The National Endowment for the Humanities is inviting applications for Challenge Grants, capacity-building grants that are intended to help institutions and organizations secure long-term improvements in and support for their humanities programs and resources.


Challenge Grants provide matching funds that 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.


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 grant funds to defray costs of fundraising to meet the NEH challenge.


Successful applicants will be offered a matching grant. The requested grant amount should be appropriate to the institution’s humanities needs and fundraising capacity. 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.


NEH Challenge Grants assist institutions in developing sources of support for humanities programs, and fundraising is an integral part of the long-term planning required by the program. Persons raising the funds and 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. NEH has suspended the requirement that holders of previous Challenge Grants must raise four times the amount of federal funds offered.


With the exception of elementary and secondary schools or school districts, any U.S. nonprofit institution (public agency, private nonprofit organization, tribal government) working wholly or in part with the humanities may apply. Affiliated institutions (e.g., university museums) should consult with NEH staff on questions of separate eligibility. Institutions that support research, education, preservation, and public programming in humanities disciplines are eligible.


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. Interested applicants are asked to submit a preliminary application to my office by March 17, 2014 (electronic submission to is preferred), with the following information:


  • Brief proposal (up to three pages),
  • Preliminary budget,
  • Bio sketch or abbreviated 2-page CV,
  • Support letter from the Dean (or the equivalent in units without a Dean).


If necessary, an ad hoc committee will convene to review the preliminary proposals.  The selected PI(s) will be notified in time to meet NEH’s May 1, 2014, deadline for full proposals.


For the complete NEH guidelines, including detailed information about Challenge Grants, please refer to  Questions about our internal campus review process may be directed to Greg Ruth at or x4-0372.



John C. Hemminger

Vice Chancellor for Research

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