National Trust’s online grant application system, by the deadline, or they will not be reviewed. A link to the application system is included at the bottom of this page.
Deadline: April 7, 2023
The Letter of Intent review period will take approximately twelve weeks. All applicants will be notified of their status at the end of this initial review period, likely in early March. If the applicant’s Letter of Intent is accepted, a full application will be requested. Instructions on how to complete the full application will be sent only to those organizations moving forward. The applicant will have approximately four weeks to complete and submit the full application once you receive a notice to proceed.
National Trust staff members will engage with the prospective grantees during the full application stage, and they will offer their assigned applicant technical support and advice to ensure they are submitting competitive grant proposals. Each staff member will act as the African American Cultural Heritage Fund liaison and will help applicants craft grant proposals. This collaborative engagement will benefit our selection process and grant-making
Grants from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund may be used to fund up to 100% of the proposed project. While matching funds are not required for this program, projects that are leveraging additional investments are strongly preferred. The following grant conditions apply:
- If the project involves a property, the grant recipient must either own the property or have a written agreement with the property owner stating that the grantee has permission to undertake the grant-funded project.
- Grants or any matching funds cannot be used directly or indirectly to influence a member of Congress to favor or oppose any legislation or appropriation.
- Any documents or plans for preservation work that result from the project must conform to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
- Any construction projects must conform to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
- Unless prior written approval of a bid waiver is obtained from the National Trust, at least three (3) competitive bids/quotes must be obtained for any procurement of services that exceed $50,000. This provision applies only to portions of the project supported by National Trust grant funds.
- Consultants must be approved by the National Trust before grant funds are disbursed. Board members of the applicant organization cannot serve as consultants unless appropriate conflict of interest procedures are followed and documented.
- Grant recipients must include appropriate acknowledgement of National Trust's African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and its philanthropic partners' financial support in all printed materials generated for the project. As part of the grant agreement, language will be provided for the acknowledgement and a toolkit for promoting the grant will be provided to each grantee.
- Grant recipients are required to sign a contract agreeing to the conditions of the program.
- Project Planning and Programming-related grants must be completed within one year of the initial grant disbursement date. Capital Project-related grants must be completed within 18 months of the initial grant disbursement.
- Recipients of Organizational Capacity grants to hire new staff, or to increase staff from part-time to full-time, will have two years to complete their project. All other Organizational Capacity grant-funded projects will follow a one-year completion timeline. See the Eligible Activities and Expenses section below for more details.
- Upon the project’s completion, a final narrative report and financial accounting of the expenditure of the grants must be submitted. If the project is not completed in accordance with the contract, the grant funds must be returned.
- Applicants must agree not to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin or sexual orientation. This obligation also extends to disabled veterans, Vietnam-era veterans, and handicapped persons.
- The National Trust's philanthropic partners may require additional grant conditions. They will be outlined in the grant contract.
Eligible Activities and Expenses
Grants from the National Trust's African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund are designed to advance ongoing preservation activities for historic places representing African American cultural heritage, such as sites, museums, theaters, sports venues, churches, schools, universities, and landscapes. Grant awards may be made for activities and projects in the following categories:
- Capital Projects
- Restoration, rehabilitation, stabilization, and preservation of historic assets and buildings, including bricks-and-mortar construction and planning costs
- In the case of Capital Projects, up to 15% of awarded grant funds may be used for construction planning such as architectural and engineering services, code review, drawings, specifications, and geotechnical services.
- Applicants can request up to $150,000 and can direct up to 15% of awarded grant funds for construction planning and documents
- Organizational Capacity Building
- Hiring new senior/director-level or leadership staff to increase the organization’s preservation stewardship and management capacity (funds can be used to support salaries and benefits for grant-supported staff.) Applicants can request up to $150,000 for a two-year period
- Increasing current part-time staff to full-time staff positions in order to advance preservation priorities. Applicants can request up to $100,000 for a two-year period
- Convening board, governance, and nonprofit management trainings and organizational development activities such as strategic planning for the organization. Applicants can request $50,000 and can direct up to 10% for indirect support/overhead costs.
- Project Planning
- Obtaining the services of consultants with expertise in the areas such as preservation architecture and planning, business development, engineering and environmental studies, legal issues, fundraising and financial sustainability, organizational development, education, etc. to develop plans for implementation by organization
- Development of viable business plans for preservation organizations, pre-development planning activities, feasibility studies for market-driven revitalization projects, preservation plans, engineering and environmental studies, property condition assessment reports with cost analysis, historic structures reports, etc.
- Applicants can request up to $75,000 and can direct up to 10% for indirect support/overhead costs
- Programming and Interpretation
- Designing and implementing innovative preservation education, documentation, mapping, and interpretative programs
- Collaborating with artists, creatives, and scholars to re-imagine interpretation and programming, while advancing new approaches to storytelling and public education
- Sponsoring preservation conferences, trainings, and workshops
- Designing, producing, and marketing printed materials or other media communications
- Designating sites at the local and/or national levels
- Applicants can request $50,000 and can direct up to 10% for indirect support/overhead costs
Grants awarded for Capital Projects and Programming and Interpretation may include funding for both the planning and implementation of those projects.
Ineligible Activities and Expenses
- Catering, entertainment, food and beverage costs
- Costs associated with planning for or constructing new buildings or structures, including the creation of monuments and statues
- Costs associated with creation or maintenance of archival collections (books, documents, ephemera, etc.)
- Expenses incurred prior to the grant award date
How to Apply
A Letter of Intent (LOI) must be submitted using the National Trust’s online grant application system. The LOI form will capture basic information about your organization and your project. When completing the LOI, you may need the following items:
- An IRS letter of determination (nonprofit applicants)
- A list of major donors to your organization or project
- Up to three photos of your site, if applicable
You will be taken to the National Trust grants application system where you will need to create a user profile for your organization. If your organization has applied for a grant previously, you will sign into your existing organization profile. If you have questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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