Funding for Collections Care

There are many fundraising opportunities for collections care. If you think creatively, you can use your collections to garner support and achieve your conservation goals.
By using your CAP report, you can build your cause and demonstrate to decision makers that you are serious about caring for your collections. Remember, the collection is a museum’s greatest asset and collections care should be a top priority.
Please consult the list below for financial support resources for collections care programs.

Federal and State Funding Sources

Fundraising Strategies

Resource Organizations

Federal and State Funding Sources

Federal Funding Sources:

Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS): the primary source of federal support for the nation's 17,500 museums and 123,000 libraries. On this Web site, search for grants for museums or historical societies for information on IMLS' latest grant program descriptions. Museums for America is the primary source of funding for museums, but other museum grant programs are also of interest.

Museum Assessment Program (MAP): Administered by the American Association of Museums, MAP provides four different types of assessments from peer reviewers, intended to help museums meet standards and best practices.

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA): The NEA awards grants to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. See this Web site for a list of funding opportunities for museums.

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): The NEH makes grant awards supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs to institutions with humanities-based collections. The Preservation and Access Grants listed on this Web site may be helpful to former CAP museums. Many CAPped museums apply for Preservation Assistance Grants (PAG) to fund CAP report recommendations.

National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC): The NHPRC promotes the preservation and use of America's documentary heritage essential to understanding our democracy, history, and culture and has several funding opportunities to meet this goal.
National Science Foundation (NSF) Collections in Support of Biological Research (CSBR) Grants: The CSBR Program provides funds for improvements to secure, improve, and organize collections that are significant to the NSF/BIO-funded research community.

National Trust for Historic Preservation: The Find Funding Web page of the National Trust helps to connect organizations and communities with grants and special funding programs.


State Funding Sources:

State and local governments often have funds available for preservation and conservation projects. Many states have even passed legislation that generates revenue for historic preservation, and some have also created funds for cultural tourism, intended to attract visitors to their state. Some museums have been able to use cultural tourism grants for preservation projects. There may be funding opportunities available from state humanities councils, arts councils, state museum associations, and preservation organizations.

State Humanities Councils: See this Web site maintained by the National Endowment for the Humanities for a listing of 56 humanities councils located in the United States and its territories.

State Arts Councils: See this Web site maintained by the National Endowment for the Arts for a listing of state, regional, and jurisdictional arts councils.

State Museum Associations: See this Web site maintained by for a listing of U.S. state museum associations.

State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO): See this Web site maintained by the National Trust for Historic Preservation for a listing of state preservation organizations.

Fundraising Strategies

To raise money for matching funds or even for general collections care, think about how you can use preservation and conservation to garner support. Heritage Preservation provides various resources on fund-raising, including:

There are numerous fundraising strategies that museums can use to raise money for collections care. The following examples illustrate just a few.


Donors may come from many sources, and they will likely be people you already know. The local community has been a strong source of support for many CAP museums. Volunteers, members, visitors, and friends organizations may all be willing to provide financial support to your museum. In one CAP museum, a 14-year-old volunteer raised $400 in a school fundraiser for the preservation of a particular object.

When looking for potential donors, think about who has a vested interest in collections care and maintenance. For example, the descendents of donors may wish to ensure the ongoing care of their ancestors' objects. Guilds are special interest groups that can also be good targets for fundraising. The Nebraska State Quilt Guild raised $150,000 for the International Quilt Study Center at the University of Nebraska, a 2000 CAP museum, and has made a pledge for another $150,000.

The Behringer-Crawford Museum, a 1990 CAP museum in Covington, Kentucky, raised $22,000 locally to address short-term goals of its CAP report, including UV filters, off-site storage, acid free boxes, hygrometers, and exterior building work. Collections care and the CAP report also figured prominently in plans for a facility expansion to include proper HVAC and storage equipment. A private foundation contributed $50,000 to the expansion largely because of the assessment report.

When you receive support from individuals or organizations, remember to acknowledge their support. Publicize it in the museum newsletter. Celebrate the re-display of a conserved object and publicly thank the benefactor.

Adoption Campaigns

Adoption campaigns can be a great way to raise money for conservation because donors can feel like their contribution is making a real difference.

The Pueblo Grande Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, a 1996 CAP museum, has an “Adopt-a-Pot” program. Contributions are earmarked to pay for a conservator to examine a particular vessel. Donors can choose the level that they want to give such as First Aid Level ($25) to adopt a small pot in good condition or ICU Level ($100) to adopt a complex vessel, or an object with extensive damage. Donors receive a photograph of their vessel and their name appears on the sponsor roll in the museum exhibit.

Engrave Your Name in History

Another popular method of fundraising is with an “Engrave Your Name in History” program. Bricks and tiles used in building projects can be used as donor recognition. The Ephrata Cloister, a 1990 CAP, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, used such a method when restoring its roof. Visitors were given the opportunity to write their names on a cedar shake for one dollar. Seventeen hundred visitors took part in the fundraising event.

Capital Campaigns

Capital campaigns raise money for buildings, endowments and collections care can play an integral role. CAP helped the Owens Thomas House, a national landmark owned by the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia, identify long-term conservation problems. As a result, the museum raised $172,000 to plan for a $1.5 million capital campaign. The CAP report stressed the need for a long-range conservation plan, which once developed committed the institution to rearranging budget priorities and allocating more money for maintenance.


Exhibitions about preservation and conservation can be an excellent way to stimulate interest in collections care. They also provide an opportunity for targeting prospective donors and recognizing current ones.

Exhibits can include labels about treatment along with before and after photos of objects. Photos can be a strong visual for fundraising, and funders can see the impact their support has made.

The Mount Holyoke College Art Museum in South Hadley, Massachusetts, presented the exhibition “Altered States: Conservation, Analysis, and the Interpretation of Works of Art”. The catalog included several essays and information about the 33 treated works on display including before-and-after photos and a glossary.

In-Kind Donations

Support can come in forms other than cash contributions. Donations of supplies, equipment, products and services, or even volunteer time, can also help your collections care program. The DuPont Company gave the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Oak Park, Illinois, a supply of Mylar polyester film to encapsulate architectural drawings. Staff at the Octagon Museum in Washington, DC, hosted several luncheons for representatives of local groups to acquaint them with the museum’s restoration project. As a result of the luncheons, the museum received several in-kind contributions, including volunteers to remove bricks from the basement and the production of a campaign video.
Cultivating in-kind donations can also be the beginning of a relationship that will bring cash contributions in the future. 

Resource Organizations

American Association of State and Local History (AASLH): AASLH is a national organization that provides publications, information, and training to benefit history professionals and volunteers working in libraries, archives, historical societies, museums, historic sites, parks, and historic preservation and academic institutions. See its Web site for more information on the History News magazine and the Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations (StEPs).

American Association of Museums (AAM): The American Association of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. AAM's programs promoting museum standards include the Museum Assessment Program (MAP) and the museum accreditation program. The AAM publications the Official Museum Directory and Museum News magazine help to keep museum professionals connected and updated in their field.

American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC): The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) is the national membership organization of conservation professionals. Its members include conservators, educators, scientists, students, archivists, art historians, and other conservation enthusiasts in over twenty countries around the world. AIC's "Find a Conservator" tool can help you to locate a conservation professional in your area.

Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP): The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) represents more than 30,000 members in 229 chapters throughout the world, working to advance philanthropy through advocacy, research, education and certification programs. The association fosters development and growth of fundraising professionals and promotes high ethical standards in the fundraising profession. The AFP maintains various publications and services to advance the practice of fundraising.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy: This Web site contains reports, news and advice on fund-raising, giving, capital campaigns, marketing, and a host of other fund-raising topics.

Conservation Online (CoOL): This Web site, maintained by the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation (FAIC), provides a full text library of conservation information, covering a wide spectrum of topics of interest to those involved with the conservation of library, archives and museum materials. It is a growing online resource for conservators, collection care specialists, and other conservation professionals.

Foundation Center: Established in 1956, the Foundation Center is the leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide. The Center maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. grantmakers and their grants. It also operates research, education, and training programs designed to advance knowledge of philanthropy at every level. Thousands of people visit the Center's web site each day and are served in its five regional library/learning centers and its network of more than 450 funding information centers located in public libraries, community foundations, and educational institutions nationwide and around the world. The Foundation Center also worked with the Library of Congress to create the guide Foundation Grants for Preservation in Libraries, Archives, and Museums.

Grantsmanship Center: This national organization provides training and information on fund-raising and current issues of interest to the nonprofit field. Training opportunities occur from March through October in different cities across the U.S.
Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Connecting to Collections: A Call To Action: This IMLS initiative was launched in 2007 to aid libraries and museums in their efforts to provide the best possible care for the collections. On this site, you will find links to conservation information, recordings from the initiative’s past events and programs, and state profiles on the impact of Connecting to Collections. In addition, IMLS’s YouTube Channel features a short video Connecting to Collections: A Call to Action, developed to underscore the importance of collections held in museums, libraries, and archives throughout the U.S. and to inspire communities to take action.

National Trust for Historic Preservation: The National Trust for Historic Preservation provides leadership, education, advocacy, and resources to save America's diverse historic places and revitalize our communities. Resources available on this Web site include articles from the latest Preservation magazine, legal resources, and information on the National Preservation Conference.