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National Leadership Grants (NLG) for Museums

Grants to USA Nonprofits and Agencies
to Strengthen Museum Services

Agency Type:


Funding Source:

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Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)

Conf. Date:


Deadline Date:

11/15/19 11:59 PM ET


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Grants starting at $5,000 to USA and territories nonprofit organizations and agencies for projects to strengthen museum services. Applicants are advised that required registrations may take several weeks to complete. Funding is intended for research, non-research, and rapid prototyping grants to support projects that address critical needs of the museum field and that have the potential to advance practice in the profession.

Types of grants:

  • Non-research grant: Projects that address critical needs of the museum field and that have the potential to advance practice in the profession so that museums can improve services for the American public. These may test scalability or expand and enhance existing products or initiatives. 
  • Research grant: IMLS encourages research applicants to adopt a "research in service of practice" framework. Research projects should investigate key questions important to museum practice and have the potential to advance the profession so that museums can improve services for the American public. 
  • Rapid prototyping grant: Projects that perform exploratory activities that rapidly prototype, pilot, and evaluate specific innovations in the ways museums operate and the services they provide. Project results, both successful and unsuccessful, should offer valuable information to the museum field and the potential for improvement in the ways museums serve their communities

There are five project categories within the NLG for Museums program. The project must align with one of them.

  • Collections Care and Public Access: IMLS supports the efforts of museums of all types and sizes to care for, conserve, and manage collections that represent the cultural, artistic, historical, natural, and scientific foundations of the country's shared heritage. 
  • Data, Analysis, and Assessment: IMLS supports the collection of cross-sector data that can be analyzed to lead to new understandings about the museum field and its impacts on individuals, communities, and society.
  • Digital Platforms and Applications: Recognizing the dynamic nature of digital technology and its far-reaching benefits for the museum sector, IMLS welcomes applications that fully explore, understand, and optimize the use of digital technology in the museum field. 
  • Diversity and Inclusion: IMLS supports the work of museums and related organizations in engaging with communities and providing inclusive services to people of diverse geographic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds and to individuals with disabilities.
  • Professional Development: IMLS supports the recruitment, training, and development of museum staff, leadership, volunteers, and interns, to grow a skilled, professional, diverse, and inclusive workforce and strengthen museums’ capacity to serve their audiences.

Indicators of successful projects can be found at

More information about the project categories and project examples can be found at

Eligible expenses can be found at

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 162641

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Number of Grants:


Estimated Size of Grant:

- Award Ceiling: $1,000,000
- Award Floor: $5,000

There are three funding levels within the FY20 NLG for Museums program. You must choose one of them.
- Non-research grant, $50,000 - $1,000,000 with 1:1 cost share required.
- Research grant, $50,000 - $1,000,000 with no cost share required.
- Rapid prototyping grant, $5,000 - $50,000 with no cost share required.

Term of Contract:

- Projects must begin on September 1, 2020.
- Anticipated period of performance: September 1, 2020 - August 31, 2023. Project activities may be carried out for one to three years.

- Non-research grants and Research grants are projects of one to three years.
- Rapid prototyping grants are projects of up to one year.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

To be eligible for an award under this NLG for Museums Notice of Funding Opportunity, you must be an organization that meets all three of the following criteria:

1. You must be either a unit of State, local, or tribal government or be a private, nonprofit organization that has tax-exempt status under the Internal Revenue Code;

2. You must be located in one of the 50 States of the United States of America, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau; and

3. You must qualify as one of the following:

(a) A museum that, using a professional staff, is organized on a permanent basis for essentially educational, cultural heritage, or aesthetic purposes; owns or uses tangible objects, either animate or inanimate; cares for these objects; and exhibits these objects to the general public on a regular basis through facilities that it owns or operates.

(b) An organization or association that engages in activities designed to advance the wellbeing of museums and the museum profession;

(c) An institution of higher education, including public and nonprofit universities; or

(d) A public or private nonprofit agency that is responsible for the operation of a museum that meets the eligibility criteria in 1, 2, and 3(a) above may apply on behalf of the museum.

Native American tribal organizations may apply if they otherwise meet the above eligibility requirements.

Ineligible expenses can be found at

Pre-proposal Conference:

Applicants are invited to participate in a live webinar to learn more about the FY 2020 National Leadership Grants for Museums program.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019, 3 PM – 4 PM EST
Participant call-in number: 866-299-7945
Participant PIN: 5680404#

For more information and to join the webinar:

Pre-Application Information:

- For the National Leadership Grants for Museums program, will accept applications through 11:59 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time on November 15, 2019.
- Anticipated start dates for new awards: Projects must begin on September 1, 2020.
- IMLS expects to notify both successful and unsuccessful applicants of the final decisions by August 2020.
- Anticipated period of performance: September 1, 2020– August 31, 2023. Project activities may be carried out for one to three years.

You must submit your application through Do not submit through email or postal mail to IMLS.

There is no limit to the number of applications your museum may submit under this announcement.

For the NLG for Museums program, the requirements to provide cost share from non-federal sources differ according to funding level.
- Non-research grant: At least 1:1 cost share from non-federal sources is required. Note: If you do not include at least 1:1 cost share in your project budget, your application will be rejected from further consideration.
- Research grant: No cost share required.
- Rapid prototyping grant: No cost share required.

Before submitting an application, your organization must have a current and active D-U-N-S number (a unique entity identifier), System for Award Management ( registration, and registration. Check your materials and registrations well in advance of the application deadline to ensure that they are accurate, current, and active.

You must register with prior to submitting your application package. The multi-step registration process generally cannot be completed in a single day. If you are not already registered, you should allow at several weeks to complete this one-time process. Do not wait until the day of the application deadline to register.

You will need your user ID and password that you obtain during the registration process to submit your application when it is complete.

View this opportunity on

For a list of application documents, see the Package tab (press Preview) on the page above.

View a pre-recorded webinar:

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

If you have questions, please contact any of the staff members listed under the category that best fits your project.

Collections Care and Public Access
Connie Bodner
Supervisory Grants Management Specialist

Data, Analysis, and Assessment
Digital Platforms and Applications
Helen Wechsler
Supervisory Grants Management Specialist

Diversity and Inclusion
Professional Development
Mark Isaksen
Senior Program Officer

Institute of Museum and Library Services
955 L'Enfant Plaza North, SW, Suite 4000
Washington, D.C. 20024-2135

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Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming

USA Territories: American Samoa (USA)   Guam (USA)   Puerto Rico (USA)   Virgin Islands (USA)   Northern Mariana Islands (USA)

USA Compact Free Associations: The Federated States of Micronesia (USA)   Marshall Islands (USA)   Republic of Palau (USA)