In these difficult economic times, even the exploding field of genealogy is feeling the pinch. Libraries and archives are convenient (and regrettable) early targets for those looking to slash government budgets, and traditionally cash-strapped historical and genealogical societies are having to stretch their pennies even more than usual. And then, of course, there are the genealogists - those who are passionate about uncovering, capturing and preserving our family -- and by extension, national -- histories.
For that reason, I thought now might be a good time to remind folks about my Honoring Our Ancestors grants program, which hit its 10-year milestone earlier this year. For the past decade, I've been giving a grant for some kind of genealogical initiative every month.
This is a private grants program, so the process is simple (several entities have approached me about partnering over the years, but none has been able to assure me that they could keep the procedure as streamlined as it is). The application form takes perhaps five minutes to complete. Once a month, I print out the latest batch and toss them in with those from the previous five months (all applications remain active for six months). Then I go to a local coffee house and ponder them, shortlisting my favorites. Finally, I review the most appealing projects and select that month's awardee. The awardee is notified and once they reply confirming their contact information, I send a check. That's it.
So what's the catch? Well, I'm not Donald Trump so the awards are modest, but I'm operating on the optimistic principle that every little bit helps and that the drip-drip-drip effect of doing something consistently month after month gradually makes a difference.
And it's true that you'll have to invest a few minutes to complete the form. If you want to improve your odds, you'll probably want to devote a few more minutes to scanning some of the summaries of the previous grant winners from the past decade. That will give you a feel for the kind of projects that catch my attention. If you do this, you'll notice that I like undertakings that are innovative. For instance, if you're the first to approach me about using ground-penetrating radar in a cemetery, your odds are slightly better than another request for shelving, though I appreciate the need for such fundamentals, so will frequently fund them.
I also like projects that have a ripple effect. While I'm as open to applications from private individuals as from libraries, archives and assorted non-profits, I have a preference for efforts that will benefit more than just the immediate recipient. Bonus points if you can furnish a video to share your experience on RootsTelevision after the fact.
Oh, yeah, one more thing - your project has to have something to do with genealogy.
I'm running a little behind and will soon be reviewing applications to make awards for October as well as November and December, so now is a good time to apply. Even if you don't have something in mind, why not tell your research buddy or local library? That way, you can take the credit when they get picked!
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