- Report Published -
|Ways to Improve the Procedures for Making State Grants To Historical Organizations|
|Department of Historic Resources|
|SJR 119 (Regular Session, 1996)|
|In carrying out the study requested by the General Assembly in Senate Joint Resolution 119, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources examined the sections of the Code of Virginia (10.12212 and 10.1-2213) under which state appropriations are awarded through the Department for certain historical societies and for historic preservation. The Department studied the ways that these grant awards are sought, awarded, administered, and monitored. It looked at procedural guidance and requirements in the Code of Virginia and noted where information is vague or lacking. The Department considered grant programs in other states and examined several national programs that provide funds for organizations or projects similar to those funded by the Commonwealth.|
By way of consulting with other appropriate public and private organizations as directed in SJR 119, the Department conducted a survey of historical museums, private historical societies, and historic properties. A questionnaire asked for comments from these organizations about the state grant programs under 10.1-2212 and 10.1-2213 as they currently exist, and requested their recommendations to address the various points of SJR 119. In addition, the Department interviewed officials at the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum Services about their funding programs and administrative procedures. The Department also interviewed legislative leaders and key staff of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees.
Virginia's unparalleled historic resources contribute to the Commonwealth's intellectual, cultural, and economic vitality. Moreover, Virginia is fortunate to have many strong organizations undertaking noteworthy efforts in history and heritage stewardship. Against that background the study found that:
• the number of organizations seeking financial support from all funding sources is growing, resulting in increasing competition for philanthropic dollars;
• the overall demand on limited taxpayer dollars from all sources is particularly high. Accordingly, public funds should be invested to ensure maximum public benefit and appropriate accountability;
• programs in other states and from other sources, both private and public, provide models relying on merit-based, competitive grant making;
• such programs use specific objectives and broad, flexible criteria, require a high matching share, and increasingly target scarce funds to reward excellence and/or to encourage institutional development and self-sufficiency;
• there is support among Virginia's museums and historical institutions for a similar merit-based state grant program with similar objectives;
• the Code of Virginia does not clearly provide support for some of the kinds of assistance that museums and other historical organizations need to become more self-sufficient;
• the language of 10.1-2212 and 10.1-2213 is sometimes ambiguous, sometimes redundant, and lacks definition that would enhance the grant process;
• the administrative guidance and requirements that are provided in the Code are not always followed by applicants and are frequently overridden by the General Assembly in the budget process;
• through interpretation, confirmed by long-standing practice, DHR's participation in the process has been restricted to a more limited role than would appear to be anticipated by the Code;
• current grant procedures do not provide decision makers with the information needed to weigh meaningfully the competing proposals and reward excellent projects that deliver maximum public benefit;
• the quality, scope, and purpose of the work supported through these grants varies greatly and is not always well linked to history and heritage stewardship;
• there is a clear need for broad, flexible, and objective criteria to evaluate better all requests for funds in order to reward excellence and/or encourage self-sufficiency.
To improve the state grants program and to address the various points of SJR 119, the Department recommends:
• Strict adherence to and a broad interpretation of the procedural guidance and requirements provided in Section 10.1-2213, coupled with strict adherence to the history and heritage stewardship purposes foreseen for these grants.
* This would require changing the application deadline to allow the Department to review the merits of competing applications and provide its review to the Assembly for consideration.
• Movement to a competitive grants process involving meaningful review against broad criteria and specific objectives for funding in four grant categories.
• Four grant categories to include: General Operations Grants, Transformative Institutional Grants, Bricks and Mortar Grants, and Special Project Grants.
* Operations support would be targeted only to institutions with a statewide audience and impact and would provide assistance for general operations.
* Transformative grants would provide "seed" money to assist and encourage, for example, institutional growth and product development. Access to successive transformative grants by the same institution would be limited.
* Bricks and Mortar grants would assist restoration or rehabilitation efforts at properties listed in or eligible for listing in the Virginia Landmarks Register. Awards would be based on criteria including historic significance and rarity of the property and the nature and urgency of need or threat. Maintaining the property in acceptable condition following the grant work would be required to ensure public benefit.
* Special project grants would include a variety of projects involving exhibits, collections, new construction, and a variety of educational efforts having clear public benefit and linked to history and heritage stewardship.
• The elimination of funding for historical organizations under Section 10.1-2212. The operations support currently offered through this section would be incorporated in Section 10.1-2213 and would be limited to organizations with a statewide mission and impact.
• Increasing the level of the matching share. This would require a greater demonstrated commitment on the part of grant recipients and would send a clear message about the importance of institutional development and self-reliance.
• Amending the language of 10.1-2213 to incorporate these recommendations, to eliminate redundancies, and to provide clarification and definition.