Changes to the Grants Program

The Alberta Museums Association (AMA) Grants Program has been an integral part of the AMA's programs and services since its introduction in 1984. The purpose of the Grants Program is to assist Alberta's non-government operated museums with various aspects of museum-related work, to support professional development and training, and more recently, to assist in the hiring and retention of qualified museum professionals. Since its inception, the Program has operated on the fundamental principle of disbursing funding based on merit, as opposed to across the board disbursement.

In September of 2012, the AMA launched the Sustainability Working Group (SWG) to develop a series of recommendations that focus on ensuring sustainable practice within Alberta's museum community. The resultingSustainability Working Group Recommendations Reportoutlined the case for sustainability and a number of key characteristics for museums. As a result, a formal review of the Grants Program began to encourage sustainable practice and ensure alignment with the AMA Strategic Framework. To aid in the review process, the AMA contracted an evaluation specialist, conducted surveys of the membership, used benchmarking from other granting programs, compiled Jury and Applicant feedback from the past five years, and put together a focus group of Individual Members who have a strong understanding of sustainability in the museum sector. Results of the review indicated that the changes to the Grants Program should help applicants to think, plan, and evaluate their granting work with a stronger sustainability lens. With that in mind, several changes have been implemented into the Grants Program, including:

  • The redevelopment of several questions to frame applicants' work around sustainability;
  • The ceiling for Professional Development Grants has been lowered to $2,500 for Individual applicants and $5,000 for Institutional applicants supporting the professional development initiatives of two or more employees or volunteers;
  • The applicant matching component for the Institutional and Professional Development Grants has increased to 50%;
  • Applications and Evaluations must now be submitted digitally; and,
  • The General Operations and Conference Grant will no longer be offered.


Why was the matching component increased for the Institutional and Professional Development Grants?

The matching components for the Professional Development and Institutional Grants have increased to 50% from 30% for applicants as part of the Grants Program's focus on sustainable practice. The AMA encourages members to seek funding from their communities, other granting agencies, donors, and sponsors to help contribute to their long term sustainability and relevance.

Why was the matching component not increased for the Operational Staffing Grant?

The Operational Staffing Grant meets a growing need among museums for operational funding to help amplify the benefits of grants beyond a one-time initiative. The Operational Staffing Grant is one of the most heavily subscribed grants the AMA offers and the opportunity to hire trained staff at the museum through this grant has allowed recipients to have greater impact with their visitors, volunteers, and collections. The purpose of this grant is to build capacity within museums by allowing recipients to offer competitive wages for core museum staff, and increasing the matching component could limit this ability.

Why was the ceiling lowered on Professional Development Grants?

The amount applicants can receive has been lowered to $2,500 from $4,000 for Individual applicants and to $5,000 from $8,000 for Institutional applicants supporting the professional development initiatives of two or more employees or volunteers. The ceilings have been lowered to reflect the fact that the vast majority of applicants, both individual and institutional, apply for Professional Development Grants well under the previous $4,000 and $8,000 ceilings.

Why have the General Operations and Conference Grants been discontinued?

As all Grant categories are regularly oversubscribed, the AMA has attempted to distribute funding to members in areas where it is most needed as well as to areas in which the Grants Program experiences the greatest demand. Feedback received during the Grants Program Review consistently rated the General Operations and the Conference Grant at lesser value than other AMA Grant Categories.

Both Grants categories were first-come, first-served, meaning funds were not distributed based on the merit of the applications. In order to compare applications, a formal application and adjudication process would have to take place, which would be impractical for applicants applying for a comparatively small amount of funding. As such, only 10% of successful applicants to the General Operations and Conference Grants were required to submit an evaluation detailing the spending of funds or overall impact. The AMA is accountable to the Government of Alberta and to its membership for the funds it distributes, and as such must be able to report on return on investment and the meaningful impact grants have within communities.

The AMA remains committed to funding core museum personnel, projects, and learning opportunities, and will now do so in alignment with the Strategic Framework and with a focus on sustainable practices in the museum sector.

What other AMA funding sources are available to help attend the AMA Conference?

Eligible Institutional and Individual Members will now be able to apply for Professional Development Grants to cover expenses associated with attending the AMA Annual Conference. As in previous years, costs associated with attending Conference are considered eligible expenses to be included within a professional development allocation of the Operational Staffing Grant budget.

How are changes to the Grants Program going to encourage sustainable practices within the Alberta museum community?

The AMA is committed to encouraging sustainable practices in the museum community. In alignment with the museum's values, vision, and mission, museum sustainability is demonstrated by organizational agility, community relevance, and responsiveness to the interconnected world in which the museum exists and the issues affecting its future.[i]

Grant applicants are now required to link their applications with one or more of the five facets of sustainability outlined in the Sustainability Working Group Recommendations Report[ii]:

Cultural: working to ensure the expression of a society's aesthetic, moral and spiritual values, of its understanding of the world and of life itself; culture transmits the heritage of the past and creates the heritage of the future.

Health and Well-being: refers to the condition or state of being well, contented and satisfied with life … Well-being (and so quality of life) has several components, including physical, mental, social, [intellectual], and spiritual. Well-being and quality of life are also used in a collective sense to describe how well society satisfies people's wants and needs; a shared sense of meaning and purpose is the single attitude most strongly associated with community well-being. The process of arriving at collective meanings is central to the health of a community.

Environmental: working to ensure the surroundings in which an organization operates, including air, water, land, natural resources, flora, fauna, humans, the built environment, and their interrelations are supported successfully for the long-term.

Financial: an organization's capacity to obtain revenues (grants or otherwise) in order to sustain productive processes (projects)… in order to produce results (accomplish the mission, goals or objectives).

Social: deepening and diversifying relationships, aiming to reflect the diversity of society in all that they do; engaged in socially responsible work that affects real social and environmental change with the potential to create public benefit on a larger scale.

All applicants must be able to demonstrate progress in at least one of the above mentioned facets. Please see the Application Forms for questions provided to assist you in making this link.

How can I get help with my grant application?

The Grants Program Lead offers Advisory Services to members interested in applying to the Grants Program. This ranges from discussions regarding the eligibility of a project idea to full reviews of an applicant's draft application. Annual Grant Draft Advisory Deadlines are announced in the summer of each year. In 2014-2015 only 35% of Institutional, Professional Development, and Operational Staffing Grant Applicants took advantage of the draft review service offered by the Grants Program. Of those, 80% were successful in their grant applications. The success rate of applicants who access Grant Draft Advisory is consistently higher than those who do not.

How can I learn more about the changes to the Grants Program?


Raina Malcolm
Program Lead
P: 780.424.2626 x. 241

[i] Alberta Museums Association, Sustainability Working Group Recommendations Report, 2013, accessed March 29, 2015, p.6

[ii] Ibid., p.7

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