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 2020 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.

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 combatting what UCLA Assistant Professor of Archival Studies Michelle Caswell calls the "symbolic annihilation" of marginalized communities from mainstream memory institutions, and in recognizing that they are essential to the creation of a more inclusive and polyvocal American story. 

In 2019, the Foundation announced its plan to offer a total of $1 million over two annual open calls for proposals in direct support of community-based archives.  The first call resulted in submissions from over 200 organizations located in 40 states and two US territories.  In response to this clear evidence of interest and need, the original pledge of support was more than doubled, and more than $1.2 million was awarded to the first cohort of 15 archives.

This year, $1 million in grants for a second cohort of archives will be given, and a third consecutive call for proposals is planned for 2021.

About the 2020 Call for Proposals

The 2020 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. 

Applications will be due by July 1, 2020 at 11:59pm ET.  They will then be evaluated by a panel that includes Foundation staff and external reviewers.  All applicants will be notified of the status of their submission by September 4, 2020.  If selected, additional information and materials will be requested in a final proposal to be reviewed 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, 2021 and end on December 31, 2022.  The Foundation plans to convene representatives from the awarded archives both in person and online over the course of the grant to build a cohort of organizations that would help and learn from each other.


Organizations that respond to this Call for Proposals must:

  • Be located within the United States or one of its territories.
  • Have 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, have an organization with 501(c)(3) 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 $1 million.  In-kind donations towards occupancy costs may be used to calculate the total operating budget.
  • Have an established archive that has been in operation for two or more years.  This funding cannot be used to create a new archive.

In order to ensure that your organization is eligible to apply for this funding opportunity, interested applicants must first complete a registration request form.

Key Dates

  • Registration deadline:  June 26, 2020 at 9:00am ET
  • Application deadline:  July 1, 2020 at 11:59 ET
  • Submission notification:  September 4, 2020
  • Final proposal deadline:  October 30, 2020 (for invited applicants only)
  • Final notification:  December 11, 2020 (public announcement to follow)

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