Author Archives: Eileen Morales

About Eileen Morales

Throughout my career, I've helped museums and libraries in New York and New Jersey find funding sources for new projects. My favorite projects have utilized new technologies to increase public access to the photographs, diaries, and everyday objects that are not usually on display. My position as Grants Manager at the New Jersey State Library includes outreach to New Jersey libraries involved in the grant-seeking process. Email me at

Writing Successful Grant Applications

Sharpen Your Grant Writing Skills

Part of my role as Grants Manager at the New Jersey State Library involves outreach to the state’s public libraries – that is, being a resource for librarians who need some assistance as they seek funds from foundations, corporations, and government agencies.

This winter and spring, at different venues throughout the state, I will have a few opportunities to share my thoughts about writing successful grant applications.

First, I am scheduled to talk for about a half hour at the New Directors’ Orientation for public library directors on February 15. I will describe my role at the State Library and attendees will hear about the resources available through the State Library’s Funding Information Center.

In partnership with the New Jersey Historical Commission, on February 28, I will lead an in-person workshop on the basic skills and techniques of writing successful grant applications. I will present the same workshop as a webinar the next day, March 1. My talk will focus on grant writing within the context of the Historical Commission’s Project and General Operating Support Grant program for history organizations. In Fiscal Year 2017, three public libraries received grant awards from the Historical Commission, including the Newark Public Library (General Operating Support), Elizabeth Public Library (Project Support), and Plainfield Public Library (General Operating Support). Check the New Jersey Historical Commission’s Grants & Award Opportunities page for information about their guidelines. A link to registration for the workshop can be found here.

Last but not least, I am happy to report that the New Jersey Library Association’s Conference Committee accepted the session, “Successfully Applying for Grants: Tips from the Source.” Scheduled for Tuesday, April 25 from 9:00 A.M. to 9:50 A.M. during the NJLA Annual Conference in Atlantic City, the session will feature comments from Gigi Naglak, Director of Grants and Programs, New Jersey Council for the Humanities, Michelle Willis, Director, Scotch Plains Public Library, Pamela Brooks, Department Head, Adult and Teen Services, Scotch Plains Public Library, and Howard Miller, Chief, Office of Customized and Literacy Training, New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. While Gigi Naglak and Howard Miller will present on their perspectives as representatives of grant-making organizations, Michelle Willis and Pamela Brooks will discuss their experiences as the writers of a recent successful grant application. Special thanks to the Administration and Management Section of NJLA for its sponsorship of the session and to the Diversity and Outreach Section, the Professional Development Committee and the Member Communications Committee for their co-sponsorships. I hope to see many attendees at this informative session.

If you can’t attend any of these sessions, you are always welcome to reach out to me, Eileen Morales, via email: or by phone: 609-278-2640 ext. 105.



Community Reading Programs

Story Hour at North Haledon

NEA Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. About 75 organizations across the country each receive funds ranging in amounts from $5,000 to $20,000 to support community-wide programs which encourage reading and participation by diverse audiences.

Public libraries, 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations and divisions of state, local or tribal governments may now apply to participate in the Big Read program. Applications are due January 26, 2017. The NEA Big Read website provides a wealth of information for potential applicants.

An applicant must develop a program proposal focused on one book from a group of 28 featured titles in the Big Read library. A proposal should include a series of events devoted to the selected book, events using the book as a point of departure, and book discussions in diverse locations involving a wide range of audiences. NEA Big Read Guidelines suggest that the proposal include a kick-off event, panel discussions or author readings, film screenings or theatrical readings, and book discussions, all of which occur over the course of a month. Applicants must include a detailed budget for the proposed program. Grant-funded expenses may include book purchases, speaker fees and travel, promotion, and venue rental. Note that there is a 1:1 cost share/matching requirement (utilizing non-federal funds) for this grant.

NEA Big Read staff recently conducted a webinar about the program (scroll down the linked page – the webinar is below the list of titles). In addition to providing basic information about the Big Read program, the webinar shared details about the 13 new books added to the NEA Big Read catalog in 2016. The new books include contemporary and lesser-known titles, books from living authors and books in translation, and cover issues relevant to our times.

During the previous grant round, four New Jersey organizations were named Big Read award recipients: Burlington County Library System (The Maltese Falcon), Essex County Library Directors (Silver Sparrow), Gloucester County Library System (The Great Gatsby), and Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts (Fahrenheit 451). Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts included lectures, storytelling and art activities as part of its Big Read program.

Potential applicants should review all aspects of the application process and contact Arts Midwest with any questions: 612-238-8010 or





American Dream Update

New citizens reciting the Pledge of Allegiance
New citizens reciting the Pledge of Allegiance
Pledge of Allegiance during citizenship ceremony, May 2016

This month’s Grants for Libraries post provides an update to the information I provided in July. The fifth round of the American Dream grant program is now accepting applications through November 15, 2016. Applicants can start the process through this portal.

Administered by the American Library Association’s Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services and funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, the American Dream grant program supports public libraries with the goal of expanding services to adult English language learners.

As I noted in the July post, several New Jersey libraries received awards in previous rounds. Applicants to the current round should be public libraries serving adult English language learners and be located within 20 miles of a Dollar General Store, distribution center or corporate office.

Round five funding amounts are either at the $5,000 level for libraries in rural and other small communities to develop their collections and services for immigrants or at the $10,000 level for libraries with the experience and capacity to expand existing programs, add services and foster community partnerships.

The guidelines provide examples of project budget categories and amounts at the two funding levels:

  • A project budget of $5,000 could include $1,000 for Collection Development to increase the library’s collection of ESL materials and $4,000 for Technology to purchase iPads for in-library use by English language learners.
  • A project budget of $10,000 could include $500 for Printing, design, and distribution to promote the program, $7,500 for Technology to purchase laptops for self-paced English Language Learning and $2,000 for Other Expenses (to equip learning stations).

In addition to submitting the required application forms, applicants at the $10,000 level must also upload letters of support from two or more community partners. Letters should include the fiscal and in-kind contributions by the partnering organizations to the proposed American Dream project.

Potential applicants should review the guidelines and should reach out to ALA with questions: Zina Clark, American Dream Program Coordinator, at or (800) 545-2433, x4297 or Kristin Lahurd, Literacy Officer, at or (800) 545-2433, x3275.

Libraries selected for funding will be notified by December 15, 2016. Funds will be distributed on or before January 15, 2017.





Makerspace and Community Initiatives


As the summer comes to an end, it’s time to start thinking about fall grant application deadlines!

There are several government and corporate funding opportunities whose applications are due in October and November. Here are two of them with closing dates of November 1st.

Makerspace Kit Funding

The New Jersey State Library (NJSL) and LibraryLinkNJ (LLNJ) recently announced the availability of funds through the Mobile Mini-Makerspace Kits for Public and School Library Partners grant opportunity. You can find the announcement on the Grants for Libraries page of the New Jersey State Library website.

Through this competitive grant program, NJSL and LLNJ will help fund three mobile mini-makerspace kits for joint use by a partnering public library/branch and public school library (which serves any grades from Kindergarten to Grade 8) at a maximum amount of $7,500 per award. The focus of this initiative is on small communities (population less than 15,000) and libraries currently without a dedicated makerspace or mobile mini-makerspace kit.


With this funding opportunity, NJSL and LLNJ seek to:

  • support science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM)-based learning in both informal and formal learning environments,


  • foster cooperative relationships between partnering public and school libraries on the local level, and


  • leverage available funding for specialized equipment, supplies, and materials.


Note that the relationship between the applicant public library and the partnering public school library is a key element of this funding opportunity. The partners together must develop programming and curriculum ideas for the mobile mini-makerspace kit and create a sustainable plan for their joint use of the kit.

This funding opportunity builds on the successful 2013-14 New Jersey Library Makerspaces – The Leading Edge initiative. Those project documents remain available on the LLNJ website; the Makerspace Resources list may spark ideas for this year’s potential applicants.

The application deadline is November 1, 2016. The announcement contains links to the complete guidelines and application.

Questions regarding this funding opportunity may be directed to Sharon Rawlins, MLS, Youth Services Specialist for Lifelong Learning, New Jersey State Library via email: or phone: 609-278-2640 ext. 116 or to me, Eileen Morales, Grants Manager, New Jersey State Library, via email: or phone: 609-278-2640 ext. 105.

Supporting Community Initiatives

Funded by Investors Bank, the Investors Foundation considers grant applications four times per year. November 1 is the last due date for submitting an application in 2016.

As its stated mission, the Investors Foundation is dedicated to supporting creative initiatives to diverse community organizations that support Arts, Education, Health and Human Services, Youth, and Affordable Housing in the communities Investors Bank serves. Investors Bank has locations throughout most of New Jersey, the five boroughs of New York City and Long Island.

Grant eligibility criteria includes organizational 501(c)3 and either 509(a)1 or 509(a)2 status. Most awards are under $5,000. According to Investors Foundation 990 filings, Friends of the Madison Public Library, Friends of Piscataway Library, and the Friends of East Orange Public Library have received funding in previous years.

Grant applications must be submitted through the Investors Foundation website.

For information beyond what is posted on their website, send an email to:


Grants for Literacy and Community

New citizens reciting the Pledge of Allegiance
New citizens reciting the Pledge of Allegiance
Pledge of Allegiance during citizenship ceremony, May 2016

Two upcoming grant opportunities may help libraries address literacy and community development needs in New Jersey.

American Dream Grants

The American Library Association (ALA) and its Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services recently announced funding from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation that will enable a fifth round of American Dream grants.

According to ALA’s press release, more than 150 libraries have previously received grants. The funding has supported libraries that serve adult English language learners and that seek to:

  • augment their print and digital ESL collections
  • increase computer access and training
  • provide job training
  • hold English Language Learning, GED, and citizenship classes and
  • raise the visibility of services for immigrant populations.

The American Dream program awarded grants to several New Jersey libraries in 2014 and 2013. ALA maintains a list of the grantees from those two years.

Potential applicant libraries must be located within 20 miles of a Dollar General Store, distribution center or corporate office. The Dollar General Literacy Foundation includes an interactive map on its website to help applicants find Dollar General locations. In addition to applying to the American Dream program, libraries may apply separately to the literacy grant programs run directly by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

Funding amounts will vary for this grant round of the American Dream program. Libraries in rural and small communities may apply for one-time $5,000 seed grants to develop their collections and services for immigrants. Libraries with the experience and capacity to expand existing programs, add services, and foster community partnerships may apply for one-time grants of $10,000.

The application will become available in the fall. Potential applicants may review ALA’s page describing the 2014 grant round.

Good Neighbor Grants

State Farm’s local Good Neighbor Citizenship Company Grants focus on community development, safety, and education. Within the area of community development, funds are directed towards job training, small business development, financial literacy, neighborhood revitalization, affordable housing and first time homeownership.

Grant eligible organizations include educational institutions, government entities, and 501(c)3 charitable nonprofit organizations. Funding requests must be $5,000 or more.

Grant applications for State Farm’s 2017 cycle will be available Thursday, September 1 through October 31, 2016. See State Farm’s webpage concerning the Good Neighbor Citizenship Company Grants program for details.

Corporate Philanthropy: Best Buy

corporate philanthropy technology grants

A couple of weeks ago, I attended my first New Jersey Library Association conference. The preconference session, “Fundraising & Advocacy: A Perfect Marriage,” was jam-packed with great information for library directors, trustees, and friends groups. Presenter Peter Pearson of the Library Strategies Consulting Group (and the President of the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library) discussed fundraising best practices and noted the pros and cons of corporate philanthropy, individual donations, and events.

During the presentation, Mr. Pearson also elaborated his “Twelve Must-Know Facts about Library Fundraising.” (You can find these listed in Chapter Four of Beyond Book Sales: The Complete Guide to Raising Real Money for Your Library, a 2014 book to which Mr. Pearson contributed.) His first fact, “Relationships First; Money Second,” rings true even in the world of grant writing.

At first glance, writing a grant application to a corporation might not seem to require much personal interaction with the company. I’ve found the most success with corporate donors, however, when I’ve gotten to know their program officers or community relations staff.

corporate philanthropy technology grants
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Employing volunteers from a particular corporation could also give you a competitive edge when applying for grant funds from that company. In the case of the Best Buy Foundation’s Community Grants program, applicant organizations who engage Best Buy employee volunteers will receive special consideration during their review process.


According to their Request for Proposals, the Best Buy Foundation is accepting applications now through 5 P.M. on July 1st, 2016 from 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations and public agencies (including, for example, community centers, schools or libraries) that provide direct services to build technology skills in teens, ages 13-18. The average grant amount is $5,000 and will not exceed $10,000, and the awards are for one year.

“The Best Buy Foundation will donate Community Grants to local and regional nonprofit organizations that provide teens with places and opportunities to develop 21st century technology skills that will inspire future education and career choices.”

In particular, programs should help teens build 21st century skills by utilizing cutting-edge technology such as computers, digital cameras, video cameras and professional software in a wide range of areas including but not limited to:

  • Audio Production
  • Coding
  • 3D Design and Printing
  • Computer Maintenance and Repair
  • Digital Photography/Graphic Design
  • Maker Faires/Hack-a-thons
  • Mobile & Game App Development
  • Programming
  • Robotics
  • Web Site Design
  • Filmmaking & Videography

Based on this list and what I know about New Jersey libraries’ makerspaces, I suspect that many libraries could submit eligible projects for this grant opportunity!

Before applying for funds from any corporate or private foundation, I do suggest searching their 990 tax filings in order to review their giving history. (Use the 990 Finder widget on the New Jersey State Library’s Grant Information LibGuide.) A foundation’s 990 will include a list of organizations and amounts awarded in previous grant cycles. This information could help you decide whether or not to apply for funds from a particular foundation’s grant program.

If you decide to apply to the Best Buy Foundation Community Grants program, remember to review their Request for Proposals thoroughly and if you have questions, to reach out to their stated contact:

Support for the Humanities in NJ

Logo of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities

Logo of the New Jersey Council for the HumanitiesIn my last two posts, I focused on available federal support for programs through the National Endowment for the Humanities. In New Jersey, local and regional libraries, museums and historical societies, and other community organizations should think about applying to the newly re-imagined grants program of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities (NJCH).

But first, what are the Humanities? Here is the definition from the (as amended) 1965 National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act: “The term ‘humanities’ includes, but is not limited to, the study and interpretation of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life.”

Established in 1972 as a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, NJCH has provided support to thousands of humanities-based exhibitions, panel discussions, lectures and other projects to audiences throughout New Jersey. Following the hiring of Executive Director Briann Greenfield in 2014, the NJCH embarked on a strategic planning process to help guide the organization through 2021. (You can read the one-page plan.) This strategic planning process impacted the overall shape and procedures related to their grants program.


The New Jersey Council for the Humanities aims to “1) build new audiences for the humanities, 2) bring people of different perspectives and backgrounds together, 3) innovate new program models, and 4) create lively humanities programs around the state. The most competitive grant proposals will help us achieve one or more of these goals.”


Rather than applying for mini- or major grants as organizations would have in the past, in 2016 potential applicants may consider applying for “Incubation” Grants for up to $5,000 or “Action” grants for up to $20,000. Incubation grants are offered twice a year and may be appropriate for those projects that require research, planning, or a pilot phase before expansion. Action grants, offered once per year, may be utilized to implement or expand programs. All projects must have a strong team and involve a humanities scholar at some point in the life of the project.

NJCH has detailed information about the process on the grants section of their website. Pay particular attention to their new deadlines and the new application forms. The first deadline is May 30 for the intent to apply to the first round of 2016 Incubation grants. The application deadline itself is June 15. The intent to apply deadline for the 2016 Action grant round is July 22 and the application deadline is August 5. To help applicants plan for the future, 2017 deadlines are also listed.

Gigi Naglak, Director of Grants & Programs at the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, is happy to assist potential applicants. You can email Ms. Naglak at or call her at 609-695-4838 ext. 223.

NEH Funding Opportunity: Common Heritage

Scanning Word Graphic

Looking for funding sources for new initiatives at your public library? New Jersey State Library’s lib guide on Grant Information contains a specific section on Federal Grants. Libraries might find relevant funding opportunities through the

  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • National Endowment for the Humanities
  • National Science Foundation and
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services.

If your library wants to apply for a Federal grant, first visit is the portal to both find and apply for Federal grants. To apply for a Federal grant, a library must acquire its DUNS number (a unique nine-character identification number provided by the commercial company Dun & Bradstreet [D&B]), register with the System for Award Management (SAM, a government-wide registry for vendors doing business with the Federal government) and register with Completing these registration steps takes time! Allow as much time as possible for this process – ideally four weeks in advance of the application deadline.

As I noted in my last post, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has many funding opportunities for libraries, including several special programs. Their Common Good initiative “seeks to bring the humanities into the public square and foster innovative ways to make scholarship relevant to contemporary issues.” The Common Good initiative forms the basis of some new grant programs, including Common Heritage.

The Common Heritage grant program specifically aims to capture the cultural heritage found in a community’s private homes, family histories and individual life stories. In practice, Common Heritage grants make private historical records and artifacts digitally available to a wider public by supporting community “digitization days” and accompanying public programming.

According to the NEH website, “The program supports day-long events organized by community cultural institutions, which members of the public will be invited to attend.

At these events experienced staff will digitize the community historical materials brought in by the public. Project staff will also record descriptive information—provided by community attendees—about the historical materials. Contributors will be given a free digital copy of their items to take home, along with the original materials. With the owner’s permission, digital copies of these materials would be included in the institutions’ collections. Historical photographs, artifacts, documents, family letters, art works, and audiovisual recordings are among the many items eligible for digitization and public commemoration.”

The first grant awards under this program were made in December 2015. In Massachusetts, the Holyoke Public Library developed the project, “Nuestros Senderos: Las Historias de Nuestras Vidas en Holyoke [Our Paths: Stories of Life in Holyoke],” two day-long digitization events in predoScanning Word Graphicminantly Hispanic neighborhoods, to digitize cultural heritage materials held by members of the Latino community. In New Jersey, the Montclair Historical Society’s project, “Nubian Heritage Quilters Exhibition, Workshops, and Digitization Project,” is a collaborative effort between the Montclair Historical Society and the Nubian Heritage Quilters Guild to recognize the contributions of African American quilters and to educate members of local quilting guilds, as well as the community in and around Montclair, on the importance of documenting and preserving quilts and quilting traditions.

NEH especially welcomes applications from small and medium-sized institutions that have not previously received NEH support. Awards are up to $12,000 and no cost sharing is required. The application due date is May 12, 2016.

If your library needs assistance finding the right grant opportunity, please reach out to me at 609-278-2640 ext. 105.


Welcome to the New Grants for Libraries Blog!

New Jersey State Library, Trenton
New Jersey State Library, Trenton

Welcome to the New Jersey State Library’s new Grants for Libraries blog! In my role as Grants Manager for NJSL, I help find funding sources for special projects initiated by NJSL staff. I also help manage the process of awarding sub-grants from NJSL to local libraries.

In my previous positions at the Red Mill Museum Village, the Historical Society of Princeton and the Museum of the City of New York, I’ve both written successful grant applications and led grant-funded projects. Through these blog posts, I look forward to sharing my knowledge of the world of grant funding with New Jersey libraries.

There are many sources of grant funding information available online.

  • The New Jersey State Library’s reference librarian, Andrea Levandowski, has put together a libguide to grant funding. All of the traditional funding sources are covered, from federal opportunities to private foundations.
  • The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) offers several funding streams that libraries may find relevant. Libraries with robust public program offerings should check out NEH’s Humanities Access Grants.

These challenge grants “help support capacity building for humanities programs that benefit one or more of the following groups: youth, communities of color, and economically disadvantaged populations.”

Humanities Access grants establish or augment term endowments (that is, endowments whose funds are entirely expended over the course of a set time period) to provide funding for existing programs at institutions such as public libraries, local and regional museums, historical societies, community colleges, HBCUs and tribal colleges, Hispanic-serving institutions, archival repositories, and other cultural organizations. Humanities Access grants are intended to seed longer-term endowment-building efforts.

The deadline for Humanities Access Grants is May 4 and all applications must be submitted through Please note that there is a matching requirement for this opportunity.

In my future blog posts, I plan to highlight at least one funding opportunity per post. If you need assistance finding the right grant opportunity for your library, please feel free to reach out to me by email: or by phone: 609-278-2640 ext. 105.