Call for Proposals to Community-Based Archives

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation invites community-based archives in the United States and its territories to submit applications for its 2021 Call for Proposals to Community-Based Archives.

These grants will provide support to archives in one or more of the following areas of need:

  • Operational costs, including staff, space, and utilities.
  • Collections care, including the acquisition of new materials, physical and digital storage fees, and access and preservation efforts.
  • Programming activities, including events, exhibitions, and publications.
  • Activation and advocacy efforts, including resident community activist/archivist positions, ethical preservation of social media, and increased community use of the archive.

This funding opportunity is overseen by the Foundation's Public Knowledge program.

About This Grant Program

For the purposes of this call, community-based archives are defined as collections of materials gathered, collected, and shared primarily by members of a marginalized community to document their collective histories. These archives play an important role in combating what UCLA Assistant Professor of Archival Studies Michelle Caswell calls the “symbolic annihilation” of marginalized communities from mainstream memory institutions, and are essential to the creation of a more inclusive and polyvocal American story. 

Over the course of two open calls for proposals in direct support of these archives, the Foundation has awarded almost $3 million to over 30 organizations. This year, the Foundation plans to make $1.5 million in grants for a third and final cohort of archives through this program, with preference given to those organizations planning to activate their archive through community-led advocacy and activation efforts.

About the 2021 Call for Proposals

The 2021 Call for Proposals to Community-Based Archives is now open. Through this program, direct support will be provided to community-based archives that represent and serve communities marginalized due to oppression based on race, ethnicity, national origin, class, gender, sexuality, religion, or ability. This year, the Foundation plans to prioritize those applications that are based in community advocacy and archive activation efforts.

Applications will be due by Friday, July 2, 2021 at 9:00am ET. They will then be evaluated by a panel that includes Foundation staff, external reviewers, and members of the 2019 cohort. All applicants will be notified of the status of their submission by Friday, September 3, 2021. If selected, additional information and materials will be requested in a final proposal to be reviewed and approved by the Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

Awards will range from $50,000 to $100,000 for grants of two years in length. Grant periods would begin January 1, 2022 and end on December 31, 2023. The Foundation plans to convene representatives from the awarded archives both in person and online over the course of the grant term to build a cohort of organizations that would help and learn from each other.

All interested applicants must first complete a registration request by June 25, 2021 at 9:00am ET.  After Foundation staff have processed the registration request, eligible applicants will gain access to the application form in the Foundation’s Fluxx grantee portal.  On the form, applicants will be asked to provide information about their organization and its archival collections, as well as the following documents in support of the project:

  • A project proposal of 1000-1500 words
  • Biographical sketches/CVs for the organization’s executive director and the project lead(s)
  • A recent Form 990 or IRS determination letter
  • Annual operating budgets for 2019 and 2020 
  • A board list

Visit our applicant resources for further details on how to apply.  If you would like to sign up for email alerts, or if you have any questions about this CFP, please contact program staff at

Please note

Inquiries about the program and applications must be sent to the above e-mail.
We are unable to assist via telephone.


Organizations that respond to this Call for Proposals must:

  • Be located within the United States or one of its territories.
  • Have tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) public charity, have an organization with 501(c)(3) public charity status serving as a fiscal sponsor, or be a federally recognized Indian tribe.
  • Have an archive with an annual operating budget of at least $50,000 and no more than $750,000. In-kind donations towards occupancy costs may be used to calculate the total operating budget.
  • Have an established and actively collecting archive that has been in operation for two or more years. This funding cannot be used to create a new archive.

Applications from universities or historical societies will not be considered for this call for proposals. We encourage universities and historical societies with compelling community archive and post-custodial projects to submit general inquiries through our general Fluxx portal.

In order to ensure that your organization is eligible to apply for this funding opportunity, all interested applicants must first complete a registration request form.  Please note that the Foundation does not make grants to individuals or K-12 initiatives.  Also, grant awards cannot be used to:

  • Support lobbying activity or otherwise support attempts to influence local, state, federal, or foreign legislation.
  • Influence the outcome of any election for public office or to carry out any voter registration drives.

Key Dates

  • Webinar dates: May 13, 2021 and May 27, 2021 at 3:00pm ET
  • Registration deadline: June 25, 2021 at 9:00am ET
  • Application deadline:  July 2, 2021 at 9:00am ET
  • Submission notification:  September 3, 2021
  • Final proposal deadline:  October 29, 2021 (for invited applicants only)
  • Final notification:  December 10, 2021 (public announcement to follow)

To register for one of our webinar sessions, click here. For a list of previously awarded projects, please refer to the Foundation’s grants database.