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 place-based cultural heritage preservation projects for historic places representing African American cultural heritage. The Action Fund awards grants across four project categories: Capital Projects, Organizational Capacity Building, Project Planning, and Programming and Interpretation.

Grants made from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund range from $50,000 to $150,000. In 2023, the National Trust awarded $3.8 million to 40 projects. Read more about the 2023 Action Fund grantees. 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. Please review our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

2024 National Grant Program

Criteria

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 with 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 any additional funding or in-kind resources the applicant has secured for the project.
  • Project readiness and organizational capacity, including the adequacy of project plans and resources for the future maintenance of the property or the continuation of the activity for which grant support is requested.
  • The potential for the project to serve as a model to benefit other historic properties, neighborhoods, or communities.

Themes

While this is not an exhaustive list, we are particularly interested in projects related to the following themes:

  • Activism and Protest Movements
  • Achievement and Innovation (Education, Science, Business, Politics, etc.)
  • Architecture Designed by Black Architects
  • Black Architects in Modernism
  • Arts, Culture, and Creative Expression
  • Cemeteries and Burial Grounds (eligible for Project Planning, Programming and Interpretation, and Organizational Capacity Building project categories only)
  • Education
  • 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
  • Urban Landscapes (addressing issues of displacement, housing affordability, and advancing solutions for historic urban redevelopment)
  • Rural Landscapes (advancing solutions to grow local economies and enhance heritage tourism)
  • Black Craftspeople and Craftmanship as expressed in the built environment

Eligibility

Projects must focus on African American cultural heritage. To apply for an Organizational Capacity Building grant, the organization must have a primary mission centered in 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, 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.

The minimum grant amount is $50,000. The maximum amount depends on the project category (See “Eligible Activities and Expenses”). Requests below $50k will not be reviewed.

Organizations are eligible to receive one grant in any grant round. Applicants that have previously received a National Trust grant are eligible to apply for the 2024 grant cycle provided that all grant requirements have been fulfilled and the grant has been closed.

Organizations that received a grant from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund's National Grant Program in previous grant rounds are eligible to apply again in an alternative project category.

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 leverage additional investments (funding or in-kind services) are strongly preferred.

Eligible Activities and Expenses

Grant awards are made for activities and projects across four project categories. Project categories cannot be combined on a single application:

  • Capital Projects
    • Restoration, rehabilitation, stabilization, and preservation of historic assets and buildings, including brick-and-mortar construction and limited planning costs.
    • Projects must conform to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
    • New construction and renovation projects for non-historic buildings are not eligible for grant funding.
    • Applicants can request up to $150,000. Projects must be completed within 18 months of the initial grant disbursement date. Up to 15% of awarded grant funds may support construction planning and documents such as architectural and engineering services, code review, drawings, specifications, and geotechnical services. Please note that competitive Capital Project applications will demonstrate prior completion of most of the pre-project planning.
  • 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.) Organizations must be located at historic properties. Applicants can request up to $150,000 total for a two-year period.
    • Increasing current part-time staff positions to full-time staff positions to advance preservation priorities. Applicants can request up to $100,000 total for a two-year period.
  • Project Planning
    • Obtaining the services of consultants with expertise in 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 future implementation by the grantee organization.
    • Developing 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 analyses, historic structures reports, etc.
    • Recommendations provided in project planning documents/deliverables must conform to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
    • Applicants can request up to $75,000 and can direct up to 10% for indirect support/overhead costs. Projects must be completed within one year of the initial grant disbursement date.
  • Programming and Interpretation
    • Designing and implementing innovative preservation education, documentation, mapping, and interpretive programs located at historic properties.
    • Collaborating with artists, creatives, and scholars to re-imagine interpretation and programming, while advancing new approaches to storytelling and public education at historic properties.
    • Designing, producing, and marketing printed materials or other media communications for projects of national significance.
    • 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. Projects must be completed within one year of the initial grant disbursement date.

Ineligible Activities and Expenses

  • Catering, entertainment, food, and beverage costs
  • Costs associated with planning for or constructing new buildings or structures
  • Renovation projects for non-historic buildings
  • Furniture and appliance purchases
  • Audiovisual (A/V) technology/equipment
  • Capital projects at cemeteries and burial grounds
  • Costs associated with the creation of monuments and statues
  • Costs associated with the creation or maintenance of archival or museum collections, including display cases
  • Expenses incurred prior to the grant award date

Application Process

Applicants must submit a complete application to be considered for a grant from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. Applications must be submitted through the online grants portal by Thursday, February 1, 2024, at 11:59 PM local time. Late applications will not be accepted.

Please read the grant program guidelines in their entirety prior to starting the application. All applicants will be notified of their status via email by early summer of 2024.

  • Application Opening: December 14, 2023
  • Application Deadline: February 1, 2024

Access the Action Fund National Grant Program Application.

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.

Please direct questions to actionfundgrants@savingplaces.org.

Please add administrator@grantinterface.com to your address book to ensure you receive email communications sent from our grants application system about your application.

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