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Apply for an Award

The next call for proposals will open January 2025.

Contact the CLIR Grants Team at for any questions regarding the Recordings at Risk grant program. Sign up for CLIR’s Grants and Programs Newsletter for the latest information. 


Instructions for application form. Explains questions and provides context.


Access the Recordings at Risk application form during an open call for applications.


Find answers to our most commonly asked questions.

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Organization types

Applicants must be U.S. nonprofit academic, research, or cultural heritage organizations. Please note that:

  • Both the applicant organization and its collections must be located in the United States or an associated entity, e.g. the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or American Samoa.
  • Grants may be made to government units and their agencies or instrumentalities, provided that cultural heritage is the primary function of the unit and grant funds will be used for charitable purposes within the scope of the Recordings at Risk program. We recommend that government units wishing to apply for a Recordings at Risk grant contact the CLIR Grants Team to ascertain their eligibility.
  • Indian tribes, Alaska native villages, regional corporations, and village corporations are eligible to apply for funding.
    • For purposes of funding under this program, “Indian tribe” means any tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska native village, regional corporation, or village corporation (as defined in, or established pursuant to, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.)), which is recognized by the Secretary of the Interior as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians. A list of eligible entities is available from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, except for the recognized Alaska native villages, regional corporations, and village corporations, which should refer to applicable provisions in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, referenced above. Any tribal entities, including those not currently covered by the above description, are encouraged to contact the CLIR Grants Team to discuss questions of eligibility for this program.

IRS Classifications

Generally speaking, to be eligible for this program applicants must be recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as tax-exempt under one of the following:

  • IRS Code Section 501(c)3
  • IRS Code Section 115
  • IRS Code Section 170(c)1

Grants may be made to government units and their agencies or instrumentalities not organized under IRS Section 501(c)3, provided that collecting and disseminating scholarly and cultural resources are among the primary functions of the unit and grant funds will be used for charitable purposes within the scope of the Recordings at Risk program. We recommend that government units wishing to apply to Recordings at Risk contact the CLIR Grants Team to ascertain their eligibility.

Award Terms

  • Applicants may request as little as $10,000 or as much as $50,000 per project.
  • The grant may fund up to 100% of the direct costs of audio or audiovisual digital reformatting services to be provided by an external service provider.
    • In-house digitization projects are not eligible for this program.
  • Applicant organizations may submit only one application per cycle.
  • Applicants must agree to create appropriate descriptive and technical metadata for all content digitized through grant funds during the grant term, and to dedicate this metadata to the public domain.
    • CLIR will make exceptions for culturally sensitive metadata. Please contact the CLIR Grants Team with any questions regarding exceptions to this requirement.
  • An individual may not be Principal Investigator (PI) on overlapping or concurrent Recordings at Risk projects.

Cycle 11 Information and Q&A Sessions

At the start of each application cycle, CLIR schedules an informational webinar and a question and answer session for Recordings at Risk applicants. The recordings and associated documentation will be shared with all registrants and posted to this page following each event.  

Cycle 11 Applicant Webinar February 15, 2024
Cycle 11 Applicant Question & Answer Session March 6, 2024

Application Resources

📝 Draft your application

Guidelines & Template

This resource serves as a step-by-step guide and a collaborative workspace for preparing a Recordings at Risk application. The document walks applicants through each question, describes what should be covered in each response, and offers space to draft responses.

  • View Only (no Google account required) – Use this link to view the Guidelines and export as the file format of your choice for collaborative editing
  • Create a copy (Google account required) – Use this link to create your own copy of the Guidelines in GoogleDrive to collaboratively draft your proposal

Other Application Documents

To learn more about the last grant cycle (Cycle 10), below are links to the applicant webinar and the question and answer session.

Applicant Webinar 

Applicant Question & Answer Session

📑 Plan your project

Document Library

📚 Sample Applications


Frequently Asked Questions

For questions that are not answered below or in the application guidelines, contact CLIR’s Grants Team at During the application period, CLIR accepts inquiries by e-mail only; no phone calls, please.


Our working definition of a cultural heritage institution is simply one that supports the production of new research, scholarship, and/or educational experiences by preserving and providing access to collections of academic, scientific, or cultural artifacts. For example, collections related to physics at an institution like the Neils Bohr Archives would be considered cultural heritage materials. Recordings nominated for reformatting through this program may be valuable for research or education in any field, not just fields normally considered as humanities disciplines.

Universities with multiple campuses may count individual campuses as discrete entities for the purposes of this program. For example, UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison could both apply during the same cycle. A good rule of thumb is that it is safe to consider institutions with their own granting offices as separate. Only one project can be submitted per campus in a single cycle.

Yes. Recordings at Risk has been designed as a small grant program that complements, rather than overlaps, with Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives.

Yes. Recordings at Risk has been designed as a small grant program that complements, rather than overlaps, with Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives.

Federal, state, and local agencies can apply for funding through this program, but only if cultural heritage is the primary function of the unit and grant funds will be used for charitable purposes within the scope of the Recordings at Risk program. Many government libraries, archives, or museums will be eligible, but applicants from such institutions are encouraged to write to program staff to confirm before beginning to prepare an application. For example, The National Library of Medicine would be an eligible entity, but a federal, state or local court would not be eligible since its mission is to support litigation, rather than to provide access to materials that contribute to the production of new knowledge or educational experiences.

Yes, grants may be made to federally recognized tribal governments. In these cases, CLIR’s application requires documentation showing formal status as a federally recognized tribe.


Recordings at Risk supports digital reformatting projects that involve audio and audiovisual time-based media (audio/film/video). The program is primarily focused on analog-to-digital reformatting, though digital media formats are not necessarily disallowed. Digital audio tape, for example, is highly at risk and eligible. There is no 100% comprehensive list of allowable formats, but this partial list identifies many of the basic format types that are eligible:

  • Audio: open-reel audio tape, compact cassette, shellac/vinyl/lacquer disc, wax cylinder, wire recording, microcassette, digital audio tape (DAT), compact disc, MiniDisc
  • Video: VHS, U-Matic, 8mm, Betamax, Betacam, Digital8, DV, MiniDV
  • Film: 8mm, 16mm, 35mm, Super 8

Note that applicant institutions must be able to find a qualified external service provider that can perform technically competent and cost-effective digital reformatting for the specified format(s). Applicants are encouraged to contact CLIR’s grants team with questions related to the eligibility of formats not listed above.

Yes, in some cases this might be allowed, when the recordings are on a medium from which they cannot be safely recovered expect by a professional. Digital audiotape (DAT) is one format that is fragile and obsolete and requires professional intervention to reformat.  On the other hand, data recovery from hard drives or CD/DVDs isn’t a top priority for the program, since those media aren’t exclusively associated with audio and audiovisual information. In some cases, transfer of recordings from CDs or DVDs that are a small portion of a larger collection of obsolete recorded media may be allowable when this makes more sense than excluding them from the project. However, proposals exclusively focused on data migration or recovery from hard drives, CDs and DVDs are not currently eligible for funding.


Reasonable limits placed on access to digitized recordings, such as providing access to recordings under copyright protection through systems requiring authentication or presence on-site, will not necessarily disadvantage an applicant in the competition. Recordings at Risk prioritizes preservation over access due to the urgent need to reformat recordings due to the risks of decay and obsolescence. In many cases, current legal and ethical considerations to force institutions to place access limits. At the same time, there are a lot of variables at play when it comes down to the review panel’s decision-making process, so any applicant who plans to place limitations on access should take care to explain the rationale for imposing these limits in the Rights, Ethics, and Re-Use Statement within the application. In cases where reviewers are comparing two otherwise evenly matched projects, a project perceived to have a stronger potential impact due to a broader access policy may receive preference.

Yes, so long as the professor is not directly involved in the project. However, applicants are advised that letters from experts outside of one’s own institution and region may be more persuasive, since they can help to demonstrate the project’s importance to a wider community. Applicants are encouraged to provide letter writers with a copy of CLIR’s Guidelines for Authors of Letters of Support when requesting letters.

You should ask the head administrator who will be responsible for making decisions about allocating resources for preserving and sustaining access to the project deliverables over time to write a letter confirming the institution’s commitment to maintaining the results of your work. Applicants are encouraged to provide letter writers with a copy of CLIR’s Guidelines for Authors of Letters of Support when requesting letters.

Funds are awarded directly to the applicant institution.

Just like Digitizing Hidden Special Collections, Recordings at Risk does not explicitly prohibit charging licensing fees for commercial re-use, when reviewers agree that such fees are reasonable and justified within the application. Applicants should include information on how fees will be implemented, and why they are justified, in the Rights, Ethics, and Re-Use section of the application. Applicants should be aware that reviewers do scrutinize access and fee policies carefully and may question why grant funds are needed for projects expected to generate revenue for institutions.

No, we do not require cost-sharing; however, evidence that an institution is invested in maximizing the value of the digital reformatting project can enhance the competitiveness of an application. For example, an institution can demonstrate its commitment to a project by maximizing the accessibility of digital files through its investments in creating metadata, providing transcriptions or translations, and more.

No, applicants are required to work with a qualified external service provider. Recordings at Risk has been designed to serve the needs of institutions without access to on-site facilities and without local expertise to support digital reformatting of audio and audiovisual recordings.

You can apply to both programs. Recordings at Risk is a small grant program that complements, rather than overlaps, with Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives. One could potentially apply to Recordings at Risk for digitizing a small portion of a larger collection of recordings with the aim of establishing an efficient workflow and strong use case for a larger grant application to a program like Digitizing Hidden Collections. Keep in mind that reviewers for Recordings at and Digitizing Hidden Collections have different criteria for assessing applications, such as the prioritization of preservation over access for Recordings at Risk and the focus on access and collaboration for Digitizing Hidden Collections.

Yes. If you submit a proposal to a call and aren’t awarded funding, you will still receive feedback which you can incorporate into a re-submitted proposal. Additionally, you can submit a different proposal in a later call even if you have been awarded funding in a previous call, provided you do not nominate the same Principal Investigator to lead two concurrent or overlapping CLIR Recordings at Risk projects. Recordings at Risk is a competitive national program, and reviewers may factor an applicant’s previous success record with the program into deliberations and give preference to applicants submitting equally strong proposals who have not previously received funding.

This strategy is a good one, but applicants should keep in mind that review panelists may choose to give funding to help a greater variety of institutions. Pursuing multiple potential funders for your project is encouraged.

The following documents have page limits:

  • Project Plan with timeline: Maximum of 2 pages
  • Digital Preservation Plan: Maximum of 2 pages

Submitted documents that exceed the above page limits will be truncated by program staff before proposals are read by reviewers. For example, if a four-page document is submitted for the Project Plan (limit 2 pages), reviewers will only receive the first 2 pages of the submitted plan along with a note explaining that the plan exceeded the page limit.

Allowable Costs

Appendix A. of the program guidelines explains what costs are and are not allowable in project budgets.

No, Recordings at Risk funds must cover digital reformatting costs.

Here is a link to CLIR’s policy regarding Indirect Costs. CLIR’s policy is informed by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s own policy since the Foundation has fully supported the creation and operation of the Recordings at Risk program.

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