Grants: FAQ

Q. I know what the humanities are. What are public humanities?
A. The public humanities are intended for public audiences. They make scholarly knowledge about humans and our world accessible through programs that invite people to experience the humanities in action. Public humanities programs may help people reflect upon their experiences, better understand current events and issues, or gain a deeper appreciation of what makes us human.

Q. What’s the difference between the arts and the humanities?
A. It’s easiest to understand the distinction if you think of the arts as focusing on your aesthetic experience of an artwork—a painting, a dance, a text, a theatrical performance. The humanities ask us to dig in and reflect, to critique, to contextualize those artworks. The arts can be a powerful tool for a humanities program if they are used to help us understand or express a human experience, for example the Civil War or a social problem.

Q. Does that mean you don’t fund the arts?
A. Not at all. We fund many projects that begin with the arts, from Shakespeare to Hip Hop. It’s what the programming does with the arts that makes a difference to us. For example, talk-backs, discussions, deeper explorations, and community reads can provide humanities-focused context and promote discussions that further engage and educate the audience.

Q: We are not a nonprofit organization, but we really want to host a series of important humanities programs in our community. Are we ineligible?
A: Your organization cannot apply alone, but you can work with a partner that IS a nonprofit organization, such as a local library, museum, service organization, or municipal government to serve as your fiscal sponsor.

Q. What are letters of support? Do they have to come from the people who have promised us money?
A. No. Letters of support are intended to demonstrate that you have the support of your community, and that your project will achieve its goals. Letters do not have to come from individuals or groups that have promised you financial support. They can come from partner organizations or representatives of a target audience (such as a school or venue). Personnel working on your project do not need to provide letters of support.

Q. We’ve applied and been turned down before. Does it make sense for us to apply again?
A. If your organization and project are still eligible, you should consider applying again after rethinking your project. We strongly recommend that you work with our Grant Program Director to discuss ways to make your application more competitive or appropriate. We do not recommend simply resubmitting the exact same project and/or grant application.

Q. You identify a special focus for applications. Does that mean you want all projects to address that topic?
A. Not at all! We want to fund a variety of projects. The special focus simply lets applicants know that we haven’t seen as many projects in that subject area as we would like.

Q. Our historical society is working on a book about an extraordinary historical event that happened in our town. Are we eligible for a grant?
A. We do not fund the production of books. However, when your book is completed, you are eligible to apply for grants to support public talks about that unique history, to bring in experts who can expand on that historical event, or to create a related exhibit.

Q: What type of expenses can humanities grants fund?
A: Wisconsin Humanities’ grants may fund project-related expenses such as honoraria for humanities experts, travel expenses and per diem for project personnel, printing and publicity, facility rental, and materials that are necessary for the project. Ineligible expenses include capital equipment expenses, indirect or overhead costs, expenses related to fundraising, any expenses related to an archival project, museum acquisitions, re-granting of Wisconsin Humanities funds, and staff salaries.

Q. We’re a nonprofit service organization celebrating 100 years of service. We want to bring in a humanities expert to talk to our donors about a significant historical event at a fundraising dinner. Wisconsin Humanities’ funds would help us pay for door prizes for the raffle, some awards and defray the cost of our speaker. Are we eligible for a grant?
A. Not for this project. Our funds cannot support fundraising activities. Also, the programs we fund must be open to the public unless there is a special reason for activities to be closed (e.g., if they are school-based or meant for a vulnerable group). The events we fund should be as accessible and low-cost as possible.

Q. Our theater/museum wants to offer a special program for school kids about racism. The funds would cover the entrance cost of tickets to the show. Is this program eligible for a grant?
A. No. This is an example of an organization paying itself for overhead, which is not allowed. However, Wisconsin Humanities grant funds can cover specific expenses such as the cost of a speaker who can discuss the performance, pay for bus transportation to the theater, or study guides that help students better understand or contextualize the performance.

Q: What is the matching funds requirement for grant recipients?
A: All grants require matching funds that are equal to or greater than the amount requested from Wisconsin Humanities. Matching funds may be cash or in-kind. Examples of in-kind matches include the dollar value of facilities, services, talents, and the time and labor that individuals voluntarily contribute to a project.

Q. We’ve never applied for a grant before and we’re not sure how to describe what we want to do. Will asking for help from your staff negatively influence your decision?
A. Absolutely not! Wisconsin Humanities’ staff is happy to help you find ways to make your grant application more competitive. Please request a review if it will help! Wisconsin Humanities staff members do not make the decisions on Mini and Major Grants. That task goes to our volunteer board of directors.

Q. We don’t know anyone with humanities expertise on our project’s topic. Are we still required to find a humanities expert even if our program is already designed? If so, what do we do?
A. Your project must involve humanities expertise to receive funding from Wisconsin Humanities. You are welcome to call and consult with our Grant Program Director, Meg Turville-Heitz, since she may be able to suggest ideas for an appropriate consultant, speaker or guide for your project. Humanities expertise can be of value at many points in a project’s design.

Q. I really just want to talk to someone about our project. Is that possible?
A. Of course! You can also call 608-265-5595 or email Meg Turville-Heitz, our Grant Program Director to set up a time to chat.

Q. In the application, I filled out the organization information for the organization I’m a part of, but the DUNS and EIN numbers are for another organization. What do I do?
A. We can correct the organization profile to recognize your Fiscal Sponsor. Then you’ll need to fill in the “applicant organization” information in the application so we know which organization you represent.

Q. My organization doesn’t need a Fiscal Sponsor because we have an EIN and DUNS number. Why won’t the application let us proceed without filling in a Fiscal Agent?
A. Every proposal must have two responsible individuals: a Project Director who serves as the main contact and is in charge of handling all of the program activities, and the Fiscal Agent--the individual who handles all financial matters for the organization that is submitting the application.

Q. Due to the pandemic, I’m working remotely. I want to fill out the application but I need my boss and our partners to review it and get their signature! What can I do?
A. The online application will allow you to virtually “collaborate” so others can enter the application and fill out or review certain sections. You can also print a PDF of the draft application for their review. If you cannot get a needed signature on the online application, you can send it to us as a separate document via email.

Q. The application keeps telling me I’ve gone over the maximum word length, but this is such a complex project that I can’t explain it in fewer words!
A. If you really feel that you can’t properly explain the project in the space allowed, there is an option to upload supplementary materials. We advise you to keep it simple: attach a photo or diagram, a URL to something more descriptive, etc.

Q. I’ve settled on which grant is appropriate, but which deadline should I shoot for?
A. Think of a timeline for when you hope your project is done, and when you will have accrued all the required match and expended the funds you identify in your budget. Work backwards to where you need to start accounting for match and having those expenses. You can’t begin any of those until AFTER the award date of a grant. Add on two to three months for consultation, application writing, draft review, and final review before award. The decision date for grants is one to two months after submission depending on the grant.