National Endowment for the Humanities

NEH: Challenge Grants

The NEH will release the 2013 guidelines in March.  To allow time for an internal competition, and for faculty going forward to prepare, the information and guideline links below are based on the 2012 program. 

Program Summary

NEH challenge grants are capacity-building grants, intended to help institutions and organizations secure long-term improvements in and support for their humanities programs and resources. Grants may be used to establish or enhance endowments or spend-down funds (that is, funds that are invested, with both the income and the principal being expended over a defined period of years) that generate expendable earnings to support ongoing program activities. Grantees may also use funds for one-time capital expenditures (such as construction and renovation, purchase of equipment, and acquisitions) that bring long-term benefits to the institution and to the humanities more broadly.
Because of the matching requirement, these NEH grants also strengthen the humanities by encouraging nonfederal sources of support. Applications are welcome from colleges and universities, museums, public libraries, research institutions, historical societies and historic sites, scholarly associations, state humanities councils, and other nonprofit entities. Programs that involve collaboration among multiple institutions are eligible as well, but one institution must serve as the lead agent and formal applicant of record.
Eligibility and Supported Activities
Institutions may apply for only one NEH challenge grant in a calendar year. An institution is eligible to apply for a subsequent challenge grant beginning in the third year after the closing date of its most recent NEH challenge grant. Affiliated institutions (e.g., university museums) should consult with NEH staff on questions of separate eligibility.
Challenge grant funds (both federal and nonfederal together) must provide long-term benefits to the humanities. Challenge grant funds should not merely replace funds already being expended on the humanities, but instead should reflect careful strategic planning to strengthen the institution’s activities in and commitment to the advancement of knowledge and understanding of the humanities.
NEH welcomes proposals that respond to NEH’s Bridging Cultures initiative. Such projects could focus on cultures internationally or within the United States. International programs might seek to enlarge Americans’ understanding of other places and times, as well as other perspectives and intellectual traditions. American programs might explore the great variety of cultural influences on, and myriad subcultures within, American society. These programs might also investigate how Americans have approached and attempted to surmount seemingly unbridgeable cultural divides, or examine the ideals of civility and civic discourse that have informed this quest. All applications will be given equal consideration in accordance with the program’s evaluation criteria, whether or not they respond to the Bridging Cultures initiative.
Institutions may use challenge grant funds to meet both ongoing and one-time humanities-related costs, provided that the long-term benefit of the expenditure can be demonstrated. Award recipients might use federal challenge grant funds, as well as funds raised for matching, for purposes such as the following.
Through endowments or spend-down funds, grantees could use challenge grant funds to support:
Through direct expenditure, grantees could use challenge grant funds to support:
Award Information
Successful applicants will be offered a matching grant (see pg. 6 of the guidelines). The requested grant amount should be appropriate to the humanities needs and the fundraising capacity of the institution. The federal portions of NEH challenge grants have ranged in recent years from $30,000 to $1 million, the maximum amount that may be requested. Requests over $500,000, however, are unlikely to be funded at the requested level. Applicants wishing to apply for a grant of more than $500,000 should consult with NEH staff about the size of their requests. Smaller grants for sharply defined purposes are encouraged.
Note: Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact Dave Triplett ( at the UI Foundation with fundraising questions and to discuss the project’s congruence with the current comprehensive fundraising campaign.
Letter of Intent
NEH program staff recommends that prospective applicants submit a letter of intent to apply six to eight weeks before the application deadline and a draft proposal four to six weeks before the deadline. Neither is required, but many prospective applicants find that staff advice can significantly improve the strength of an application.
Internal Selection Process
The Office of the Vice President for Research in consultation with the UI Foundation has established an internal review procedure to select the UI nominee. Applications will be reviewed according to the sponsor's selection criteria. Consideration will also be given to UI institutional strengths and comprehensive campaign priorities. Potential applicants must submit, using the submission link below, the following information:
  1. A two page CV
  2. A description of the proposed project. It should have the following elements:
  1. Additional pages may be used for references.
  2. Please be sure the project is identified on each page and number the pages.
The above materials must be submitted no later than 5:00 p.m. on Monday, February 18, 2013. The selected nominee will be asked to complete the full application package in accordance with the sponsor's deadline of Wednesday, May 1, 2013.

Proposal Due to OVPRED02/18/2013 Not open for submission deadline passed
Date Due to DSP or UIF04/24/2013
Date Due to Sponsor05/01/2013
Required LOI Due DateN/A
Non-Required LOI Due DateN/A
Sponsor URL:

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