Note: Application deadlines for 2018 Illinois Speaks micro-grants are February 15, June 15, and September 15.
Application deadlines for 2018 Vision, Action, and Multiplier grants are: Jan 15, May 15, and September 15. If you have any questions regarding our grants program, feel free to contact Mark Hallett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We fund projects throughout the state that bring people together for inquiry and conversation – discussing and learning about the digital humanities, targeting and engaging new audiences, making public humanities programming more engaging and interactive, and increasing strategic planning and sustainable collaboration. These changes reflect our evolving commitment to exploring and supporting the public humanities – we’d like your organization to join us in this journey.
One exciting part of this commitment is our goal of hosting or funding conversations in each of our state’s 102 counties in the lead-up to Illinois’ 2018 bicentennial. We need you to help us make this goal a reality by participating in our Illinois Speaks micro-grants.
Over the coming year, we hope to work with our grantee partners to better understand where the public humanities are headed. It’s been said over and over that the old model was the professor at the lectern, speaking to a quiet public, and that the new model engages audiences and takes their expertise seriously. But what does this really look like? What are creative models for this new direction in the public humanities? How can we assess the quality and impact of high-quality and engaging programming? How can high-quality programming help build or strengthen community engagement?
Illinois Humanities cares that public events are as inclusive as possible. Because of this, grant applicants may check a box to request an additional $100 to provide accessibility services (e.g., ASL translation).
Below are our grantmaking guidelines and more information to help guide you. The deadlines for each grant can be found in the section below. Please reach out for advice on the process or on a project you are considering. Simply email email@example.com or call 312.374.1555 for more information. We are here to help, and look forward to getting to know your work.
Si Ud. quiere más información en español, puede hablar con Mark Hallett: firstname.lastname@example.org / (312) 374-1555.
In addition to partnering with community hubs, commissioning artwork, collaborating on a documentary film, infusing criminal justice into some of our regular programming, and producing a culminating exhibit in 2019, Illinois Humanities is hosting a grants program to help spark work by others. The grant categories reflect the belief that arts, humanities and civic dialogue programs can play a pivotal role within the justice system and provide a window into the views of people who are incarcerated; that strategic, creative storytelling can help us to re-examine issues, policies and practices in fresh ways; and that well-moderated, interactive community dialogue is a critical component of community building.
The three grants categories are:
CATEGORY I: ARTS & INCARCERATION
To support and learn from high-quality programs that use the Arts, Humanities, and Civic Dialogue inside Illinois prisons, jails and juvenile detention centers.
Special consideration will be paid to programs that:
- Are evidence-based (or eager to take on evaluation projects).
- Engage participants in critical-thinking or creative exercises, and that produce content that is then shared with others.
- Provide meaningful roles for participants, where they help to shape the program and its content.
- Have budgets of less than $1,000,000.
- An example might be an arts program for incarcerated people, that explores and creates work around specific topics or themes. How do you visualize long-term sentencing? Is there a way to convey what solitary confinement feels like?
- We’re interested in what questions applicants have about their impact, and will be partnering with a respected evaluation team (the Harvard-based Humanities and Liberal Arts Assessment Lab, or HULA) to help grantee partners address a question they have around their own impact.
- This category is expected to make up $80,000, or 26% of our grants budget.
- Maximum grant size: $10,000
- Deadline: April 20, 2018; Online Application
CATEGORY II: STORIES & PUBLIC OPINION
To support creative storytelling initiatives that aim to engage specific audiences in reconsidering mass incarceration policies and practices and their impact.
Applicants can be arts groups, policy advocates, journalists, social service agencies, youth media groups and others.
Content can take various forms, including video, data mapping, PSA’s, performance and other art forms, interactive infographics, photojournalism and others.
Special consideration will be made to projects that:
- Explain the criminal justice system, as well as the factors and causes that lead to incarceration.
- Include creation of content that targets specific audiences with messages, data, narratives, and stories that they may not have considered.
- Link storytelling to specific policies or practices.
- Represent new partnerships, such as a policy group collaborating to create content with a theater group, data storyteller, photojournalist, etc.
- Most grants in this category will be in the $10,000 range.
- We also hope to include two grants of as much as $25,000 for more ambitious projects with more elaborate partnerships.
- Individuals can apply for grants of $5,000 or less.
- Deadlines: April 20, 2018; Oct. 15, 2018; Online Application
CATEGORY III: ILLINOIS SPEAKS “JUSTICE DIALOGUE”
To support community dialogues on the mass incarceration system.
This micro-grant category, called Illinois Speaks, is meant to support well-moderated community dialogue on topics or themes related to criminal justice.
- Applicants must be nonprofits, though not necessarily with 501c3 status.
- In this program, IH offers microgrant partners a stipend to hold the event, training in facilitation, and assistance with evaluation.
- An example might be a group of neighborhood residents coming together at the local library, church or public school to discuss whether the current system effectively straddles respecting the rights of victims while playing a proactive role in inmates’ lives, a discussion between law enforcement and community leaders, or a discussion of the impact on a community when a higher-than-normal percentage of area residents are in and out of the judicial system.
- Special consideration will be paid to programs that bring unlikely groups together in a constructive way, or that bring participants together to envision in creative ways a future criminal justice system that is more restorative and helps to strengthen public safety and community fabric.
- Micro-grants in this category also will be awarded to groups bringing key stakeholders together.
- Dialogues can happen around media or other content produced with grants in the Envisioning Justice initiative, as long as the community conversation takes up at least half of the program’s time.
- Maximum grant sizes: $250.00 (for 1 event), $1,000 (for 4 events)
- Deadlines: June 15, 2018; Sept. 15, 2018; Feb. 15, 2019; June 15, 2019; Online Application
If you are interested in learning more about the grants categories and the type of work that will be funded, please reach out to Mark Hallett at 312.374.1555 or email@example.com.
Forgotten Illinois Community Grants
To celebrate the Illinois Bicentennial in 2018 and to spark curiosity about Illinois history and its implications for our state’s present and future, Illinois Humanities, in partnership with the Illinois State Historical Society, is launching a grants program entitled Forgotten Illinois.
Why We’re Doing It: The core question to which this program responds is, “What can lesser-known features of Illinois history tell us about the ever-evolving identity of our state?” By shedding light on chapters of our history that are significant despite their obscurity, and by using media and digital storytelling platforms to make them widely accessible, Forgotten Illinois intends to engage numerous partners throughout the state in feeding curiosity about the many facets that comprise Illinois’s complex identity.
Here’s How It Works: We are making grants available to support Forgotten Illinois activities during all three of our 2018 grant cycles: Jan. 15, 2018, May 15, 2018, and Sept. 15, 2018. Applicants should use the Action grants category, and answer “Yes” to the question “Is this a “Forgotten Illinois” grant?”. They should also indicate whether they are applying in the scholarly research, artistic interpretation, or school-based activity category in the project narrative.
(We will also continue to make the normal Vision, Action and Multiplier grants not around bicentennial themes in 2018).
We will ask that each project supported by a Forgotten Illinois grant generate a media product that can be published online (e.g., one or more video or audio recordings, photographs, text, etc.), whether or not the creation of that media product is the primary goal of the project. Applicants who would like assistance in generating media products will be invited to collaborate with a media production partner identified by Illinois Humanities. Applicants who wish to work with a media production partner identified by Illinois Humanities should indicate that within their applications. Illinois Humanities will produce an online exhibit featuring all of the media products generated by Forgotten Illinois projects.
We also invite one or more commentators to write (an) essay(s) examining how the various projects illuminate aspects of Illinois’s identity. The three grants categories are:
Scholarly research (up to $2,500) – Mini-grants to enable grantees to conduct research on specific chapters in Illinois history.
· This category is defined broadly: Projects examining topics pertaining to any geographic location within Illinois or any period in its history (including its history prior to statehood) will be considered, but applicants will need to make a convincing case that the subject matter is relevant for Illinoisans beyond the scholarly community or the specific community (however defined) with which the subject matter is associated.Example: A project devoted to the sinking of the steamboat Columbia, giving attention to the ramifications of the tragedy, such as its long-term impact upon regulation of river transportation. A project examining African American gospel music in coal mining communities might yield hypotheses about the relationship between economic circumstances and cultural transmission.
· The product of this research may take any form – e.g., a virtual or physical exhibition, an audio or video documentary, a journal article or book chapter, a series of lectures or discussions, etc. – so long as it is accessible to the public.
· The term “scholarly” is defined broadly here to encompass not only the work of academically affiliated, professional researchers but also that of local historians and journalists, community tradition bearers, etc., provided that the research evinces an appropriate degree of care and rigor.
Artistic interpretation (up to $2,500) – Mini-grants to enable grantees to produce works of art that reflect or comment upon historic incidents, individuals and influences.
· Examples: Music, poetry, or theatrical productions exploring the history of migrant labor in a particular county, the experiences of a volunteer infantry unit during the Civil War, or a local political rivalry that might offer valuable lessons for the present.
· Applicants would need to explain how the proposed work of art would bring its historical subject matter alive and to identify the audience(s) for whom it is intended.
School-based activity (up to $1,000) – Mini-grants to enable elementary, middle, and high school teachers and students to undertake active learning projects addressing chapters in their local history.
· Example: A school class might conduct archival or oral history research in collaboration with a local historical society or a classroom across town to produce entries for a citywide or regional history fair competition.
· Schools would have to make an effective case that their proposed work is more ambitious, and community-facing, than normal school- or classroom-based activity.
Media production partners: Illinois Humanities will conduct a by-invitation search for several media partners in different regions of the state of Illinois. The potential media production partners will be eligible for mini-grants of up to $1,000 to produce multimedia work documenting the classroom activities, presentations, exhibitions, and other projects undertaken by Forgotten Illinois grantee partners.
· Media production partners in various regions will work with grantee partners who request assistance to ensure that all projects are documented and publicized effectively.
· Candidates might include university-based digital humanities programs, journalism schools, documentary film outfits, and other storytellers.
· If you are interested in learning more, reach out to Mark Hallett, program manager for grants and partnerships with Illinois Humanities, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seeking commentators: Illinois Humanities also will seek proposals from potential commentators who would carefully review all projects supported by Forgotten Illinois grants and write an essay identifying thematic connections among them and addressing the broad question of what all of them, individually and collectively, can teach us about Illinois’s identity. Potential commentators are eligible for mini-grants of up to $1,000.
· Scholars, journalists, and writers of creative non-fiction with substantial knowledge of Illinois history and culture are invited to apply. A comprehensive, multifaceted view of Illinois history and culture is an essential qualification.
· The kind of essay that we envision is a work of synthesis resembling those that often serve as the introductions of symposium volumes. We are open to discussion about the length of the essay. We will publish it online in conjunction with our online exhibition of media products generated by the Forgotten Illinois projects. It may be published in one or more other venues, depending upon its suitability for those venues.
· Those who wish to apply should provide a résumé or CV, as well as a proposal indicating, in 500 words or less, the reasons for their interest in this project, their knowledge of Illinois history and culture, and the amount of funding they request (up to $1,000).
· Résumés/CVs and proposals should be e-mailed to Mark Hallett, program manager for grants and partnerships with Illinois Humanities, at email@example.com by May 15, 2018.
Partners and their roles: Illinois Humanities will publicize and administer this grants program, while the Illinois State Historical Society will help to publicize the opportunity to apply as widely as possible, evaluate and select proposals, and disseminate the products of this initiative.
Vision Grants are ($2,000) grants to Illinois nonprofit organizations to carry out planning projects related to their work in the humanities. These grants are intended for smaller organizations and applicants must have an annual budget of $1 million or less.
We believe that planning plays a critical role in smaller groups’ ability to successfully carry out humanities initiatives. Especially for groups that wish to delve into more interactive public humanities programming or target new audiences, planning grants can help develop a series, explore collaborations, or look into harnessing digital technology or other tools. We believe that better planning leads to stronger programming, and that stronger programmatic initiatives can lead to stronger organizational vitality.
Working with consultants to conduct research, provide training, and help develop evaluation tools is entirely acceptable. Projects can include convening scholars, bringing together or surveying audience members, traveling around the state to research an initiative, and other activities that will help groups conduct planning.
Through this grants area, we hope to learn more about the following questions along with grantees:
- What is the role of planning in delivering high-quality humanities programming?
- What does this planning actually look like?
- Does effective planning help smaller humanities groups increase their sustainability?
Deadlines: January 15th, May 15th, and September 15th
Action Grants are project grants (up to $4,000) to nonprofit organizations located in Illinois or doing work impacting Illinois audiences. Action Grants are meant to provide support to groups that want to try out innovative approaches to public humanities programming. Applicants must be nonprofit organizations, and can include churches, libraries, colleges or universities, and others.
Action Grants cover projects or initiatives that explore the digital humanities, apply new techniques in audience engagement, and build new and diverse audiences. Our hope is that these grants will help spark more risk-taking and experimental and/or engaging public humanities work on the part of Illinois nonprofits. Project budgets can cover project expenses as well as engagement activities. Projects must have a humanities angle. Media projects such as oral history, filmmaking, journalism, and other story telling are very much a part of this portfolio.
Through this grants area, we hope to learn more about the following questions along with grantees:
- What are models for building creative interactivity and growing audiences?
- Can creative programming help to grow audiences?
- How can this experimentation bolster organizations’ longterm viability?
Deadlines: January 15th, May 15th, and September 15th
Multiplier Grants are our largest grant category (maximum $15,000). They are meant to support collaborative projects in the public humanities.
We believe that collaboration is essential for groups to successfully carry out their missions, can help build up the capacity of organizations to better serve the needs of their audiences.
Examples of Multiplier Grants might include a number of groups coming together in a given city or town to form a working group trying to attract young families, the development of a citywide plan for nurturing the humanities, or a group of libraries or historical societies working collectively to bolster their public engagement in creative ways.
Through this grants area, we hope to learn more about the following questions along with grantees:
- What are models for successful partnering to further engagement with the humanities?
- What are ways that multiple groups in a given sector can learn and share with one another findings to spark innovation more broadly?
Deadlines: January 15th, May 15th, and September 15th
Illinois Speaks micro-grants
- compensation for moderators
- support for the host organization or venue
- recording an event
Illinois Humanities cares that public events are as inclusive as possible; Illinois Speaks applicants can check a box to request an additional $100 to provide accessibility services (e.g., American Sign Language translation).
How does Illinois Speaks work?
Anyone over the age of 15 can apply for an Illinois Speaks micro-grant. They simply need to fill out an Illinois Humanities grant proposal form, which asks
- who they are
- the topic they would like to discuss
- their experience hosting or moderating discussion
- how they plan to get 10 or more people to attend
- who their partner host institution is
- how they would use the Illinois Speaks micro-grant
The grants will be paid not to individuals but to the host nonprofit, school, library, church, university or college, or other nonprofit civic institution with which they partner.
Proposals to host Illinois Speaks dialogues should be sent before one of our four 2018 deadlines: February 15, June 15, September 15. If a group has already hosted an Illinois Speaks dialogue or is particularly experienced in facilitating such public conversations, it can apply to host a series of four meetings for a grant of $1,000. We will try to respond to applicants within 3 weeks. Please note that your event’s start date should be no earlier than the 15th of the month following the application deadline. For example, if you are applying for the January 15th deadline, than your event must take place on or after February 15th.
What does Illinois Humanities bring to the table?
Illinois Humanities will provide resources for moderators. In year one, the topics we have chosen are: “Water and the Common Good,” “The Future of Public Education,” and “The Aftermath of Ferguson, Mo.” In addition, we will entertain proposals for the topic of your choice. Illinois Humanities, in some cases, will know of speakers who may help bring your topic to life.
Illinois Humanities will provide training in moderating public discussions. Some of these will be in person, some in the form of a webinar. They will be conducted by Illinois Humanities staff.
Illinois Humanities is working with Danielle Allen and her team at the Humanities and Liberal Arts Assessment Lab (HULA) to provide evaluation consulting to help us learn from the Illinois Speaks initiative. HULA will provide an evaluation tool and assistance to groups that choose to take advantage, to help us all better understand creative ways of using texts or other resources in program design, how to attract diverse audiences, and how to engage people in civil discussion.
Illinois Humanities will provide communications back up for your event. We will help get the word out to a broad public in our e-newsletter and via social media. We ask that Illinois Speaks awardees send photos and a description of the event afterwards.
What is your responsibility?
Your obligations are simple:
- To go through a training to help hone your moderating skills (Resource Guide for Discussion Facilitators)
- To show commitment to a dialogue that allows people of diverging views to speak up and engage in a civil way
- To help us document and evaluate your event.
We want to know who attended your event and want you to take and share photos, perhaps a video, and a description of how it unfolded. We’ll use all of this to show what a great job you did and encourage others to apply.
A Note About Students:
We believe that high school students can act as great moderators of public discussion. And if you are a student and want to work with a teacher, or an after-school group that you participate in, we’d like to encourage this. Participating in this program may be a way to take what you are learning outside of the classroom. Your public event can also take place within school too, but we definitely want to hear from you.
Deadlines: February 15th (for event on or after March 15th), June 15th (for event on or after July 15th), September 15th (for event on or after October 15th).
New Illinois Speaks Microgrant: Libraries + Studs Terkel Radio Archive
Beginning with the July 15, 2017 Illinois Speaks grant cycle, Illinois Humanities and the Studs Terkel Radio Archive are offering a special grant opportunity for public libraries across Illinois.
Through this microgrant, public libraries can now apply to access a selection of the great author interviews that Studs Terkel conducted in order to host events where the community can listen to and discuss them. Illinois Speaks microgrant funds support basic expenses for these events, including beverages, promotions and/or a discussion moderator.
To date, five of Studs’ interviews have been curated for use by Illinois public libraries: Maya Angelou (1970, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”), Roddy Doyle (1994, “Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha”), Nora Ephron (1975, “Crazy Salad”), Mike Royko (1971, “Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago”) and Oliver Sacks (1995, “An Anthropologist on Mars”). More will be made available later this year.
Here’s how the process works:
- Public libraries apply before July 15 to host a single Illinois Speaks event at this link.
- Once awarded the microgrant, libraries organize a public dialogue focused on listening to and discussing one of the five interviews. Applicants should indicate which available Studs interview they would like to use for their event.
- In addition to the microgrant of $250.00 and access to the author interview, libraries will receive event support materials that provide context and suggestions for framing a discussion on the interview you chose, as well as participation materials for event attendees.
- As with all our Illinois Speaks microgrants, we want to know how your events go and share in your success! Grant recipients are asked to report back afterward on their events and include photos.
- To be eligible to apply, libraries must a) have a space that lends itself to a public discussion, equipped with a laptop and speakers to be able to play the audio interviews (video capability is also recommended); b) designate a staff person to lead the discussion; and c) promote the event to ensure that it’s well-attended, which could mean an attendance between 6 and 20 people, depending on your community.
As with all IS microgrants, we need a minimum of two weeks to determine award recipients. So if you, for example, are applying for the July 15 grant deadline, please don’t plan your event to take place before August 1. If you have questions, feel free to reach out to Mark Hallett at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 312.374.1555.
The deadlines for Vision, Action, and Multiplier Grants are January 15, May 15, and September 15.
The deadlines for Illinois Speaks Micro-Grants are February 15, (event must start on or after March 15) June 15, (event must start on or after July 15), and September 15 (event must start on or after October 15th).
In the case of all Grants categories, we make ourselves available to review grant applications or a list of project ideas, before proposals are submitted. We request that you send in drafts, or a menu of ideas, at least a full month before the deadline. Do so by emailing Mark Hallett at email@example.com.
How to Apply
For Vision, Action, and Multiplier Grants, apply by submitting a Letter of Inquiry by one of the three deadline dates (January 15, May 15, or September 15). We meet shortly after the LOI deadline date and will get back to a select few groups to request a full proposal. If your organization is asked for a full proposal, you will have just 3 weeks to supply one. A single group may apply for two separate Grants categories at one time, but must fill out two separate LOI’s to do so. (Remember that we have a form for submitting LOI’s, here, as well as an applications manual to help guide you through the process, here.)
In the case of Illinois Speaks Micro-Grants, simply submit a proposal for support by one of the six deadlines indicated. We will meet shortly after each of the six deadlines, and in the case your proposal is approved we will ask you for a signed grant agreement. Shortly thereafter, we will arrange an in-person or digital webinar in how to moderate public dialogues. Remember that a public dialogue does not have to be a townhall with 350 people – it might be 10 people in a church basement. If you have questions about the process, don’t hesitate to ask. Remember that we’ve created a form for you to apply for an Illinois Speaks Micro-grant, here.)
We ask all Grant recipients to document their initiatives or events by shooting photos, recording audio, or video, and writing up a brief blog post on how the project went. We want to share with others the great work that grantees are carrying out.
Evaluation is important to us, and we are eager to see how grant applicants define success and plan to measure progress toward it. We ask grant applicants to describe in precise terms the desired outcome of a project, how they will know if it was successful, and how it will serve their organization. Illinois Humanities is working with humanities scholar Danielle Allen at Harvard’s Humanities and Liberal Arts Assessment Lab on evaluation and assessment with grantees. This opportunity means that grantees that are interested will be eligible for consulting on their evaluation work.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does Illinois Humanities have a grantmaking program?
Illinois Humanities has been making grants since its inception in 1974. In the past 30 years, Illinois Humanities has made nearly 2,000 grants for a total of $10.5 million. We are proud to have helped support dozens of documentary films, conferences, exhibits, training programs, oral history projects, and scores of other activities. We are firm believers in the many organizations and individuals throughout the state of Illinois that value the humanities, culture, and dialogue as community-building activities, and wish to help them to fulfill their missions, carry out high-quality programming, and grow their organizations. We are indebted to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Illinois General Assembly for the support that allows this grantmaking program to exist.
What is your definition of the humanities?
The humanities are the examination of what it means to be human through the interpretation and discussion of all forms of thought, interest and expression.
We value traditional humanities disciplines, such as art history, literature, history, and philosophy. However, our emphasis on the public humanities means that we look at the humanities as more than an academic discipline. For us, the public humanities are a mode of inquiry and conversation that aims to engage, support, or challenge the ideals, beliefs, tensions, and prejudices of the communities in which we live. We believe that important thought can happen outside of the academy – in neighborhood institutions, schools, churches, and at kitchen tables across the country.
We are especially interested in instances of the public humanities that promote civic engagement – in raising critical issues facing everyday people and conducted with the hope of increasing their thirst for staying engaged. Take a look at our focus areas, for instance – Arts, Business, Media & Journalism, and Public Policy – where the disciplines at the heart of programming may or may not fall under the traditional humanities categories. Rather than being defined by rigid disciplinary boundaries, it is the humanistic lens, which emphasizes curiosity, questioning, and dialogue, that matters.
Does your organization have a working definition of the public humanities? Share it with us – we’re eager to explore how others are addressing this complex question.
With the changes in your grantmaking guidelines, are there things you used to fund that you are no longer funding?
More than anything, we have added several categories. We’ve kept the planning grants (now called Vision) and the Project grants (now called Action) and added the two new categories of Multiplier Grants (our biggest grant category, for collaborations) and Illinois Speaks Micro-Grants (to help spark public dialogue at the community level throughout the state).
The two categories we have dropped are General Operating grants and Media Projects. We believe our budget is too small to make much of a difference from the standpoint of general operating support – though we may revisit this later. Media projects continue to be a primary focus of our work and our grantmaking program. Documentary film, storytelling, oral history, journalism, and other forms of media are the lifeblood of much humanities work. We’ve taken away ‘media’ as a category, but hope to continue to see great media initiatives in other categories. We just aren’t treating them with their own category at this time.
How has the process changed?
Plenty has changed. We’ve gone digital. We’ve reduced the number of deadlines from four to three. We’re paying out all grant awards in a single payment. Also, we’re requesting Letters of Inquiry (LOI’s) first, and then with a select group of applicants moving on to a Full Proposal. It is worth noting that if we ask for a Full Proposal, the turnaround time will be very short.
Can an organization have more than one active grant with Illinois Humanities at a time?
In general, Illinois Humanities will have one open grant with any single entity at a given time. There are two exceptions to this rule: If your organization acts as fiscal agent for another, you can still have a project grant that is funded by Illinois Humanities. The other exception is that a single group can have a Vision, Action, or Multiplier Grant but also receive support to host Illinois Speaks conversations.
Who can apply?
Nonprofit organizations can apply for Illinois Humanities grants. This includes 501c3 organizations and nonprofits under state law, as well as libraries, schools, faith-based organizations and universities. We do not accept grant applications from individuals or for-profit companies. If you are unsure about whether you can apply, reach out to us.