"StEPs-CT encourages all of us who participate to strive for higher standards in our organizations' operations and to increase services to our audiences."

– StEPs-CT Program Participant

About the Program

Connecticut Humanities helps local museums, historical societies, and other cultural organizations build professionalism and ensure their programs and collections remain vibrant community resources through StEPs-CT–a program created with the Connecticut League of History Organizations, and run in partnership with the Connecticut Historical Society, that guides them towards excellence in six areas of organizational practice.

StEPs-CT is based on the “Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations” (StEPs), a national model curriculum developed by the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH). We’ve added a series of hands-on workshops, expert mentors who are on call to help with the rough spots and a competitive granting fund to support projects related to the program. The StEPs-CT program is the first in the nation to implement the StEPs curriculum on a statewide level.

To be accepted into the program, StEPs-CT organizations need to make a compelling case for how they would benefit from participation and demonstrate commitment to completing the entire program. In return, CTH provides all resources at minimal cost.


StEPs-CT is an integrated program of professional development, facilitated conversation, mentorship, and competitive grant funding for smaller cultural organizations. StEPs-CT is based upon a curriculum of best practices and aligns with the national curriculum developed by the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) called StEPs.

StEPs is an acronym for “Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations.” Since its debut in 2009, StEPs has helped nearly 1,000 institutions nationwide, including 51 in Connecticut, begin taking “steps” to plan for positive change.

The six standards sections covered in the program are:

  • Mission, Vision and Governance
  • Audience
  • Management
  • Stewardship of Collections
  • Stewardship of Historic Structures and Landscapes
  • Interpretation

How to Apply

StEPs-CT is designed for smaller Connecticut museums, historical societies and other cultural organizations that are interested, willing and committed to strengthening their organizations.

Check out our list of StEPs-CT Frequently Asked Questions for more information about the program, benefits of participation, and program requirements.


2017 Grants Awarded

StEPs-CT Grants allow organizations to pursue projects that will help them implement the skills and lessons learned during their StEPs-CT training. In 2017, Connecticut Humanities awarded StEPs-CT grants to the following 25 organizations with support from the State Historic Preservation Office of the Department of Economic and Community Development with funds from the Community Investment Act of the State of Connecticut:

Avery Memorial Association (Groton)
$4,999 for Interpretive Plan Project for the Ebenezer Avery House

Avery-Copp Museum (Groton)
$4,999 for Storm Windows: Preservation and Protection

Blue Slope Country Museum (Franklin)
$3,882 for Developing an Interpretive Plan

Brookside Farm Museum (Niantic)
$4,919 for Strategic Planning

Cheshire Historical Society
$1,019 for Developing and Implementing a Collections Management Policy

Colchester Historical Society
(Colchester) $4,985 for Colchester’s School for Colored Children Narrative

Connecticut Valley Tobacco Historical Society (Windsor)
$3,521 for Connecticut Valley Agricultural Museum Strategic Plan

Cornwall Historical Society
$3,210 for Strategic Plan Development for 2018-2023

Danbury Railway Museum
$4,554 for Strategic Planning—A Road Map for the Future

Deep River Historical Society
$4,999 for Taking Steps to Become a Small Museum

Denison Society (Mystic)
$4,995 for Installation of UV Insulating Interior Storm Windows

Dudley Foundation (Guilford)
$3,630 for Collections Assessment

Essex Historical Society
$4,342 for Street Signage & Lighting

Friends of Wood Memorial Library & Museum (South Windsor)
$4,949 for Interpretive Planning for Native American Village

Groton Public Library
$4,908 for Collection Assessment of the James L. Streeter Collection

Guilford Keeping Society
$2,794 for New Signs for the Guilford Keeping Society’s Museums

Haddam Historical Society
$1,522 for Strategic Plan 2017-2022

Kent Historical Society
$4,999 for Emergency and Disaster Planning

Naugatuck Historical Society
$1,775 for Collections Preservation and Management

Norwalk Historical Society
$4,990 for Pre-planning: Norwalk Before 1835 Exhibition

Salisbury Association
$2,400 for Strategic Planning

Stonington Historical Society
$4,500 for Redesign and Rebuild of

Weston Historical Society
$4,999 for Needs/Use/Interpretation Assessment of the Coley House

Westport Historical Society
$1,887 for Implementation of Strategic Plan 2017-2020

Wilton Historical Society
$4,999 for Wayfinding Signage at the Wilton Historical Society

StEPs-CT Frequently Asked Questions

Download a PDF of these FAQs here.

What is StEPs-CT?

StEPs-CT is an integrated program of professional development, facilitated conversation, mentorship, and competitive grant funding for smaller cultural organizations.  StEPs-CT is a program of Connecticut Humanities (CTH) and the Connecticut League of History Organizations (CLHO) in partnership with the Connecticut Historical Society based upon a curriculum of best practices developed by the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) called StEPs.

What does StEPs stand for?

StEPs is an acronym for “Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations.”  Since its debut in 2009, StEPs has helped nearly 900 institutions nationwide, including 51 in Connecticut, begin taking “steps” to plan for positive change.

What topics does StEPs-CT cover?

StEPs-CT aligns with the national curriculum created by AASLH. The six standards units covered over the course of three years are: Mission, Vision, & Governance; Audience; Management; Stewardship of Collections; Stewardship of Historic Structures & Landscapes; and Interpretation.

Who is StEPs-CT for?

StEPs-CT is designed for smaller Connecticut museums, historical societies and other cultural organizations that are interested, willing and committed to strengthening their organizations.

How do you define smaller?

Specifically, the program is designed to support organizations with an operating budget of $150,000 or smaller.

Our organization is slightly bigger than that, can we apply?

If you can articulate a case for your participation, your application will be considered.

Can any organization sign up for the program?

Program participants are chosen through a competitive application process. The application is designed to be easy to access and complete.

Is my institution eligible?

Participating organizations must be Connecticut-based, 501(c)3 non-profits or municipal-run organizations, and provide significant programming and/or services to the public on a regular basis and have at least one paid staff member (full- or part-time) or dedicated volunteer equivalent with a formalized job description.

What are the benefits to participating in StEPs-CT?

Benefits include (per unit):

  • 2 full days of training in museum best practices, led by highly qualified museum professionals
  • 2 facilitated “open house” half-day programs to address issues specific to your organization
  • 1 half day workshop sessions designed to augment each unit’s curriculum
  • Access to a dedicated StEPs-CT mentor during designated training days and up to an additional 6  hours of consult time per unit
  • Exclusive access to a CTH competitive grant fund for a project related to achieving StEPs program standards (pending funding availability)
  • StEPs certificates sent from AASLH to recognize your organization’s progress through the program

How much does it cost to participate?

The StEPs-CT program is designed to be affordable:

  • $175 for a one-time enrollment fee in the national StEPs program (includes cost of the program workbook and access to national, online StEPs community).
  • Organizations must also maintain an institutional membership to the CLHO and AASLH for the duration of the program.
  • Program fees to allow an unlimited number of organizational participants to take part in all activities (unit fees paid at the beginning of each unit):
    • $200 per unit for First Time Participants wanting to complete all six StEPs units between 2018-2020 (Total amount paid over three years = $1,200)
    • $300 per unit for First Time Participants wanting to complete three StEPs units only (Mission, Vision, & Governance; Audience; and Management. Total amount paid over eighteen months = $900)
    • $150 per unit for Returning StEPs-CT Organizations wanting to participate in one StEPs unit only.

How many people from my organization can participate?

Accepted organizations are allowed an unlimited number of participants.

What do organizations commit to by participating in StEPs-CT?

Organizations commit to:

  • Achieving Bronze Level StEPs Certificates (or higher) for each standards unit covered
  • Attend the following StEPs-CT program-related activities for EACH standards unit:
    • Unit intro session (1 day)
    • Unit workshop (1 day)
    • Unit open house sessions (must attend at least 1 of 2 open house half days)
    • Unit wrap-up session (1 half-day)
  • Designate a dedicated representative who will remain the primary contact throughout the course of the entire StEPs-CT program.

Note:  Two people from each organization must attend all sessions for each StEPs standards unit.

Will all institutions commit to the entire three-year program?

Not necessarily. Some organizations may elect to do the first three curriculum units only. Previous StEPs-CT organizations may elect to come back to do single units only.

How many organizations will be accepted in StEPs-CT? How many mentors will be affiliated with the program?

We hope to accept up to 10 organizations into the StEPs-CT program for 2018-20.  We plan to include 2 program mentors per unit who will each work with up to 5 participating organizations.

Who are the mentors and who will be doing the training?

StEPs-CT mentors have been chosen from the Connecticut heritage community based on their experience working with small organizations on a broad variety of topics. The training sessions will be led by StEPs-CT program staff and occasionally, invited guest subject area specialists. Material that is presented during the training sessions has been created by AASLH and modified and augmented to address the needs of the StEPs-CT participants.

Does StEPs-CT work?

This will be the third offering of the StEPs-CT program.  From 2012-17, 47 organizations completed the program, transforming their organizations in the process.  To date, these organizations have earned over 150 StEPs certificates (one third of StEPs certificates earned nationwide) and received over $175,000 in grants from Connecticut Humanities.  Participant testimonials include:

“StEPs-CT encourages all of us who participate to strive for higher standards in our organizations’ operations and to increase services to our audiences.”

“I was delighted and honored that our organization was accepted to participate in StEPs-CT… It’s a tremendous opportunity for our organization to grow.” — Dick Pacholski, President, Harwinton Historical Society

“The first two sessions of this program helped me to gain insight into the Board of Director’s responsibilities for managing our Historical Society and for creating a Strategic Plan of operations.” — Richard Lindsey, Treasurer, Kent Historical Society

“This is a great opportunity for our institution to work on meeting national standards in the museum field so that we may better serve our community.” — Mark McEachern, Torrington Historical Society

“We at the Warren Historical Society are excited about the opportunity the StEPs program gives us to revitalize our organization and enhance our programming and community outreach.” — Rebecca Neary, Vice President, Warren Historical Society

Will there be future rounds of CT Cultural Fund Operating Support Grants?

Yes. CTH will open a second round of CT Cultural Fund Operating Support Grant applications in late summer 2022, with funding decisions and notifications made late 2022, for use of funds in 2023.

When can I close out my grant?

We anticipate that the final report and follow up survey will be made available to all grantees in the early summer. The reason for the delay is that the survey is intended to show the impact of funds on the CT cultural sector, which CTH will use to advocate for continued funding. We will send out an email notification when the final report is made available in the CTH Grant Application Portal.

What will the final report look like?

The final report will have two components. In CTH’s online grants system, you will be asked to fill out a brief narrative report and financial report about how you spent the funds and the impact that they had on your organization. While CTH does not require you to submit copies of invoices, checks, or receipts with your final report, we do ask that you keep supporting documentation on file for at least 5 years in case your grant is ever selected to be audited.

You will also be asked to fill out a follow up survey from Wilkening Consulting much like the one you completed at the beginning of the grant period. The purpose for this survey is to help us collect and report data on the impact these operating support funds had on CT’s cultural sector. This data will also be used to advocate for continued funding for CT’s cultural sector.

Click here to see the data stories created from CT Cultural Fund grantees’ initial survey responses.

The grantee survey asked for visitation and audience demographics data. How do I collect this data?

Data collection is important for CTH to continue to advocate for future funding to support the state’s cultural, humanities, and arts community. That said, we know that this is an area where many organizations are uncomfortable or would like assistance. Over the coming weeks and months, CTH will work to create and roll out a series of tools, templates, and trainings to help CT Cultural Fund grantees start to better collect data from their respective audiences. Please click here to see tips, recommendations, and a template shared from CT Humanities’ evaluation consultant, Wilkening Consulting. You may download an editable data collection template here.

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