Ohio History Fund Grants: Crowd-Funding History Projects in Your Community

The Ohio History Fund was created to support the preservation and sharing of Ohio’s heritage by funding local, regional, and statewide projects, programs, and events related to the broad sweep of the state’s history and pre-history. The Ohio History Fund is a competitive matching grants program that is crowd-funded and made possible through voluntary contributions from people like you!

Since the first grants were awarded in 2013, the Ohio History Fund has made 110 awards in half of Ohio’s 88 counties totaling over $1 Million (March 2022). Recipients include a wide range of non-profit organizations and local government entities, including special COVID-19 emergency grants. Wildly successful, the Ohio History Fund has received 474 applications for a total of more than $5.7 million in requests – proving there is a great need for this grant program!

History Fund FAQs

What is the Ohio History Fund?

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The Ohio History Fund is a competitive matching grant program that annually awards grants for history-related projects. Eligible applicants include a wide range of non-profit organizations and local government entities. See our list of recipients for the variety of organizations and projects we have funded.

The Ohio History Fund is also a way for Ohioans to support community history. All the money we grant is voluntarily contributed by you! Most funding comes from contributions of portions of state income refunds, which you make using your donations to the Ohio History Connection are ever-increasing sources of grant support, too.

How many projects have Ohio History Fund grants supported?

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Since its inception in 2012 and first round of grants in 2013, the fund has awarded 110 grants in half of Ohio's 88 counties totaling over $1 Million as of March 2022. However, the Ohio History Fund has received 474 applications for a total of more than $5.7 million in requests - proving there is a great need for this grant program!

Where does the money for Ohio History Fund grants come from?

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Money granted by the Ohio History Fund comes from you in three streams:

  1. “Ohio History Fund” tax check-off on the
  2. Sales of Ohio History “mastodon” license plates. The plates are $30, with $20 directed to the Ohio History Fund for grants.
  3. Gifts to Ohio History Connection designated by the donor specifically for the Ohio History Fund.

Why and how was the Ohio History Fund created?

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The mission of Ohio History Connection is to spark discovery of Ohio’s stories by embracing the present, sharing the past and transforming the future. The Ohio History Fund grant program also meets a strong need expressed by the state’s history community: money for local history and preservation projects. The Ohio History Fund was created in the state’s two-year budget signed into law by Gov. John R. Kasich on June 30, 2011. The legislation allowing for the change in state tax forms was initially brought to the General Assembly by former State Representative Kathleen Chandler (D-Kent) in 2005. Former State Senator (then State Representative) Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) reintroduced it in early 2011 before it was enacted in the state budget.

While the Ohio History Fund supports the widest range of history and preservation projects in the state, it’s not Ohio’s only history-friendly grant program: click here for local history projects and here for historic preservation (though you'll discover some overlap between the two). The Ohio History Fund is one of the few grant programs that support historic preservation projects statewide and is a source of funding for archaeological projects, too.

The Ohio History Fund has inspired similar grant programs in Indiana and Kentucky, and in turn was inspired by programs at Ohio Humanities and the Ohio Arts Council, as well as at the Minnesota Historical Society, the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

What are the goals of the Fund?

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The Ohio History Fund seeks projects that will help the Ohio History Connection realize its core values and achieve the following:

  • Be Objective and Fair
    Grants will support projects that enrich our understanding of the context in which people, places, things, or events functioned historically. Projects using grant funds will not advocate a partisan political, social, or cultural agenda. The portrayal of the past must be based on thorough research-based credible sources. No grants will fund any project that discriminates against persons or groups.
  • Strengthen Ohio History
    Projects must include illumination, conservation, or perpetuation of Ohio’s history, including historical persons, places, things, or events.
  • Demonstrate Community Support
    Community support is demonstrated through cash and in-kind support for the project. All grants must be matched. See each grant category’s specific guidelines in this document for match requirements. Note that work or expenditures that begin before the grant period are not eligible to match activities or grant expenditures.
  • Public Benefit
    Applications must explain how History Fund projects will benefit their communities, including advanced understanding/appreciation for Ohio’s history and community or economic development. All History Fund projects must be undertaken without regard to race, creed, sex, national origin, age, or disability.
  • Demonstrate a Measurable Impact
    History Fund projects' effect on their organizations or communities must be measured and, thus, demonstrated. Demonstration of effect can be measured qualitatively, quantitatively, and visually. Applications must include a clear explanation of how the effectiveness of the project will be measured in the project’s final report. Using these measures, a final report will explain the extent to which a project was effective.
  • Foster Sustainability
    History Fund grants will support projects that recipients can sustain after the grant ends or advance an organization’s sustainability. For example, if the purchase of museum collection management software is contemplated, what are the applicant’s plans to train people to use the software and maintain the collections management system after the grant ends? For a public program of limited duration, how will hosting the program help the organization reach its long-term goals? What resources will the organization dedicate to operate the building and uphold a maintenance agreement for a building rehabilitation project?
  • Meet Applicable Professional Standards
    It is expected that the applicant organization will have or will obtain the requisite professional expertise to carry out the proposed project. Projects will adhere to or help the organization to meet accepted professional standards. Currently, standards govern the practice of history in the areas below. To find the applicable professional standards for each area, please visit our Standards & Guidelines page here.
    • Archaeology
    • Archives
    • Collections
    • Digitization
    • Genealogy
    • Historical Societies and Museums
    • Historic Preservation
    • History Scholarship
    • Museums
    • Nonprofit Organizations
    • Oral History

Who is eligible to apply for an Ohio History Fund grant?

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Non-profit organizations registered in Ohio and public entities, including, but not limited to, local historical societies and museums, public libraries, genealogical societies, university archives and special collections, historic preservation groups, archaeological societies, county records management offices, and township governments, as well as incorporated “friends” groups of any of the above. Individuals, for-profit businesses and the Ohio History Connection are not eligible for Ohio History Fund grants.

See the Ohio History Fund's Guidelines for details about eligibility and other grant program details.

What activities are eligible for funding?

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History Fund grants will support projects in three categories:

1. Organizational Development

Organizational Development grants focus on building capacity: providing the training and materials to help historical societies and like organizations help themselves. Grants in this category can include but are not limited to training for board and staff, professional assistance with organizational issues, improving governance structures, volunteer or membership program development, and assessments or strategic plans (including paid facilitators/consultants). Applications must explain the issue(s) faced by the organization and how the grant will address the issue(s). Solutions must align with the issues identified.

Requirements:

  • Grant Minimum: $1,000
  • Grant Maximum: $4,000
  • Project Length: 1 year
  • Match Requirement: 80/20. The grant will pay 80% of a project's total cost, and the applicant will be responsible for a 20% match. For example: for a $1,000 project, the History Fund grant would provide up to $800 and the applicant’s match would be $200.
  • Funds Distribution: 50% of the grant amount at the beginning of the project. Remainder paid upon completion of the project, pending approval of the final report.

2. Programs & Collections

Programs & Collections encompass a variety of projects that further the study, recordation, interpretation, publication and dissemination of historical information, engagement of communities in history, or conservation of historical collections and archives.

Projects funded under this category could include but are not limited to public programs, exhibits, care and management of archival materials and artifacts, digitization of collections, oral history, archeological/architectural/historical surveys, archaeological fieldwork, nominations of historic buildings and sites to the National Register of Historic Places, preparation of historic preservation plans or feasibility studies, mobile or online applications, walking tours, and events.

Requirements:

  • Grant Minimum: $2,000
  • Grant Maximum: $20,000
  • Project Length: 2 years
  • Match Requirement: 60/40. The grant will pay 60% of a project's total cost, and the applicant will be responsible for a 40% match. For example: for a $10,000 project, the History Fund would provide $6,000. The applicant’s match would be $4,000.
  • Funds Distribution: 50% of the grant amount at the beginning of the project. Remainder paid upon completion of the project, pending approval of the final report.
  • Special note for projects that would nominate properties to the National Register of Historic Places. Before applying for a History Fund grant, applicants must complete and receive a response to a National Register Preliminary Questionnaire, designed to help determine whether a property or district is likely to qualify for nomination to the National Register. For more information, click here.

3. Brick & Mortar

Brick and mortar projects can involve the following: rehabilitation, restoration, protection, or acquisition of historic properties and archaeological sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places or designated by local ordinance, building work related to the preservation of historical or archival collections regardless of the building’s historic status, or new construction dedicated to the preservation of historical or archival collections.

Requirements:

  • Grant Minimum: $2,000
  • Grant Maximum: $20,000
  • Project Length: up to 2 years
  • Match Requirement: 60/40. The grant will pay 60% of a project's total cost, and the applicant will be responsible for a 40% match. For example: for a $10,000 project, the History Fund would provide $6,000. The applicant’s match would be $4,000.
  • Funds Distribution: 20% of the grant paid at the beginning of the project. Remainder paid over life the grant on a reimbursement basis only.
  • The applicant must own properties under consideration for rehabilitation, restoration, or preservation.
  • Brick and Mortar projects will require a preservation agreement under which the property owner agrees to maintain the historic features of the property (for historic properties) or retain the building for its intended use (for non-historic) for a period of five years.

What professional standards apply to History Fund Grants?

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The History Fund expects that the applicant organization will have or will obtain the requisite professional expertise to carry out the proposed project. Projects will adhere to or help the organization to meet accepted professional standards. Currently, standards govern the practice of history in these areas:

Archaeology:

Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for Archeology and Historic Preservation

Society for American Archaeology’s Principles of Archaeological Ethics

Ohio Archaeological Council – Code of Ethics:

Archives:

Society of American Archivists Standards

Collections:

American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works – “Codes of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice” and “Caring for Your Treasures” 

National Park Service “NPS Museum Handbook, Part I: Museum Collections”

Digitization:

Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative (FADGI):

National Information Standards Organization Framework for Building Good Digital Collections

NOTE: The FADGI standards are more recent and are preferred, but the older NISO Framework standards are also acceptable.

Genealogy: Board Certification for Genealogists (BCG): Ethics & Standards and Genealogy Standards, second edition revised (2021)

Historical Societies and Museums:

Standards and Excellence Program (StEPs) of the American Association for State and Local History:

Historic Preservation:

Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties  augmented by Preservation Briefs on specific subjects

History Scholarship:

American Historical Association’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct  

Museums:

American Association of Museums, Ethics, Standards, and Professional Practices

Nonprofit Organizations:

Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations, An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector 

Ohio Attorney General, Resources for Charities: Guide for Charity Board Members

Oral History:

Oral History Association, Principals and Best Practices

 

How does my organization apply for an Ohio History Fund grant?

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Start your application by clicking here. Also, read our Here's the handout from that workshop (updated).

 

The Ohio History Fund posts a revised application every year. We revise the application annually to ensure that it meets applicants' and the programs' needs. Applicants, however, can use the previous year's application materials to begin developing their proposals. The information the grant program requires to recommend the best projects for funding does not change substantially from year to year. The way the application asks for that information may change.

When is the next application deadline?

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The application deadline for the next grant cycle is September 27, 2022.

When does my organization find out if it received a grant?

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The Ohio History Fund notifies applicants by letter in mid-February and Ohio History Connection publicly announces grant recipients at the Statehood Day event. The next Statehood Day is March 1, 2022, at the Ohio Statehood in Columbus.

Grant recipients are strongly encouraged to attend Statehood Day to pick up their "big checks" and be recognized and celebrated for their achievements.

What kinds of costs are ineligible for History Fund grant assistance?

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  • Acquisition of historical materials for an institution’s collection.
  • Buildings – moving or reconstructing: Cost of moving historic buildings, generally. (Contact the Ohio History Connection if you are contemplating such a project.) Cost of reconstructing historic buildings.
  • Buildings – remodeling: Projects to remodel or modernize building interiors unrelated to the guidelines above. For example, general maintenance and redecorating are not eligible.
  • Copyright: Projects that would convert to a digital format to which the applicants' institution does not hold the copyright. Materials must no longer be restricted by copyright. The applicant must hold copyright or document that copyright has been turned over to the organization or ceded to the public domain.
  • Costs of operation include utilities, security system maintenance fees, grounds keeping, hosting services for website, digital image storage, etc.
  • Public works of art, including monuments, sculptures, and murals that do not address Ohio history and the goals of the History Fund (see above section).
  • Equipment: Purchase of equipment not related to accomplishing a specific project goal.
  • Historical markers: Grants to erect or repair Ohio Historical Markers. For grants for markers, see www.remarkableohio.org.
  • Honoraria when the primary intent is to confer distinction.
  • Insurance costs, unless shown as a match for an event or program.
  • Interest and debt payments.
  • Direct lobbying or fundraising.
  • Mitigation costs (under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act).
  • Oral history does not focus on a particular subject or theme.
  • Other activities: the list above is not comprehensive. Contact the Ohio History Connection if you have a question about whether an activity is eligible for funding.

How are grant applications and project reports reviewed?

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  • Applications will be reviewed by and recommendations for funding made by a panel of professionals representing the grant program’s constituencies (local historians, historic preservationists, museum professionals, archeologists, archivists, genealogists, etc.). No committee member will be a member of the staff of Ohio History Connection. Ohio History Connection staff will review applications for eligibility for the program and prepare applications for review by the panel.
  • Panel members will be appointed annually by Ohio History Connection’s executive director and publicly announced.
  • Review meetings will be open to the public.
  • Projects will be scored according to rubric based on the criteria outlined above in “What are the Goals of the History Fund” and “What Activities are Eligible for Funding.” The highest scoring projects will be recommended to the Ohio History Connection’s director for funding. Projects may receive full or partial funding.
  • The executive director of Ohio History Connection will make final funding decisions.
  • After the project is complete, a grant recipient will submit a final report. The final report will describe how the project accomplished its goals and explain how the applicant expended grant funds. Acceptance of the report is at the discretion of program staff and is required for the final payout of the grant.
  • Review timeline:
    • An “application completeness review” by State Historic Preservation Office staff (Sept.- Oct.).
    • Review of applications by staff experts at Ohio History Connection (Oct. - Nov.).
    • Review and funding recommendations made by a panel of outside experts from public history fields represented in the grant pool. The outside review panel’s recommendations are submitted for final review and approval by the Ohio History Connection’s executive director (Nov. - Jan.).

 

 

Download these Guidelines

Need More Information? Have Questions?

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If you have any questions about the History Fund, want to know if your project qualifies, or have questions about the application process, contact:

Andy Verhoff,
Ohio History Fund & Outreach Manager
[email protected] / 614.562.4490 (cell) / 614.297.2341 (office)
State Historic Preservation Office / Ohio History Connection
800 East 17th Avenue / Columbus, OH 43211

 

Want to know about grant opportunities from other funders? See Grants & Funding Sources from the State Historic Preservation Office and Funding Opportunities at Local History Services, both part of Ohio History Connection.