Around this time each year, I’m asked these questions: What is the PTT Grants program and what are we really looking for in a good grant application?
It’s true that the Call for Proposals outlines the nuts and bolts for eligibility and applying. Please be sure to read it! But for those who want some insight into the broader view of what makes a successful application, this blog post is for you.
1. Understand the Program’s Purpose
Essentially, we are looking for the next good idea in technology applied to the conservation and preservation of the cultural object. The project can be a research effort, a training event, or a symposium that results in new ideas.
The most confusing aspect of the grants program is understanding what is and is not funded by the program. In general, when people think of historic preservation, they think about the cultural objects individually or as a group. Their focus is usually on the historic significance of the object–whether it is an archeological site, an historic house, a museum artifact, or a planned historic landscape. Proposals written from this perspective tend to narrate the story of the cultural object or place, with the plan of action almost an afterthought in the proposal.
2. Shift Your Perspective
But the cultural object, per se, is NOT what the PTT Grants program is about. Writing a good PTT Grant proposal requires a shift in perspective. The applicant must ask themselves:
- “What’s new and different about this project?”
- “How does this change they way we as a profession do the business of historic preservation?
- “How can this project address a national need?” and
- “Where’s the technology?
3. Demonstrate a Command of What’s Needed
In an effort to answer these questions, the applicant needs to do a little background literature review. What are others doing with this particular problem? Is there a method, old or new, that could be applied to the problem in a different way? Places to look for this information might be in professional journals such as the
- APT Bulletin,
- the Journal of Architectural Conservation,
- the Journal of Archeological Science,
- the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, or
- Studies in Conservation, just to name a few.
4. Write Well
Based on having the new technology in hand and the background review, the applicant must shape a tight well-written proposal. Does the style and language used in the proposal count? You bet it does. Spelling and grammar errors become detractors for reviewers.
Simply tell the story of what you want to do in clear sentences. I suggest outlining the document first, then drafting the proposal in a word processing document. Preservation is a very broad field. Spell out your proposal assuming a potential reviewer has only a passing knowledge of your research area. When you’re ready to submit your proposal you can cut and paste into the online grant application form.
5. Do the Math
Each year, proposals are either delayed or fail because of budget errors. Make sure to read the Call for Proposals carefully. No grant will receive more than $25,000 from NCPTT. Every application requires matching resources. This means for every dollar you request from NCPTT, you will need to provide a dollar match. This match can be from your group or from another grant. Federal dollars can be used to match the NCPTT request. If you donate services or time, these can be considered matches.
Make sure that your budget adds up correctly. Math errors cause a great deal of confusion. Overhead costs for universities and non-profits cannot exceed 33 percent of the total amount of the grant, even if you have a federally negotiated overhead rate that is higher. The overhead cap is specified in our legislation.
6. Success Follows Success
Now, let’s look at a recent example of a successful grant applicant.
In 2009, NCPTT awarded a grant to Cultural Heritage Imaging to create a workshop on how to use reflectance transformation imaging to document rock art images in three dimensions. Advantages of the technique include low costs, applicability to a wide range of objects, and ease of use. The project is innovative, transfers new information to the preservation community, and changes the way we do business. Moreover, this grant addresses the national need to provide better stewardship and documentation of rock art sites in the United States.
Explore the NCPTT website to see what research is being featured and bone up on what we are about. The products catalog is a good place to start.
I hope I’ve given you some sound guidance for writing your 2010 PTT Grant proposal. If you want to feel out an idea before writing a full proposal to NCPTT, you can do that too. Just go to our website and submit a short preproposal online. Or give us a call and we’ll talk with you about your idea. We promise a quick turn around time to let you know what we think. Good Luck.