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Support and FAQ for Community Collections program (for Organizations)

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Use the information found on this page along with the guidance in the Notice of Federal Opportunity to submit your application for the Community Collections grant program.

Help Understanding this Funding Opportunity and Application Process

Dates to Note

Using the Notice of Federal Opportunity as a Planning Tool

Federal Systems and Forms

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Help Understanding this Funding Opportunity and Application Process

  • Review the summary information about the grant opportunity for a quick overview.
  • Read the Notice of Funding Opportunity fully and carefully to plan your application.  The notice contains detailed guidance about application requirements.
  • Additional help is available by
    • Reviewing the Frequently Asked Questions below
    • Send specific questions to the Library’s grant officer at [email protected]. Answers will be provided in the FAQs below as updates.
      • Answers to submitted questions will be provided publicly to ensure equitable access to information for all applicants.
  • Register to attend an informational webinar if available
    • August 11, 2021 (4pm Eastern Time): Community Collections Grant Information webinar (RECORDING AVAILABLE HERE)
    • August 20, 2021 (3pm Eastern Time): Community Collections Grant Information webinar
    • August 25, 2021 (4pm Eastern Time): Community Collections Grant Information webinar (register here)
  • How to Develop and Write a Grant Proposal” [updated Aug. 28, 2019] Published by the Congressional Research Service (Library of Congress), this guide covers writing proposals for both government and private foundation grants.  In this report, applicants can find a full spectrum of information, including guidance on the actual writing of a proposal (from outlining project goals to developing the proposal budget) as well as information on helpful resources and a listing of free grants-writing websites.

Dates to Note

  • August 13. 2021. Questions about applying for this funding opportunity may be submitted until 5:00 p.m. on the date identified here. No questions will be accepted after this date.  See Section D.2 in the NOFO (Questions and Answers) for more information.
  • September 13, 2021 [UPDATED September 2, 2021).  Applications for this funding opportunity are due by 12:00 p.m. (noon ET) on the date identified here.  See Section D.3 Application Package and Submission Requirements for more information.

Using the Notice of Federal Opportunity (“the Notice”) as a Planning Tool

The Notice of Federal Opportunity (the “Notice”) states application requirements organized across distinct sections.  Each section is important and provides detailed information and definitions related to specific aspects of the application process:

  • Sec. A:   Program Description giving background, the purpose of the grant, program expectations and deliverables, and an overview of the selection process. ***
  •  Sec. B:   Federal Award Information summarizes key elements of the opportunity including the period of performance, estimated start date, and estimated funds available and number of awards.
  •  Sec. C:   Eligibility Requirements details both who may apply for the grant and other conditions affecting a satisfactory application.
  •  Sec. D: Application and Submission Information gives a full description of the needed elements of the application itself, including project proposal information, project budget information, and required forms, as well as details on when and how to submit the application package itself. ***
  •  Sec. E:   Application Review and Award describes how an application will be evaluated and how the Library will notify successful applicants. ***
  •  Sec. H:   Federal Awarding Agency Contacts provides information regarding technical and administrative contacts for the program.

*** While all information is important to the purpose, requirements, and expectations of the grant program, these three (3) sections are critical to helping applicants plan, outline, and create their grant proposal.

The Notice also provides information regarding expectations of grant management and legal considerations that will apply if the Library awards a grant to an applicant, including:

  • Sec. F:   Project Management and Reporting summarizes the Library’s expectations of an awardee including project planning, interim and final reporting, and communications with the Library’s program team.
  • Sec. G:  Federal Award Administration describes the legal and regulatory framework applying to the grant including applicable Library and federal regulations, general terms and conditions, disclosures, and intellectual property right considerations.
  • Sec. I:    Other Information defines the payment schedule for awards

Federal Systems and Forms

As a government agency, the Library of Congress complies with federal rules regarding the distribution of funds.


Grant program overview

  1. What’s the purpose of this program? Through a gift from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Library will support a multiyear initiative that entails public participation in the creation of archival collections. Specifically, the Library of Congress seeks to award grants to support contemporary cultural documentation focusing on the culture and traditions of diverse, often underrepresented communities in the United States. These projects will result in archival collections preserved at the American Folklife Center and made accessible through the Library of Congress’ web site. The major goals of this grant program are to enable communities to document their cultural life and experiences from their own perspectives, while enriching the Library’s holdings with diverse materials featuring creativity and knowledge found at the local level. As such, successful applications will come from individuals closely affiliated with the community they propose to document.
  2. Can I get more information about the program, the Library’s collections, or the documentation standards, digital submission specifications, fieldwork, or methods relevant to this funding opportunity? Please direct questions to the Program Technical Contact – John Fenn, Email: [email protected].
  3. I’m not sure if this is the right program for me.  Are there other funding opportunities available? Over the next several years, the Library will offer several programs as part of the “Of the People” program.  Areas of interest, funding available, and the number of awards may vary.  All funding opportunities will be listed on the “Of the People: Widening the Path” Funding Opportunities {link to post} page for easy reference.  Bookmark the page or subscribe to blog (RSS or email) to stay informed.
  4. I see there is mention of hosting a public program, and that there is up to $10,000 available in addition to the grant award (up to $50,000). What do you mean by “hosting a public program”? The Library encourages successful applicants to plan and hold a public event in their home community that provides an opportunity to share about the project. This could be a listening session toward the start of the project that will enable community members to learn more about it, a story circle during the project that provides a space for individuals to participate, or a celebration toward the end of the project that recognizes all those who have been involved. Such public events could be held at libraries, parks, community centers, or a number of other spaces and venues. Applicants who envision a public program as part of their proposal should be prepared to describe the basic outline and goals of a program, but there is no need to have it fully planned at the time of application.


  1. Who is eligible to receive this grant? Applicants may be non-profit organizations subject to 26 U.S.C 501 c (3), including institutions of higher education, colleges and universities, as well as professional associations and community groups.  For-profit applicants are not eligible.
  2. Are applicants in the U.S. territories eligible to apply? Yes, applicants located in the U.S. territories meet the eligibility requirements.
  3. Will the Library accept multiple proposals from the same applicant? An eligible applicant may submit only one application under this announcement. Applicants may be included in multiple proposals as members of collaborative partnerships or within a single organization.
  4. May two entities collaborate and submit one proposal? While the Library encourages collaboration among entities and will accept proposals that leverage the resources of two or more organizations, Library grants will be awarded to only one entity. Therefore, applications must identify a single lead recipient, who will be listed as the awardee and responsible for all financial requirements under the grant.

Funding period/length

  1. What are the grant amounts the Library will award? The Library of Congress intends to award up to 10 Grants pursuant to this notice of funding opportunity. The Library’s intention is to make grant awards of up to $50,000, except grants that propose to host a public program in their home community may be up to $60,000.
  2. How long is the funding period? The funding period is 12 months.
  3. If my proposal was selected, when would I receive funds? The Library expects to announce funding decisions on or before December 1, 2021. Once a decision has been made, many factors may affect the specific timing of payments to applicants as outstanding issues are resolved and the Grant Agreement is made available for review and acceptance. Once the Grant Agreement is fully executed, the Grant Officer will share instructions specific to each recipient on how to request payment. See Section F.2 Notice of Federal Award for more information.

Application details

  1. What is the application deadline? All proposals must be submitted electronically via email to [email protected] no later than 12:00 PM (Noon Eastern Time) on September 13, 2021. No application materials are to be submitted via
  2. What should be in an application packet? Refer to Section D of the Notice for detailed information.  In brief, the application packet must contain:
    • a SF-424 Application for Federal Domestic Assistance-Short Organizational;
    • a Proposal Narrative of no more than 5 pages describing the proposed project, the organization, key project staff/consultants, a description of past activity relevant to the project proposed, and necessary disclosures
    • a Budget Plan Worksheet, i.e., a completed version of the Excel worksheet attached to the notice
    • a Budget Narrative of approximately 2-4 pages explaining the connection between the proposed project and the budget plan
    • Necessary appendix materials including disclosures and other notices as are relevant to individual applicants.
  3. How should the Standard Form (SF-424) PDFs and the budget narrative excel spreadsheet be submitted in the MS WORD electronic copy version of the proposal? The PDFs may be submitted as PDFs, and the excel spreadsheet budget may remain in excel format, with the MS WORD file(s) of the application. Files may be attached separately to a single or multiple emails to [email protected].  Please make sure each submission email clearly identifies the proposal applicant(s) and proposed project title.  See Section D.6 Email Submission Requirements.
  4. Are the cover page, budget attachments (Budget Narrative Template (excel) and Budget Justification (word/ PDF), the appendices and the standard forms (SF424) considered part of the proposal 5-page count limit? No, these documents, forms, attachments, and the cover page will not count against the 5-page limit.
  5. Appendices: Should the separate appendices be submitted as individual appendix files? The Library does not have a recommendation or preference, and it may depend on the email server or file size (please see the NOFO for the Library’s maximum email size limit). All appendices may be combined into one PDF or submitted as individual PDF files. Please make sure individual files and emails are clearly labeled and connected to your application.
  6. Should the appendices be combined into a single PDF file with the Project Narrative and other attachments? The Library does not have a recommendation or preference and it may depend on the email server or file size (please see the NOFO for the Library’s maximum email size limit). All appendices, project narrative sections, and other forms and attachments may be combined into one PDF or submitted as individual PDF files. Please make sure individual files and emails are clearly labeled and connected to your application.

Proposal Narrative

  1. What information should I include in my project description? Applicants should use the project description to provide a reasonable explanation of the work they would like to perform and to demonstrate how the proposed work would align with the goals of the program overall.  Applicants should also review the factors the Library will consider in evaluating applications to make sure their proposal addresses these points sufficiently. See Section E. Application Review and Reward for more information.
  2. Are project timelines and other visual charts allowed in the proposal? Yes, project timelines and other visual charts are allowed in the proposal and may be included in the body of the project narrative (5-page limit) or as a separate, supplementary appendix.
  3. I don’t want all the materials I collect or include in my project to be shared in the Library’s collections for public use.  What should I do? The Library’s preference is for projects that extend an open license for non-commercial public use to the collection materials, but we encourage applicants to describe in detail any specific limitations they might predict for portions of the collection. See Section G.5 Intellectual Property Rights and Data Use for more information. The Library intends to be attentive to culturally sensitive materials that may be part of documentation gathered during a project, and will work with grant awardees to determine the most appropriate approach regarding access.  In either the proposal or as a separate appendix document, applicants with concerns must describe any limitations on any intellectual property that will affect applicant’s performance of the grant or affect the Library’s (or the public’s) subsequent use of any deliverable under the agreement (e.g. potential documentation of copyrighted cultural material). In particular, the applicant must describe the intellectual property in sufficient detail, clearly state any limitations, and describe how the Library can use the work with the limitations described or proposed by the applicant.

Budget Narrative and Worksheets

  1. Why do I have to explain my budget information in two separate sections and formats?  What’s the relationship between the Budget Plan Worksheet and the Budget Narrative? The Library requests two different perspectives on project budgets to aid in the evaluation of the overall project proposal:
    • The worksheet asks applicants to provide a detailed view on the estimated costs of the project to demonstrate the applicant has fully considered the resources needed for the project and that only allowable expenses are included.
    • The narrative ask applicants explain how the costs included are reasonable and necessary for project performance and demonstrate that grant funds would be used appropriately and wisely to support program objectives.
  2. How do I prepare a proposed budget? Applicants should consider their proposal and identify needed resources, goods, and services using the categories shown on the worksheet as prompts: Salaries Wages & Benefits; Travel; Equipment; Supplies; Contractual; Other.  Items to include should be allowable under federal regulations and as specific as possible.  Amounts to include should be reasonable for the scope of the proposed project – allocating too little money to resource needs can raise as much concern as allocating too much money. More information is also available in the CRS report “How to Develop and Write a Grant Proposal” [updated Aug. 28, 2019].
  3. What are allowable costs? As a general rule, allowable costs are those that are reasonably part of, and of benefit to, the proposed grant project.  Costs that apply to multiple projects or personal expenses are typically not allowed as direct expenses. For example, a camera or printer for applicant’s use in project fieldwork and other documentary work would not be included; reasonable costs of paper or ink for this program could be allowed. For specific questions, contact the Grant Officer to Janet Starkweather at [email protected] as directed in Section D2 Questions and Answers.
  4. Are travel costs allowable in the grant budget? Yes. Applicants should ensure any per diem costs (lodgings or meals and incidentals expenses per day) do not exceed allowable government rates as defined by the U.S. General Services Administration.  For information on permitted per diem rate, applicants can use the GSA’s Per Diem Rates Look Up tool
  5. My project expenses are primarily salary to myself, travel, and supplies.  Do I need to fill in the other categories? For the sake of clarity, applicants should enter $0 for total expenses in categories where they have no planned costs.
  6. Are matching funds required? There is no mandatory cost share or matching requirement for this grant program, however proposals that include matching or cost sharing elements are allowed and may be rated more highly.
  7. What happens if our proposal is selected for funding and there are budget or personnel changes? To make a change to a submitted proposal before the application deadline, contact the Grant Officer at as directed in Section D2 Questions and Answers. Changes or modifications to a proposal after it has been selected for funding will be handled on a case by case basis by the Library. For modifications to an awarded project, please see the terms of the agreement created for how to proceed. In most cases, minor modifications may be requested as long as the original, funded intent of the award does not change. In extreme cases, grantees who are not able to fulfill the terms of their award may be subject to early termination or other terms as specified in their award agreement.

Selection and award processes

  1. Who will review grant applications? The Library will assemble panels comprising a member of the American Folklife Center Board of Trustees, American Folklife Center staff, and invited panelists. See Section E. Application Review and Award for more information.
  2. When will the Library communicate grant decisions? [UPDATE 12/3/2021] The review process continues and will extend into early 2022. Thank you for you interest in the Library’s Of The People initiative.

Other general questions (submitted via email)

  1. I would like to arrange a time to discuss or get feedback on a project proposal, is that possible? The Library of Congress does not provide one-on-one feedback on project proposals for this grant program. If there is a specific question, please email [email protected], and the response will be posted weekly in the FAQs. The deadline to submit questions is no later than 5:00pm (Eastern Time) on August 13, 2021.
  2. I am having difficulty logging into  How do I get help? Call GRANTS.GOV support at 1-800-518-4726 or email them at [email protected].
  3. The system does not allow me to apply for this grant.  How do I submit the application? As in the Notice of Funding Opportunity, Parts D.3 and D.6 on page 6, all proposals are to be submitted electronically by email to Janet Starkweather at [email protected].
  4. I have questions about whether my project is eligible for the grant. Can you review and provide advice about my particular project before I apply? No. In order to be fair to every applicant, we cannot offer personalized advice.  For guidance on your eligibility, review the NOFO Parts A.2, A.3.1 and Part C (pages 3 – 5).
  5. Can I use other federal funding that supports a scholar of an under-represented group as a cost-share? No.  As indicated in the NOFO in Appendix B: Budget Definitions on page 21, federal funds may not be used for cost-sharing.
  6. I have seen two different dates for the application deadline – September 5, 2021 and September 7, 2021.  Which is the correct application due date?  September 13, 2021 [Updated September 2, 2021].
  7. Will the competition award 10 grants each for both organizations and individuals or 10 grants total for the entire competition?   10 grants total.
  8. In terms of the brief resume required as part of the application, is there a required page limit or a recommended page range?  Between two and four pages will be sufficient.
  9. For the application, does the cover page and letters of support from an administrator count towards the 5-page maximum for the narrative? No.  Those documents are separate from the narrative.
  10. To maximize their competitiveness, is it more advantageous for faculty to apply as individuals, or should our faculty be counseled to apply through the University? There is no advantage. Awardees are selected for the high quality of the proposed project within the scope of the NOFO.
  11. Must each university propose only one project?  Or should we submit an institutional project and also note to faculty they are welcome to submit independently?  Yes, a university (or other organization) should propose only one project. Faculty (or other employees) are able to submit proposals as individuals, but such proposals should be for projects distinct from that submitted by the organization with which they are affiliated.
  12. Due to Adobe 8 restrictions, I cannot download Form SF-424 Application for Federal Domestic Assistance – Individual. Can you send me the form?  Yes.  Request an SF-424 form to [email protected].
  13. Is a completed project (self-published book) eligible for consideration?  If not, can I gift you a copy of the book for inclusion in the Library of Congress? No.  To be eligible, projects must be new.  To gift a book contact the Library’s Acquisitions office at (202) 707-0792 or [email protected].
  14. In the NOFO, the expected start date is “December 17, 2021, earliest.”  What would be the latest start date for the project? There is no specific “latest start date,” as such a date will be dependent on details for each project. The proposal narrative should offer a project timeline that offers expected dates for each activity or phase of the project.
  15. We are a new non-profit organization.  We aren’t registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) yet due to the cost of legal retainers and filing fees. We are currently fund-raising to pay for that. Are you willing to allow us to apply as a non-profit pending?   Yes, if your organization is able to register in SAM and obtain a DUNS number.
  16. Are public institutions of higher education eligible as applicants?  Yes.
  17. I am applying for the grant on behalf of an association.  The organization has an EIN number, but not a DUNS number.  May I apply for the grant on behalf of the association using my DUNS number? If the grant is being awarded to an organization, the organization must be registered in SAM, and its DUNS number is required.  If the grant is awarded to an individual, check with regarding the use of other numbers for the SAM registration.
  18. May I apply for a grant as an individual for a project that furthers the work of an organization? Yes.
  19. Is the grant $50,000 divided into 10 grantees or $50,000 per grantee?  Up to $50,000 per grantee. If you propose to host a public program, you may request an additional $10,000.
  20. How many interviews/people do you feel to be an efficient amount?  What is the level of expectation in terms of quantity of material?  The Library does not have a specific number of interviews or quantity of documentation in mind. In reviewing proposals, we will look at the relationship between the level of funding sought and the scale of cultural documentation activities (i.e. interviews, photography, etc) to determine if there is reasonable alignment. Application review will also entail assessing the viability of a project, in terms of both the proposed scale and the allotted timeframe as described in the project narrative.
  21. Can this grant be extended to additional years?  This grant has a period of performance of 12 months.  The timeline and budget should correspond to a 12 month period.
  22. What kinds of partners does this grant allow and how many of them should we be working with?  It is up to the applicant to determine the structure of the project.  Note that only one entity may apply for and administer the grant.
  23. Can I use grant funds for equipment such as a camera or printer purchased for the project?  Yes, you can use grant funds to purchase equipment that directly supports the proposed project.
  24. The majority of my interviews will be in Spanish. Is a translated transcript + audio acceptable? Yes, translated transcript and original audio would be acceptable.
  25. What are the video and audio formats accepted by the Library? The Library prefers to receive born-digital content in non-proprietary and uncompressed formats, such as TIFF (digital image) or WAV (digital audio). Video files should be saved using common formats, such as .mp4 or .mov, and should be HD.
  26. Could you please provide the citation for specific allowable and unallowable costs?  This is the link to 2 CFR 200, Subpart E – Cost Principles: Specific types of costs can be found under General Provisions for Selected Items of Cost (§§ 200.420 – 200.476).
  27. Would new additions to an existing ongoing community project be considered new in your review of proposals?   Funds from this grant program are intended to support new and contemporary cultural documentation efforts, with materials generated through projects provided to the Library for inclusion in our collections. Awardees who may be extending existing projects would discuss with the Library about inclusion of extant materials as part of a collection, as this would be decided on a case by case basis.
  28. In the SF-424 application, what is #4 “funding opportunity number” for the “widening the path” grant?  For organizations, it is the Notice of Funding Opportunity Number 030ADV21R0637.
  29. Is it acceptable to add a line item for contingencies to the budget? No.  Please use the line items specified in the Budget Plan Worksheet.
  30. Will line items like travel or venue rental be convertible to telecommunications service or software costs in the event of another social shutdown? Any significant change to a grant project’s programmatic scope, or planned budget requires the Library’s explicit consent and approval, which is to be submitted in writing (including email), with a revised budget plan.
  31. In the budget narrative, how detailed do our fundraising plans need to be if our budget exceeds the $50-60,000 range?  Please propose a project with a budget no greater than $50,000 – $60,000.
  32. Does the 5 pages include the budget worksheet provided suffice or does there need to be separate budget worksheet? The 5 pages encompass only the project narrative. The budget worksheet and budget justification/narrative are separate documents.
  33. Can you please clarify whether universities can sponsor applications and whether university sponsorship would in any way undermine an application by a grassroots community history project?  That depends on the project being proposed. Projects should foreground the community’s perspective and involvement.
  34. Does the 15% allowed for indirect costs apply to total direct costs or is it 15% of the total amount of the grant?  15% of the total grant.
  35. When do we submit the SF 424 form?  With the application.
  36. Is the SF 424 form the same as the SAM registration?  No, they are different.  The SF-424 is a form.  SAM is a system.
  37. What kinds of partners will this grant will allow and how many of them should we be working with?  It depends on the project.  For a successful application, please review the NOFO.
  38. Would letters of support be from our Library Director or another administrator in our organization?  It is up to the applicant to decide.
  39. Under this grant, can we apply for funding to complete the processing of oral histories even though they will have been conducted before the grant period? No.  The projects must be new.
  40. Can the grant also cover some archival research?  Yes, to the extent that archival research informs new cultural documentation activity. Additionally, archival research should not comprise a bulk of the activity supported by grant funds.
  41. When does the 12 month activity period start after the December 1 notification?  You may begin your project no earlier than December 17, 2021, but no later than January 1, 2022.
  42. Are we able to have our project duration from Sept 2022 – Sept 2023?  No.  Please begin your project no later than January 1, 2022. There will be two more annual rounds of funding available.
  43. Where in the Budget Plan Worksheet do we indicate cost sharing?  If there will be no cost sharing, please indicate that in your Budget Narrative.  If there is a cost-share, you may add a cost-share tab to the Budget Plan Worksheet and itemize, or alternatively, describe it in detail in terms of type of cost and amount in your Budget Narrative.
  44. The SF-424 asks for a UEI rather than DUNS Number.  How should we complete the form? The transition from DUNS number to a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) created in was delayed.  The transition date was shifted from 2020 to April 2022.  You may use your DUNS number.
  45. Would this grant consider a project that placed Native American and African American voices within a global context, or a project in the early stages of development? Funds from this grant program are intended to support new cultural documentation projects that foreground a community perspective, and projects should be designed and scaled accordingly.

Comments (2)

  1. Under D.5.1.2 Description of Organization, there is a requirement for a “Letters of support from an administrator at the organization stating support for the proposal and attesting to its impact”. Is this a formal submission letter from an Authorized Organizational Representative?

    • Hello, and thanks for the question. Letters of support should indicate that any organizations involved in the proposed project are aware of the project, and see value in their participation.

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