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Notes from the 2013 Compliance Report

September 19, 2013 | By Federal/State Partnership Staff

Each year, every state humanities council is required to submit data and information to meet certain requirements contained in NEH’s legislation and to provide an overview of the year’s programs and statistics. This submission is very important to NEH, giving each state humanities council’s assurance that it complies with legislative requirements.

The yearly submission of compliance materials also provides Federal/State Partnership with critical statistical information that is used in a variety of reports and in annual congressional budget submissions. We are able to learn about the wide range of activities undertaken by the councils, as well as important information such as the extent of participation of humanities scholars and board composition and governance.

Compliance by the numbers:

This year, as in 2012, we saw an increased number of events reported by councils, 96,587, compared to 2012’s 92,984; however the councils’ total audience reached decreased from 793,335,412 in 2012 to 326,442,558 in 2013, due in part to the decreased numbers of television events reported over the previous year’s data.

Councils saw a slight decrease in the number of applications for funding received: 5,005 in 2013 compared to 5,246 in 2012. Some councils delayed advertising grant opportunities, or even canceled grant opportunities for the year outright, primarily due to budgetary concerns at the state and national level. However, the overall percentage of applications able to be funded increased this year to approximately 68% over the 63% from 2012. The total number of applications funded in turn also increased to 3,422 in 2013, from 3,376 in 2012.

This news is promising as state councils are still finding ways to remain active in their grant making activities in spite of very trying budgetary issues. The higher number of applications funded also shows that they are making good use out of their available grant funds, reaching out to more grantees within their respective states.

Highlights of the reports:

Use of social media in daily operations

Looking back three years ago when Federal/State Partnership began tracking the types of social media used by councils, the number of councils involved in social media efforts was about half what it is today. Fifty of the fifty-six councils now report some kind of social media usage in their compliance report. This includes the two dominating forms – twitter and facebook – but councils have also found creative ways to connect with their audiences through Instagram, Flickr, and Pintrest.

The councils all use social media tools in varying ways, but primarily the effort is towards getting the word out about programming and grant opportunities. These sites provide a convenient and cost-efficient way to remain connected with their constituents and many councils use this kind of interaction to help satisfy the legislative requirement for public meetings.

Social media, anecdotally, has also proved helpful in reaching greater numbers of people, especially in underserved areas in states, and has also proved helpful at increasing the participation of younger audiences who, in general tend to be more technologically adept and responsive to social networking.

Many councils take the opportunity to live-tweet events, providing access to content for their constituents that either couldn’t make it or live to far away. Videos of programs also appear frequently via twitter and facebook. This opens up state council program content to audiences across the United States.

Rebranding efforts

Along with active social media efforts, many councils used the past year to update their brand, with many undergoing rebranding and even renaming efforts. These councils include the new Cal Humanities, Humanities Nebraska, and Connecticut Humanities, just to name a few.  **

Focus on underserved communities

The final section of the compliance plan highlights how councils focus on underserved communities. Underserved communities mean different things to different councils as each state is unique. In some, this means going outside of city centers to focus on rural populations. In others, it means focusing on minority populations such as American Indians, African Americans, and recent immigrants. Many councils also report youth populations as underserved, since the primary audiences for many council programs are found in older populations.

Happily, almost every council reported some attempts to make deeper connections with underserved audiences.

  • In New Hampshire, the recently published bilingual (English and Nepalese) children’s book, The Story of a Pumpkin, helped introduce Bhutanese refugees to New Hampshire and to the work of the council.
  • The Minnesota Humanities Center has many connections with groups such as Minnesotans of African descent and Asian Pacific Islander groups within Minnesota. They also do extensive work with American Indian populations throughout the state, such as their work with the Why Treaties Matter project.
  • Alaska, a state with a predominantly rural population in many hard to reach areas, continues to make great strides in reaching rural and student audiences with their Rose Urban-Rural exchange program, who’s mission is to build understanding between urban and rural Alaskans, and Take Wing Alaska, which supports educational endeavors by native Alaskan students.

Awards of Note:

There were a total of 113 Awards reported from 38 of the councils, evenly mixed between national awards and regional awards.

Some of the National awards of note include:

Some of the Regional awards of note include:

  • The regional e-Appalachia Award was awarded to e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia by the Appalachian Studies Association. The award honors an outstanding website that provides insight on Appalachia and its people, or provides a vital community service to Appalachians.
  • The Illinois Humanities Council grant supported project Rockford Hometown History received a nomination for the Mayor’s Art award.
  • Kentucky Humanities Council Executive Director Virginia Carter, who will retire at the end of summer 2013, was honored by multiple Kentucky institutions, including the Kentucky Legislature, the Georgetown Scott County Historical Museum, and City of Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, for her service to the Kentucky Humanities Council and the people of Kentucky.
  • The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities published Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine won seven awards at the 2012 New Orleans Press Club Awards competition, including two first place honors.
  • South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson entered a resolution for the 40th Anniversary of the South Dakota Humanities Council into the Second Session of the 112th Congress on July 19, 2012.