16 June 2009

Nine years: Megan's marvelous grants

Nine years ago, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak began offering Honoring Our Ancestors Grants. More than 100 have been awarded since May 2000.

What makes her sit up and take notice of an application?

"I find myself drawn to innovative ideas that can serve as a model to others! Why not give it a go?"
What's the catch, you ask? She says there isn't one. Megan states that she's had so much fun with genealogy for 30 years and received help from countless other genealogists, that now it's her turn to give back to the genealogical community.

Megan and her husband Brian run the modest program that has provided funding for a variety of projects, activities and more. The only requirement is that they be for some sort of genealogically-oriented initiative.

There's a short application on her Honoring Our Ancestors website. On the top bar, hit GRANTS to see the awards listed by year, followed by the application.

When we picked the one for this May, it dawned on us that we've been doing this for nine years. I started the program as a way of giving back to the genealogical community because I consider myself very fortunate in so many ways, but I'll confess to you now that in the early days especially, it was sometimes difficult to come up with the funds for that month's grant. Still, I'm glad we stuck with it.

Every once in a while as I travel around speaking, folks will ask me about the program. How do I do my due diligence? How do I know the money is really used for the intended purpose? My system is admittedly less than scientific, but if I had any doubts whatsoever, the time leading up to the 9th anniversary this year brought me a reminder each and every month.
What kind of projects are eligible for a grant?

Genealogical societies, local and specialized libraries, and avid genealogists are always short of the funds they need to buy appropriate books and CDs, acquire the necessary computers and peripherals, get collected information into print, and pursue other projects. I'd like to take a tiny step toward addressing this problem.

If you represent an organization which serves the genealogical community at large - or if you serve a smaller community (perhaps you produce a family newsletter, host a website, organize reunions or some such thing) - and find yourself shy of necessary funds, please consider filling out the form below to apply for a small grant.

Megan reviews the applications and periodically selects one. She tries for one a month, and applications remain active for six months from date of receipt. It only takes a few minutes to fill out the short form, and the result might be something you or your society have been dreaming about.

2009 grants included: The Phillips County Museum (northern Montana) for a computer to access digitized collections, the non-profit Save Our Cemeteries which is compiling records of those buried in New Orlean's largest Creole cemetery, St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, to upgrade video editing software for Alannah Ryane, to sponsor the First International Black Genealogy Summit, October 29-31, at the Allen County Public Library, Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

In 2008, grants went to support individuals, genealogy societies, historical societies as they worked on documentaries, genealogical societies, cemetery preservation, The Italian Genealogical Group (New York), digital cameras to record old marriage record books, website fees for a cemetery site, for Social Security application requests for the Facebook Unclaimed Persons group, a professional scanner and printer for oversized original documents for a historical society, a roots trip to Cameroon and the video crew to record it, digital camera and computer for archival records, and much more.

What's on your wish list?

There's more, so take a look at the GRANTS button on her page.

Are you thinking about how an Honoring Our Ancestors grant could help your project? Fill out the application.

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