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Content provided by the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance
45.130 Promotion of the Humanities_Challenge Grants




National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965, as amended, Public Law 89-209, 20 U.S.C. 951 et seq.
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To support educational and cultural institutions and organizations in order to increase their financial stability and to sustain or improve the quality of humanities programs, services, or resources. Normally, institutions requesting their first NEH challenge grant must raise at least three dollars in new donations from nonfederal sources to receive each Federal dollar. Institutions requesting subsequent challenge grants must raise at least four dollars for each Federal dollar.


Project Grants.
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Funds may be applied to a variety of institutional needs which an applicant has demonstrated serve both the humanities and the institution's long-term objectives. The major purpose of a Challenge Grant is to help institutions and organizations attain or sustain a high level of quality in humanities programs or activities by building long-term capital resources. The most common and preferred expenditure of grant and matching funds is the creation of endowments. Also possible where the need is compelling are direct expenditures such as library acquisitions, technological enhancement, construction and renovation, debt retirement, and other costs clearly attributable to improvements in humanities programs and activities. Funds may not be used for general operating support or undergraduate scholarships and prizes or for projects eligible for support from other NEH programs.


Applicant Eligibility:   Any public or private nonprofit institution or organization working wholly or in part within the humanities may apply, including the following: two-year and four-year colleges; universities; museums; historical societies; research libraries; public libraries; advanced study centers; media organizations; university presses; professional societies; educational, cultural, State humanities councils, or community groups. State and local governments and U.S. Territories are eligible to apply on their own behalf or on behalf of nonprofit institutions, associations or organizations within their jurisdictions. Individuals and public and private elementary and secondary schools are not eligible to apply.

Beneficiary Eligibility:   All applicant organizations and institutions and all users of their humanities resources, programs, or activities.

Credentials/Documentation:   This program is excluded from coverage under OMB Circular No. A-87.

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Pre-application Coordination:   None required, but preliminary discussion with Endowment staff and the submission of a draft application at least eight weeks before the deadline are strongly encouraged. The standard application forms as furnished by the Endowment and required by OMB Circular No. A-102 must be used for this program. This program is excluded from coverage under OMB Circular No. A-102 and E.O. 12372.

Application Procedure:   Direct application to the Office of Challenge Grants, NEH. Application instructions are available online at or from the Office of Challenge Grants upon receipt of general inquiry. This program is excluded from Coverage under OMB Circular No. A-110.

Award Procedure:   Applications are reviewed by administrators of humanities institutions, panels of scholars, and other appropriate individuals. Awards are made by the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities after recommendation by the National Council on the Humanities.

Deadlines:   May 1 of each year and special deadlines as announced. Deadlines are receipt deadlines. Write or call the NEH Office of Challenge Grants.

Range of Approval/Disapproval Time:   Seven months (approximately 210 days) after deadline.

Appeals:   None, but applicant may request written reasons for rejection and reapply with revised proposal to a subsequent application deadline.

Renewals:   Eligibility to apply for a subsequent award begins in the fourth fiscal year after the close of the previous challenge grant.


Formula and Matching Requirements:   Matching by a minimum of three times the grant amount for institutions receiving their first challenge grant, and by a minimum of four times the grant amount for institutions receiving subsequent challenge grants, in new nonfederal contributions. Other matching ratios may be required for special initiatives, as announced. Source: Public Law 89-209, as amended; 20 U.S.C. 951; Arts and Humanities Cultural Act of 1976; Public Law 94-462. Contact: See Headquarters Office below.

Length and Time Phasing of Assistance:   From one to four years, as requested by the applicant. Funds must be expended during the grant period. Federal funds up to the amount offered in any year are released as matching amounts are certified to the Endowment and minimum annual matching requirements are met.


Reports:   Narrative progress reports are required biennially; reports on nonfederal contributions, matching funds raised, and sources of giving are required annually. Final narrative and financial reports are due within 90 days after the grant ending date.

Audits:   In accordance with the provisions of OMB Circular No. A- 133 (Revised, June 24, 1997), "Audits of States, Local Governments, and Nonprofit Organizations," nonfederal entities that expend financial assistance of $300,000 or more in Federal awards will have a single or a program-specific audit conducted for that year. Nonfederal entities that expend less than $300,000 a year in Federal awards are exempt from Federal audit requirements for that year, except as noted in Circular No. A-133. For nongovernmental recipients, audits are to be carried out in accordance with the provisions set forth in OMB Circular No. A-110, "Grants and Agreements with Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals, and Other Nonprofit Organizations Uniform Administrative Requirements" and with OMB Circular No. A-133. In addition, grants are subject to inspection and audits by NEH and other Federal officials.

Records:   To be retained by the grantee for three years from the date of submission of the final narrative and financial reports. Records include financial documentation on all matching gifts and on all expenditures of Federal and matching funds.


Account Identification:   59-0200-0-1-503.

Obligations:   (Grants) FY 01 $10,888,374; FY 02 est $10,436,000; and FY 03 est $10,436,000.

Range and Average of Financial Assistance:  
Applicants may request up to $1,000,000 in Federal funds over 4 years. In fiscal year 2010, the largest award offered was $750,000, the smallest was $250,000; and the average award was approximately $470,000.

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In fiscal year 2001, 89 applications were received and approximately 26 awards were made.


45 CFR 1100 and 1105. Guidelines are available online at and upon request from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Washington, DC 20506. Available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, is the Endowment's official publication, "Humanities" by subscription (6 issues annually, $24.00 domestic, $30.00 foreign).


Regional or Local Office:   None.

Headquarters Office:   Office of Challenge Grants, Room 420, National Endowment for the Humanities, Washington, District of Columbia 20506 Email: Phone: (202) 606-8309.

Web Site Address:


(1) A community college will use its $500,000 challenge grant to endow a humanities institute in partnership with a major museum. (2) A public broadcasting station will use its $500,000 challenge grant to establish an endowment for the production, acquisition, and promotion of humanities programming. (3) A public library will use its $300,000 challenge grant to renovate and expand its historic facility to better house its humanities collections and improve space for humanities public programming. (4) A museum will use its $575,000 challenge grant as the cornerstone of a larger fund- raising campaign for an endowment to support a new regional art center. (5) An professional humanities association is using its $246,000 challenge grant to endow staff positions in humanities educational programming.


To reach decisions about funding, all reviewers of Challenge Grants applications are asked to evaluate the existing and potential quality of an applicant's programs in the humanities, its needs, management, and fund-raising capability. In light of the goals of the Challenge Grants Program, reviewers assess each application in accordance with the following criteria: (1) The significance of existing and planned humanities activities. (2) The impact of challenge grant funds. (3) The appropriateness of institutional resources and plans. (4) The feasibility of fund raising. Applicants for second or subsequent awards must describe and assess the effects of their prior awards.

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