NEH Challenge Grants

NEH LogoNEH challenge grants are capacity-building grants, intended to help institutions and organizations secure long-term support for their humanities programs and resources. Through these awards, many organizations and institutions have been able to increase their humanities capacity and secure the permanent support of an endowment. Grants may be used to establish or enhance endowments or spend-down funds that generate expendable earnings to support and enhance ongoing program activities. Challenge grants may also provide capital directly supporting the procurement of long-lasting objects, such as acquisitions for archives and collections, the purchase of equipment, and the construction or renovation of facilities needed for humanities activities. Funds spent directly must be shown to bring long-term benefits to the institution and to the humanities more broadly. Grantee institutions may also expend up to 10 percent of total grant funds (federal funds plus matching funds) to defray costs of fundraising to meet the NEH challenge. Because of the matching requirement, these NEH grants also strengthen the humanities by encouraging nonfederal sources of support.

Award Amount: NEH will offer successful applicants a matching grant. 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 $75,000 to $500,000. Requests for more than $500,000 are unlikely to be funded at that level. Note that the program encourages requests for smaller grants for sharply defined purposes.
Fund-raising: NEH challenge grants assist institutions in developing sources of support for humanities programs, and fundraising is an integral part of the long-term planning that challenge grants require. Persons raising the funds as well as those who will be directly responsible for the humanities programs should be fully involved in the planning from the outset. Grant recipients must raise, from nonfederal donors, three times the amount of federal funds offered. HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and two-year colleges, however, are required to raise only two times the federal amount.
Eligibility: With the exception of elementary and secondary schools (public or private) and school districts, any U.S. nonprofit institution (public agency, private nonprofit organization, federally recognized Indian tribal government) working wholly or in part with the humanities may apply for a challenge grant. Affiliated institutions (for example, a university museum) should consult with NEH staff on questions of separate eligibility. Institutions that support research, education, preservation, and public programming in humanities disciplines are eligible to apply for an NEH challenge grant.
Limitation: One per campus. Institutions may apply for only one NEH challenge grant in a calendar year.

For consideration, submit the following documents electronically to Etta Ward by October 1, 2014 for internal competition.

  • 1-2 page research statement briefly describing the proposed project, especially its humanities content, and the humanities credentials of the scholars and other staff who would be involved in planning and implementing the project. Also include plans for raising matching funds. Limitation does not include references.
  • A Letter from the Chair or Dean
  • 2-3 page abbreviated CV for the PI

NOTE: Since this program requires a substantial fund raising activity, it is recommended that each Center or unit (department or school) works with the IU Foundation prior to the internal competition.

Limited Submission 

IU Internal Deadline
: 10/1/2014
Preliminary Draft Deadline: 3/24/2015
Prospective applicants who wish to submit a preliminary draft proposal should do so four to six weeks before the application deadline.
NEH Proposal Deadline: 5/5/2015

NOTE UPDATED INTERNAL DEADLINE: The NEH Program Officer indicated that selected applicants should begin raising required matches as early as December.

Updated guidelines will be posted at least two months in advance of the deadline listed. In the meantime, please use the guidelines for the previous deadline, to get a sense of what is involved in assembling an application.