Tips+Tricks: Dianne Diahlitz takes over from Erin Stephens in the running of the Community Heritage Grant program. They both give CAN tips on how to successfully apply for the National Library of Australia grant.
Dianne: Hello, I’m Dianne Diahlitz. My new role is to be the Community Heritage Grants coordinator here at the National Library of Australia.
Erin: My name is Erin Stephens, and I’ve been working on Community Heritage Grants as the coordinator for the past two years. I’m moving onto a different role in the library, so I’m handing over to Dianne.
Erin: To be eligible for a Community Heritage Grant, basically your organisation needs to be not-for-profit. You must have a collection that’s available to the public in some way, and your collection has to be of national significance.
We give out grants of up to $15,000. They’re generally for preservation-type projects. It’s a bit of a step-by-step process, but because of that we do encourage repeat applications from organisations.
First off, we’d offer a significance assessment and then a preservation needs assessment or your collection. After that, we’ll help you fund any preservation activities that have been recommended by those surveys.
But outside of that step-by-step process, you can also apply for training projects or collection management software.
Dianne: Application forms are on our website from the opening day in early March. We usually allow about three months for applications to come in. We advise people not to leave it to the last day because we have to be very strict about taking late ones in. After that, we have an assessment panel that processes and assesses each application individually, the ones that have been accepted as meeting all the criteria. And after that, the successful applicants are notified.
Dianne: People who are applying do need to apply for (a specific) amount. They have to know how much they’ll need for what they want to do.
Erin: Firstly, we offer a significance assessment and then a preservation needs assessment of your collection. After that, we’ll help you fund any preservation activities that have been recommended by those surveys.
The significance assessment we offer is actually to employ an external consultant to come and do that assessment for you. So it’s actually quite important that you do get an independent external assessor. You might know that you have a really important collection, but having someone independent confirm that for you gives you a lot more weight when you’re applying for other grants, and basically more funding and things from your local council and governments both. The independent assessment is very important.
Dianne: The rounds start in March each year. We have online promotion and information about the grants. You can apply online and we also take a hard copy application. Application forms are on the library’s website, available in early March.
Erin: My tip would be have a budget that outlines exactly what you need the money for. Your budget should be supported by quotes. Your budget should also match your project description, which is where you tell us exactly what you’re going to do with the money that you acquire.
Dianne: Seek advice if you get halfway through the application form and you’re not quite sure what should go there. You can always ring the office here in the National Library for some advice how to actually proceed with the application.
Erin: I don’t necessarily want people to spend lots of money on a consultant to help them with form. I’d much prefer that they call us. But if people do feel like they need assistance, there’s lots of people around that can help them, like regional museum advisors or Museums Australia and various state bodies that help with grants applications. If you can’t call us, there will be someone around who can help you.
Erin: People also assume that because they’re applying for a significance assessment that they don’t have to complete section six, which is your significance statement. But actually, because national significance is an eligibility requirement of our grants and that needs to be assessed. You have to complete that question even if you’re applying for a significance assessment.
A lot of people actually say that even if they’re unsuccessful the first time that they apply, that the process of digging through their collection and finding what they’ve actually got and forcing themselves to list it all out and examine it properly is a really worthwhile process.
Our significance assessor has to know what’s in your collection. It’s also really useful for you in terms of getting a better understanding of what you actually hold. So it’ll help you a lot in the future, not just for ours, but other grant applications as well.
You might need to research a little bit in terms of knowing what other collections are around that are similar to yours. We had an application from someone recently who had a large printing press, and it’s really useful to know whether there are others in the country or whether yours is really rare and unique, because that does help the significance assessor determine how important it is.
Do some basic online research that helps you research other collections, but really you know better than anyone else what’s in you collection. So if you tell us as best you can what you have and why you think it’s important, then that should be enough for our significance assessor to do the proper assessment themselves.
Dianne: If it’s their first time that they’ve actually been awarded a grant, they’re invited to come to the library for a three-day workshop, usually in November.
Erin: We’ve had a few really good repeat applications who’ve managed to complete the significance assessment and the preservation needs and are now doing fantastic preservation work on their collections.
But there’s also been a few really good stories of people getting grants and their significance assessment leading to recognition from their local council or their state government.
In 2008, the West Coast Heritage Limited received a significance assessment from us, but because of that significance assessment, their local council actually realised that they had this amazing collection and have now offered them $50,000 to redevelop their building and their storage.
So, yes, there are success stories that come out of it.