CARES Act General Operating Support Grant Program

Preliminary After-Action Review · July 2020

(Click image at right to read the full report)

In April, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) which provided $75 million in supplemental funding to assist cultural institutions affected by the coronavirus. $30 million of that was allocated to our state and jurisdictional humanities organizations to support grants to eligible nonprofits for humanities programming and general operating support. 

As a result, New Hampshire Humanities (NHH) received $420,200 in supplemental funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and launched our CARES Act General Operating Support Grants Program on May 1st, making available $400,000 in general operating support grants to eligible New Hampshire-based cultural nonprofits and public libraries ranging from $2,500 to $10,000. NHH retained $20,200 (5%) of the award for administrative overhead.

While we anticipated a high level of demand, the depth and breadth of financial need was overwhelming, with 80% of the applicant organizations indicating they are applying for additional sources of financial support to sustain and maintain operations to the extent possible through the current pandemic and into the foreseeable future.

On Friday, May 1st, NHH launched our CARES Act General Operating Support Grant Program and over the span of 13 business days committed all available grant dollars. In total, NHH received 89 CARES Act General Operating Support Grant applications and after careful review, funded 64 applications totaling $400,000, positively impacting 47 communities throughout the Granite State.

We understood early on in the planning and development process that for us be successful in attracting the broadest pool of applicants possible, it required us to cast the widest net imaginable, requiring a push and pull marketing and communication strategy involving a myriad of private and public partners.

The initial phase of the strategy involved the development of NHH’s CARES Act General Operating Support landing page intended to be a “one stop shop” containing all the information and application materials an applicant might require, including a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document, and links to additional resources.

Shortly thereafter, NHH developed a public broadcast message for distribution to our state and local non-profit partners, academic institutions, peer organizations, federal and state elected officials, media contacts, and local business and industry partners, making them aware of NHH’s effort to support our state’s humanities and cultural sectors including a direct ask they share our CARES Act General Operating Support Grant information with their stakeholders.

In preparation for the demand and impending launch, NHH’s chief operating officer and operations staff developed the required Grants Management and Monitoring & Evaluation Systems required for the efficient processing and review of all CARES Act Grant applications. Like other aspect of this effort, these systems were developed in coordination with other organizations charged with distributing additional CARES Act funds in the state, including the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority, and the New Hampshire Department of Natural & Cultural Resources.

As mentioned, NHH launched the CARES Act General Operating Support Grant Program on May 1st and over the span of 13 business days committed all available grant dollars, having received 89 CARES Act General Operating Support Grant applications, funding 64 applications totaling $400,000, and positively impacting 47 Granite State communities. Applicant organizations’ annual operating budgets ranged from $6K to $500K, with 51 of the 64 grant recipients having sought other sources of financial support beyond our CARES Act grants, including the Paycheck Protection Plan and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance, with the degree of financial need varying greatly by organizational type (e.g., libraries, museums, cultural organizations, and historical societies). When evaluating the distribution of CARES Act funds by organizational type, 41% of the available grant dollars were allocated to NH libraries, 27% to historical societies, 20% to cultural nonprofits, and 13% to museums.

NHH’s Preliminary After-Action Review revealed the CARES Act funds were equitably distributed throughout NH, with all ten NH counties benefitting from support, including NH’s historically underrepresented regions, with 57% of the CARES Act funds distributed in the 2nd Congressional District and 43% in the 1st Congressional District. In preparation for this preliminary report, NHH developed an ARC GIS Story Map and Story Map Dashboard, allowing the reader to interact with the data and related visualization tools.

In conclusion, NHH was honored to participate and assist with the distribution of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) funds to our state’s cultural institutions and public libraries. We believe NHH’s support of the CARES Act is critically important work, having already yielded an immediate positive impact on the sector, as exemplified by this quote from a CARES Act grant recipient:

“Words cannot express the joy and gratitude I feel. We wholeheartedly thank you for this grant award. When I shared the news with our founder, through tears, smiles, and excitement I said, ‘We are going to survive 2020, our 20th anniversary!’ You will never know how much this means to our organization as we redefine our existence and our future through this new normal.” - CARES Act Grant Recipient


While the quantitative elements of the effort sound notable, the work of NHH did not occur in isolation, without the support of our state humanities peer organizations. We’d like to thank Illinois Humanities, Indiana Humanities, and Humanities Washington for the guidance, technical assistance, collegiality, and support in helping develop our CARES Act General Operating Support Grant Application, Rubrics, FAQ document, and related materials. We also want to offer our sincere appreciation to our peers at the Federation of State Humanities Councils and the National Endowment for the Humanities for their leadership and direction.

This support and the numerous conversations between state humanities organization allowed us to launch our CARES Act grants program more quickly and efficiently than anticipated.


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