In addition to addressing the selection criteria, consider the following tips from Museums Connect staff to help you develop a strong proposal.
Make new connections
A major goal of Museums Connect is for participants in the U.S. and abroad to increase cross-cultural understanding. Partnerships that include countries or regions with which U.S. communities are less familiar are given additional consideration.
We also look for diversity within the local communities. Communities of particular interest to Museums Connect include youth, racial or ethnic minorities, special-needs audiences, underrepresented/underserved populations and women.
Focus on the community
Museums Connect projects are all about the communities. Since museum staff typically write the proposals, it's easy to focus on the benefits to the institutions involved, but we want to know first and foremost how your project impacts the community participants. We suggest writing the proposal from the perspective of the community, using language like "the community/participants will. . ." instead of "we/the museum will. . ."
Be sure to clearly demonstrate how the community members will be engaged in ongoing dialogue throughout the course of the project, not just during travel.
Projects must include reciprocal travel between participating countries. If travel to your partner country is deemed unsafe by the U.S. Department of State, contact us for suggestions.
We like to see about a third of your budget dedicated to travel, and we favor projects that include community members in trips. Be sure to show how activities during travel advance the goals of the project.
When scheduling travel, keep in mind that all non-U.S. participants traveling to the U.S. on Museums Connect funds must have a J-1 visa. The visa process, facilitated by Museums Connect staff through the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, can take eight weeks or more.
Keep it simple
We often prefer projects that are simple, focused and achievable over those that promise more than seems realistic in a one-year period. We recommend that you focus your project on one primary community group (e.g., 25 high school students in each country) and allow others (e.g., teachers, public participants, museum educators) to play clearly defined supporting roles. Having a smaller group of initial community partners who are involved consistently over the course of the project can also make long-term evaluation and sustainability more practical than trying to work with a cast of ever-changing characters.
The strongest proposals have not only a compelling fit between communities and a clear rationale but also a highly detailed project structure. This serves to prove that you have considered how the project will work in practice from beginning to end.
Don't just say that you will partner with youth in your communities—provide details. What is the target grade or age group? How will the participants be selected or recruited? Will activities take place in schools, the museums or elsewhere? How will the youth get there? How often will they meet? If working with specific community partners (e.g., schools, community centers, youth organizations), getting a letter of support will strengthen your final proposal.
The more details you can provide, the more confidence the selection committee will have in your ability to complete the project successfully should you be awarded funds.
Is your project a continuation or expansion of another partnership or initiative? Is it similar to a past Museums Connect project? If so, explain how your concept differs from and builds upon what has been done in the past. What makes it new and innovative?
Address the challenges
We understand that international collaborations have challenges such as language barriers, time differences and limited access to technology or internet. Working with schools raises other issues, including curriculum standards and calendars that vary from country to country as well as lack of access to new media or social networking sites on school computers.
Challenges are always on the mind of the selection committee, so clearly outline how you plan to address them in your project. (Hint: It's never a bad idea to have a back-up plan!)
Consider your funding request
Museums requesting the highest funding amount will face the greatest competition in the selection process. Be sure to provide a well developed and detailed budget that clearly explains why the requested funding is necessary.
- About 25-30% of your budget should go towards travel.
- No more than 15% of the Museums Connect funds can be used for staff salaries.
- You must include a cost-share match of at least 50% of the amount requested from Museums Connect; we recommend no more than 80%. Cost share can be split between museum partners in any way and can be made up of any combination of direct expenses and, if the U.S. museum has a federally negotiated rate, indirect expenses contributed to the project.
- If using funds to purchase electronics (e.g., computers, cameras, microphones), please note in your proposal how it will be used to further the goals of the project after the end of the grant term.