StEPs 4Culture
Crew of Alma at Fishermen's Terminal, Seattle ca. 1940, courtesy of Jim Bergquist and Deep Sea Fishermen's Union of the Pacific

StEPs Meeting on Audience at the Museum of Flight, February 26, 2015

In 2009, the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) created a highly regarded set of national standards for heritage and history organizations. The Standards and Excellence Program or StEPs, provides a self-assessment tool via an extensive curriculum and workbook that can be challenging for any organization with limited time to work through.

Bringing together a program of professional development, training, mentorship, peer support, and capacity building grants, StEPs 4Culture is designed to guide cultural organizations across King County through the key aspects of the national StEPS curriculum. StEPs 4Culture uses the knowledge, expertise and collegial support of members of King County’s heritage community to strengthen individual and shared work in achieving standards.

StEPs Convenings

Over the course of two years, staff and/or board members from participating organizations explored the five areas of museum practice detailed in the StEPs workbook. In 2014-2015, representatives from 30 plus organizations gathered for a series of convenings and roundtables.

Mission & Vision

Convening #1 – Program Introduction & StEPs: Mission and Vision -- March 2014, Bellevue

Roundtable #1: Mission and Vision -- May 2014, Bellevue

Management & Governance

Convening #2 – StEPs: Management and Governance -- June 2014, Burien

Roundtable #2: Fundraising – July 2014, Auburn
Roundtable #3: Planning – August 2014, Issaquah
Roundtable #4: Board Development – September 2014, Bellevue

Stewardship of Collections, Historic Structures and Landscapes

Convening #3 – StEPs: Stewardship -- October 2014, Tukwila

Roundtable #5: Stewardship of Collections -- December 2014, Renton


Convening #4 – StEPs: Audience Development – February 2015, Tukwila

Roundtable #6: Audience Engagement – April 2015, Bellevue


Convening #5 – StEPs: Interpretation – June 2015, Des Moines

Roundtable #7: Oral Histories to Readers’ Theater -- September 2015, Kirkland

Final Wrap Up

Convening #6 – StEPs: Program Wrap up and Next Steps – October 2015, Tukwila

Direction and input from AdvisArts Consulting and representatives of participating organizations helped shape the content and delivery of this program, based on the King County heritage community’s needs, priorities and leadership resources, and also strengthened ways that colleagues can share best StEPs practices with their peers.

StEPs 4Culture Capacity Building Grants Guidelines

What Is Capacity Building

Capacity building refers to activities that nonprofit organizations undertake to strengthen their ability to achieve their missions effectively, and to sustain their institutions over time. Capacity building addresses improving management systems and governance within organizations. When capacity building is successful, organizations are stronger, more sustainable, and better able to serve their communities.

Who Can Apply

Heritage organizations in King County currently enrolled in the AASLH Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations [StEPs], and those demonstrating a commitment to StEPs 4Culture by actively participating in the program’s Convenings and Roundtables, are eligible to apply for Capacity Building Grants from 4Culture. Established to incentivize the development of capacity building projects, this dedicated funding program provides tangible support for organizations to improve professionalism and best practices, to carry out organizational missions more effectively, and to help organizations achieve national standards as defined by StEPs.

Eligible Applicants Include King County-Based:

  • Nonprofit heritage and historical organizations, such as museums, archives, and public agencies that are currently enrolled in the American Association for State & Local History’s StEPs program
  • Organizations that are participants in StEPs 4Culture’s series of Convenings and Roundtables

Eligible Projects Must:

  • Focus on board assessments or trainings, strategic planning, marketing planning, audience assessments, technology assessments and/or planning
  • Address one or more standards in the StEPs program under one of the workbook sections of Mission, Vision & Governance; Audience; Interpretation; Stewardship of Collections; Stewardship of Historic Structures & Landscapes; or Management

What Gets Funded

Project funds may be used to support capacity-building projects including, but not limited to:

  • Strengthening governance of an organization through training or assistance from an expert in the field
  • Assisting in strategic thinking and planning for the future of the organization
  • Enabling organizations to merge operations and/or programming to ensure sustainability
  • Building a plan for long-term sustainability and reliable funding streams
  • Streamlining operations of an organization
  • Creating a marketing plan to build future awareness and sustainability
  • Provide professional development for staff and board members
  • Offering opportunities for peer learning, networking or leadership development
  • Creating or re-examining organizational plans
  • Initiating collaboration with other nonprofits
  • Developing new sources for earned income

Eligible costs include:

  • Expenses directly related to the project for each consultant or contractor involved
  • Honoraria and travel for consultants and other outside professionals
  • Travel expenses that are directly related to the project
  • Photocopying of worksheets and handouts
  • Purchase or licensing fees for reading materials that are directly related to planning activities
  • Materials fees, including text books, workbooks, and/or download fees for such materials

Program funds may NOT be used for:

  • Major equipment purchases, construction or fabrication projects
  • General operating support, indirect or overhead costs and fees, employee benefits or any regular staff salaries
  • Elements of projects completed before the awarding of funds
  • Services for events in which fundraising is a primary purpose
  • Restoration of historic structures, the preservation of the built environment, or the stabilization of archaeological sites


2015 Application Deadline: Ongoing open deadline

Projects or portions thereof that are funded through StEPs 4Culture Capacity Building Grants may begin upon formal awarding of funds.

Only one (1) Capacity Building Grant can be open at a time.

Upon completion of a funded project, a recipient organization is expected to provide 4Culture with a copy of a comprehensive final report written by consultants and/or professionals whose fees may be funded through this program.

Ready to Apply

How to submit your application 

STEP 1 - Read all of the above sections
STEP 2 - Gather and prepare your information

Applications are submitted using 4Culture's online form. In this section, you will find information on how to prepare your application and submit support materials.

Support Materials

You are REQUIRED to submit the following during the "upload" step of the online application:
Project Proposal (Required)
Applicants must upload a Project Proposal that is no more than two (2) pages in length. Please upload Word (.doc or .docx) or PDF files only.
Project Budget (Required)
You may use 4Culture's form provided here, or upload your own budget document that delineates Expenses and Income in the same categories as 4Culture's form. Please limit budget to two pages in Word or PDF formats only.
Consultant's Estimate (Optional)
If your project will involve hiring a professional consultant, or other professional, submit one or more written estimates in Word or PDF files only, 2MB maximum file size.
Consultant's Résumé (Optional)
If your project will involve hiring a professional consultant, or other professional, submit one résumé for each individual in Word or PDF formats only.
Project Manager’s Résumé (Optional)
Upload the Project Manager's current résumé in Word or PDF files only.

Note: The online application system will not allow uploads of individuals files larger than 2MB.

Handy tips for success

  • Paint the clearest picture possible of what your proposed project is, and how this funding will help achieve your organization's goals.
  • Assume that those reviewing your proposal know nothing about your organization's work.
  • Don't count on your support materials to explain your organization. Include all pertinent information in the proposal itself.
  • Double-check the numbers in your proposal and project budget. Be sure the figures in your project budget total correctly.
STEP 3 - To access the online application, contact Brian Carter at 206-263-1586.

Note: Once you have started the process of applying online, you can save the information you have entered in each step, sign out, and return to your application any time before the deadline to continue working or to make changes. To access an application you have already started, go to and enter your username and password, then select the application you would like to work on under "my applications." IMPORTANT: Once you click "submit" you will not be able to make any changes to your application, but you will still be able to read, save and print it.