Grants: Get Started

Whether you are writing your first grant application or you are an experienced grant writer, we've outlined four steps to get you started.


Beginning with our November 2020 Mini Grants, all applications must be submitted electronically through our online portal.


Have more questions about applying?


Step 1: Determine Eligibility

If you are a first-time applicant or you are designing a different kind of project than you have in the past, it is extremely important that you first confirm whether the project is eligible for funding from Wisconsin Humanities.

An applicant must be a nonprofit organization. This includes historical societies, libraries, colleges, schools, civic organizations, or an ad hoc group with a nonprofit serving as fiscal sponsor.

Who is not eligible?
  • For-profit organizations
  • Individuals
  • Organizations based out-of-state or without a Wisconsin EIN
Is it a humanities project?

The humanities are the ideas and knowledge about human history and culture that prompt us to examine our shared past, present, and future. The humanities ask us to consider how and why humans think and act as we do. Inquiry, observation, reflection, analysis, and discussion are the tools of the humanities. A good public humanities program encourages participants to think imaginatively and critically about the world.

The humanities include archaeology, art history, cultural anthropology, ethics, ethnic studies, folklore, gender studies, history, jurisprudence, languages, law, linguistics, philosophy, and religious studies. Social sciences, such as political science and sociology, are closely allied with the humanities and may provide expertise for public humanities programs. The arts and the humanities go hand-in-hand, but there are some difference. Read more here.

Does the budget include matching funds?

All grants require matching funds or in-kind effort from applicants equal to or greater than the amount requested from Wisconsin Humanities. In-kind effort may be volunteer time or labor, or other contributions to which an applicant can attribute a dollar value.

Are the project activities and expenses scheduled to occur after the award decision?

Funds cannot be awarded retroactively. To be eligible for a Wisconsin Humanities grant, all expenses and all of the required match must occur after the award date of the grant.

Does it involve humanities expertise?

A humanities expert must be part of your planned program. A humanities expert is someone with an M.A. or Ph.D. in a humanities discipline or someone who is otherwise well-qualified to bring a humanities perspective to a project, such as a museum curator, tribal elder, or individual who is an acknowledged cultural expert within their community.

In considering the suitability of a humanities expert for a project, Wisconsin Humanities looks for breadth and depth of relevant knowledge. We encourage the use of experts who have worked with a public audience and have demonstrated the capacity for encouraging multiple points of view.

What kinds of projects are not eligible?
  • Projects that don’t engage the humanities
  • Projects whose main purpose is advocacy
  • Book production projects
  • Strictly archival projects
  • Building construction or renovation

Step 2: Grant Writing

All applicants are strongly encouraged to prepare before beginning the online application process. Please consult the Grant Application Instructions to understand all requirements. Consider writing your project description offline so you can copy-and-paste it into the online application. You may also want to download and fill out the forms so you are ready to upload them into the online application.

Additionally, you can request a review of your draft application from our Grant Program Director, Meg Turville-Heitz. Simply contact Meg at least three weeks before the grant deadline to ensure a thorough review. Meg can read and comment on your draft application online before you hit ‘submit'.

Application Overview

Completing your application involves gathering information from the personnel involved with the project, collecting letters of support, writing a budget and budget description, and getting signatures from the Project Director and Fiscal Agent. You will also be asked to identify a project period for the grant (it must begin after the potential award date), as well as a description of any public events you may be scheduling.

Preview project description questions

The project proposal has several narrative questions listed below. We recommend that you compose your answers offline in a separate document before beginning the online application.

  1. SPONSORING/PROGRAMMING ORGANIZATION DESCRIPTION: Describe the organization, its mission, activities and public programs, and cite any previous experience with Wisconsin Humanities. Character limit: 2,000 characters.
  2. PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Describe your project including research, planning, and public programs. Character limit: 8,000 characters.
    In your description please address the following:
    • Provide a preview of the subject matter you will be sharing with participants. Help us understand the ideas your project explores.
    • What are two or three of the key humanities-based questions your project addresses?
    • What format and venue will you use for your public program(s)?
    • How will this format help your participants engage with the subject matter?
  3. PROJECT OBJECTIVES AND GOALS: Why is your organization developing this project? What need or interest in the community do you intend to address? What goals have you set for the project? Character limit: 4,000 characters.
  4. PROJECT PROMOTION AND AUDIENCE: How do you intend to publicize the project to your intended audiences? Estimate the number of people who will attend your programs. Character limit: 4,000 characters.
  5. PROJECT PARTNERS: Describe the organizations with which you are collaborating on this project and why. What are their roles? Cite established or new organizational partnerships. Character limit: 4,000 characters.
  6. HUMANITIES EXPERTISE: List the names and affiliations of your humanities expert(s) and briefly summarize the roles they will play in your project. Complete and upload the required project personnel forms to provide details for each humanities expert, the Project Director, and other key personnel. Character limit: 3,000 characters.
  7. EVALUATION: How will you evaluate the impacts of your project on your audience, participants, and partners?
    What kinds of feedback will you collect and how will you use it?
    What outcomes do you anticipate within the community and in your organization as a result of the project?
    Character limit: 3,000 characters.
What does a successful project look like?
  • It reflects the interests or needs of the community.
  • It builds or strengthens connections between communities and their organizations.
  • It brings people together to explore and share ideas and to reflect on what we hold in common, as well as where we differ.
  • It fosters observation, inquiry, analysis, and reflection.
  • It has its feet firmly planted in the humanities and engages the skills of experts and community members in ways that promote insight and meaning, and it respects local knowledge and ways of knowing.
  • It promotes Wisconsinites’ understanding of the character and conditions – past, present, and future – of our lifestyles and landscapes.
  • It helps institutions do what they do better.

Visit our Grants Awarded page to view our recent grant recipients.

Does your project explore topics of race and ethnicity in Wisconsin?

Recent events have raised a national call for a more consequential public discussion of the persistent racial and cultural issues that divide our communities. As part of that conversation, Wisconsin Humanities has a special interest in funding projects that engage in or foster meaningful community conversations about race and ethnicity.

Projects may articulate our shared and conflicting values and beliefs about race and ethnicity, use stories to help us connect or deepen our understanding, or draw on the history that shapes racial and ethnic identities and the life experiences of United States residents.

Projects should use humanities expertise to support community dialogue that does not advocate for political positions but may speak directly to current concerns, such as police-community relations. Thanks to the generous support of the Mary H. Rice Foundation, we encourage applications for projects focused on race and ethnicity that serve residents of Northern Wisconsin.

Are you developing audio, visual, or digital projects?

Wisconsin Humanities funds digital humanities projects such as short videos, full-length film documentaries, websites, video games, podcasts, and other audio projects. Digital projects may also be part of a larger project such as an exhibit, or the cumulative effort of a larger humanities-based program. A digital humanities project should not be strictly archival. Instead, it must engage the public and be publicly accessible.

Detailed instructions are included in the Grant Application Instructions. Please read them before applying. We also offer tips and best practices here.

If the project you seek funds for is primarily to develop a website, digital game, film, or podcast you should answer the digital humanities question on the application to address the following:

  1. Provide a preview of the subject matter you will be sharing with participants. Help us understand the ideas your project explores.
  2. What are two or three of the key questions that your project addresses?
  3. Provide a treatment that describes the structure, theme, style, format, voice and point of view of your project.
  4. When available provide a script/scenario.
  5. Please include a justification for this format and the distribution plan for this project.
  6. Use the supporting materials section to provide a link to sample work.

Step 3: Requirements and Forms



What is a DUNS number?

All sponsoring organizations that apply for funding from Wisconsin Humanities must obtain a DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) number. When you create your Foundant account , you will be required to provide this number before you proceed to the application.

Where can I get this number?

For instructions on acquiring a DUNS number immediately via telephone, please review the information here. You may also acquire a DUNS number from the DUNS Request Service website. NOTE: A DUNS number can take up to two business days to receive.

You will be prompted to upload forms in the online application. All forms can be downloaded while you are working online or in advance here.

Budget Form

We require you use our Budget Form to itemize your expenses. You will also be able to describe your budget request in the budget description section in the online application.

Project Personnel Form

Complete forms for the Project Director, each humanities expert, and other key personnel. A Project Personnel Form is required for every person for whom WH funds are requested, but we also like to have forms for anyone who is critical to the success of the project.

W9 Form

The IRS W-9 Request for Taxpayer Identification Number form should match the Fiscal Sponsor Organization that has a Wisconsin EIN and DUNS number.

Certification Form

Both the Project Director and the Fiscal Agent must sign this form. The signed form certifies the participation of project personnel identified in the Project Personnel Forms.

Step 4: Submission

All applications must be submitted electronically through our online portal. If you need assistance with creating an account, see this guide.

To start, you will create an organization identity for the Fiscal Sponsor Organization. This is the organization to whom the check will be written if you are awarded a grant. The Fiscal Sponsor Organization must have a DUNS number (see above).

If your organization is NOT able to receive funds on its own behalf, create an account using your Fiscal Sponsor’s information.

To apply, you’ll select the Mini or Major Grant round you want to apply to, then respond to all prompts and upload all forms. If you don’t see the round you are looking for, it is not yet ‘open’ in the system. Come back three months before the deadline.

If you want to have your draft reviewed, you need to do it before you click 'submit' on your application. Contact our Grant Program Director, Meg Turville-Heitz and set up a review at least three weeks before the deadline.

When your application is ready click 'submit.' You need to do this before the deadline, 11:59pm on the date the application is due.