Developing Your Application

The most competitive grant proposals will support one or more of the Council’s primary goals:

  • to build new audiences for the humanities,
  • to bring people of different perspectives and backgrounds together,
  • to innovate new program models, and
  • to create lively humanities programs around the state.

Consider the following questions and tips as you develop your application.

The humanities examine human history, culture, values, and beliefs. These fields of learning allow us to analyze our complex society and make thoughtful decisions based on inquiry, evaluation, and empathy. Humanities fields include (but are not limited to) anthropology, archaeology, area studies, art and architectural history and criticism, cultural studies, economics, ethics, ethnic studies, folklore, gender and sexuality studies, geography, history, history of science and technology, international studies, jurisprudence, languages and linguistics, literature, music history and criticism, philosophy, political science, religion and comparative religion, sociology, theatre history and criticism.

Humanities scholars provide valuable perspective to projects undertaken with support from NJCH. They often have deep knowledge of a particular subject as well as a broadly humanistic perspective and practice. Humanities scholars may be internal staff or someone brought in from outside, depending on the needs of the project. This person helps you deepen and enrich the humanities content in your project. Traditionally, scholars have been academic humanists—university faculty, graduate students, or researchers who have an advanced degree in a humanities field and are employed by an institution of higher learning. Sometimes these scholars are instead public humanists—those who have an advanced degree in a humanities field, but are not affiliated with a college or university. They may work for non-profit organizations like museums, libraries, or cultural centers, or they may work independently. Other humanities scholars come from non-traditional backgrounds. They may not possess an advanced degree since their knowledge comes from a different cultural construct. But they are still defined by their own communities as keepers of knowledge, cultural resources, and understanding.

A humanities scholar may serve many different functions in your project:

  • Content provider – to develop or help shape ideas in a humanities project.
  • Researcher or writer – of critical and interpretive materials, essays, exhibition text, curricular materials, script treatments, catalogues, etc.
  • Synthesizer/contextualizer – to situate your project within a broader perspective.
  • Trainer – to teach people how to do humanities-based work.
  • Guide – to help you get a project started or take you through the process.
  • Speaker, lecturer, panel discussant, moderator – for staff meetings or public programs.

You may have noticed that the New Jersey Council for the Humanities grant guidelines mention “audience” over and over again. That is because we believe that the humanities are for everyone, but only a limited slice of the population usually attends humanities programs. And that means that many New Jerseyans do not have an opportunity to experience how the humanities can change their perception of the world and their place in it. These are the underserved and underrepresented audiences that we want to reach through our work at NJCH. We have special love for projects that seek out these audiences and find ways to engage them.

Chances are you know better than we do, since the definition of which audiences are underserved or underrepresented will differ in each community. Populations that often lack representation in the humanities include:
  • People of color.
  • Young people, especially ages 18-35.
  • People who live far away from cultural centers like libraries and museums.
  • People with physical disabilities, such as wheelchair users or the blind.
  • People whose first (or only) language is not English.
  • Those who are unable to get to programs easily, like nursing home residents, hospital patients, or prisoners.
Traditional humanities program formats may also be a barrier—many populations are simply not interested in hearing a lecture or panel discussion. Some may not feel welcome in institutions they believe serve only the economically or intellectually elite.

If you’re reaching many audiences in your community, especially some of these traditionally underserved audiences, please tell us about it in your proposal. We want to help you keep doing this great work. If you think reaching underserved audiences will help you expand your vision and fulfill your mission, we are here to help. We know that there are already many strategies that can help you achieve this goal – forming a partnership, trying new program formats, listening to your constituents, and helping overcome barriers. We are here to support you as you learn more about your community, plan for the future, and try new things. Our common goal is for the rich and diverse populations of New Jersey to have access to thoughtful and engaging humanities-based programs throughout the state.

  • There are no exceptions to our application deadlines. Early is the new on time. Do not wait until the last minute!
  • Tell us a story. Quantifiable data is a huge selling point, but we also want to know why you’re doing what you’re doing and why it’s significant.
  • Your audience is the heart and soul of your project. Who are you serving and what role do they play in your project and for your organization?
  • Questionable budgets strike fear in the heart of funders. Remember the three bears and make your budget just right (it’s a bad idea to inflate or to underestimate your expenses).
  • Keep it simple. Avoid generalizations, flowery language, and hyperbole. Don’t write more than you need to. And by all means – proofread!
  • NJCH staff is here to help. We can help you conceive your project, give feedback on a draft of your application, help you find a scholar or other expert, connect you with an evaluator, help you identify community partners, and so much more.


Gigi Naglak, Director of Grants & Programs, at or 609-695-4838 x223

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  • When scheduled, information about upcoming grants workshops will appear here.
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