Grant Application Tips

When reviewing NHPRC applications OHRAB members ask to the questions identified below.  Addressing these concerns will strengthen and improve your application.  They are also useful to keep in mind when applying for other grants, such as an OHRAB NHPRC Re-grant. Applications are typically due in June and October, depending upon the grant type, however, we recommend to begin the process of drafting the application up to twelve months prior to its due date.

General Considerations

  • Is the project plan/timeline reasonable or too ambitious?  A timeline for the project is helpful with the application.
  • Does the project adhere to technical standards (archival; digitizing, oral history, etc)?
  • Is the project sustainable? What are the long-term preservation plans (especially for digitization projects)?
  • Does the project involve collaboration with other institutions?
  • Does the application include any letters of endorsement?
  • For processing projects, how was the backlog created and what steps will be taken to insure that the backlog won’t redevelop?  Be sure you have the appropriate policies and procedures, such as Collection Development Policy and Deaccessioning Procedures, in place.
  • What is the current condition of the collection?  This includes not only the physical condition of the collection in terms of the need for processing but also is any part of it cataloged or made available online?
  • Are there any institutions with similar collections or have attempted similar projects?  If so, who are they and how does your project relate to them?
  • What are the larger lessons that the archival community can learn from the project?


  • Does the proposal clearly state the project’s goals, what it will accomplish and what the benefits will be?
  • Does the application clearly demonstrate the national historical significance of the collection?
  • Does the proposal document demand/use of the collection?  Demonstrating national demand in addition to local demand is helpful.
  • Does the application demonstrate the urgency of the project?   Why is it essential to fund the project now?  What are the risks to the records if the project is not funded at this time?


  • Does the institution hold the necessary rights/ownership of the collection and is this explained in the narrative or through an appendix with deeds of gifts?


  • How will the project be evaluated?  The end products should be clearly defined and measurable.
  • What type of publicity plan is in place?  Is it primarily internal or external?


  • If staff members participate as part of the cost share, be sure to explain what they will be doing.
  • Justify expenses, such as why new boxes and folders are needed.
  • If the budget includes third party funding, include where it came from.
  • Does the budget and narrative correspond?  Anything that potentially raises red flags in the budget should be explained in the narrative.
  • Is the cost/budget reasonable?  If there are ways to save money that aren’t being used, explain why.


  • Does the application include position descriptions for any staff that will be hired for the project and do the requested qualifications in the position descriptions match the job requirements?
  • Does the application emphasize the experience of the staff?  Does it demonstrate that they have the ability to complete the project on time?
  • Is the appropriate staff involved and are the staff members doing the appropriate tasks?  For example, on a processing grant, higher-level managers should be spending their time on the project administering the grant and providing training, not necessarily doing the day-to-day processing themselves.
  • Does the project involve the necessary staff to insure that it succeeds?