FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Introduction | Eligibility | Categories |
Projects | Application Review
Grant Amounts | Grants.gov |
The Application | Timing |
Are the application guidelines available only on the Web site?
We stopped printing and distributing booklets of guidelines and application forms in 2003. Electronic-only guidelines on our Web site provide a more flexible and user-friendly format for access to information. Once you choose your discipline and category, we hope that the application requirements -- that encompass just a few pages -- will be the only thing that you'll need to print out in hard copy. Other reference information will be available online at the touch of a button.
If you need application material in hard copy, you may still request it. However, bear in mind that you'll get a print out of what's on the Web site and not a glossy publication.
How can I find out when new guidelines are released?
To receive a notification whenever new NEA guidelines are posted or existing guidelines are modified, sign up for the notification service provided by Grants.gov, the federal government’s online application system.
Sign up here.
Can I get help if something in the guidelines is unclear?
Yes -- we're here to help you. The list below will help you find the right person to talk to about your application.
If you have questions about Art Works, contact the staff for the field or discipline that is most relevant to your project:
Artist Communities: For all projects except Livability: Pepper Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org or 202/682-5790; for Livability projects: Mario Garcia Durham, email@example.com or 202/682-5469
Arts Education (pre-K through 12 curriculum-based projects that align with national or state arts education standards):
Dance, Music, Opera: Denise Brandenburg, firstname.lastname@example.org or 202/682-5044
Literature, Musical Theater, Theater: Nancy Daugherty, email@example.com or 202/682-5521
Folk & Traditional Arts, Local Arts Agencies, Multidisciplinary, Presenting: Terry Liu, firstname.lastname@example.org or 202/682-5690
Design, Media Arts, Museums, Visual Arts: Lakita Edwards, email@example.com or 202/682-5704
Dance (including dance presentation): Janelle Ott Long, firstname.lastname@example.org or 202/682-5739; Juliana Mascelli, email@example.com or 202/682-5656
Design (including planning, urban design, architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, product design, and graphic design): Jen Hughes, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 202/682-5547
Folk & Traditional Arts (including folk & traditional arts projects in any art form): William Mansfield, email@example.com or 202/682-5678; Barry Bergey, firstname.lastname@example.org or 202/682-5726
Literature: Amy Stolls, email@example.com or 202/682-5771
Local Arts Agencies (including projects in any discipline that are submitted by a local arts agency. Local arts agencies generally are referred to as arts councils, departments of cultural affairs, or arts commissions. While the majority are private entities, others are public municipal, county, or regional agencies that operate in cooperation with mayors and city managers. Local arts agencies generally make grant awards directly to both artists and arts organizations, present programming to the public, manage cultural facilities, provide services to artists and arts organizations, and facilitate community cultural planning. Statewide assemblies and cultural service organizations that work specifically with local arts agencies also are eligible, but only for projects that will predominantly serve local arts agencies. Applicants such as arts and business councils, audience alliances, or lawyers for the arts organizations also are included, but may only apply under the March 10 Art Works deadline for service activities developed in coordination with a local arts agency. Projects may be for any type of constituent service.): Dinah Walls, firstname.lastname@example.org or 202/682-5586
Media Arts: Mary Smith, email@example.com or 202/682-5742
Museums (including projects in any discipline that are submitted by a museum): Wendy Clark, firstname.lastname@example.org or 202/682-5555
Music (including music presentation):
Organizations with names that begin A through L: Court Burns, email@example.com or 202/682-5590
Organizations with names that begin M through Z: Anya Nykyforiak, firstname.lastname@example.org or 202/682-5487
Jazz Projects: Katja von Schuttenbach, email@example.com or 202/682-5711
Musical Theater (including musical theater presentation): Eleanor Denegre, firstname.lastname@example.org or 202/682-5509; Carol Lanoux Lee, email@example.com or 202/682-5020
Opera (including opera presentation): Georgianna Paul, firstname.lastname@example.org or 202/682-5600
Presenting (projects that involve multiple arts disciplines including multidisciplinary performing arts presenting and other types of multidisciplinary activities):
Engagement projects for underserved communities (March deadline)/Creation projects and Engagement projects for presentation (August deadline): Silvio Lim, email@example.com or 202/682-5658
Engagement projects for outdoor festivals and Learning projects (March deadline)/Engagement projects for services to the field and preservation, and Learning projects for artist training (August deadline): Sidney Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org or 202/682-5790
Livability projects (August deadline): Mario Garcia Durham, email@example.com or 202/682-5469
Theater (including theater presentation): Eleanor Denegre, firstname.lastname@example.org or 202/682-5509; Carol Lanoux Lee, email@example.com or 202/682-5020
Visual Arts (including painting, sculpture/installation, crafts, photography, printmaking, drawing, public art, and newer forms/mediums such as video, computer, and Internet-based work): Meg Brennan, firstname.lastname@example.org or 202/682-5703
If you have questions about Challenge America Fast-Track, email@example.com or 202/682-5700.
The staff can explain and clarify eligibility requirements, review criteria, category definitions, and requirements relating to application material. Because we have a small staff, the Arts Endowment cannot guarantee assistance for every applicant who contacts us just before a deadline, so try to call early.
Note that telephone lines use voice mailboxes. Leave a message and your call will be returned promptly. If you call and your regular contact isn't available, explain the purpose of your call to the person who answers the phone. Whenever possible, we'll refer you to another staff member who may be able to assist you.
If you have a question about registering with or the mechanics of Grants.gov, contact Grants.gov directly at 1-800-518-4726, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or consult the Customer Support material posted on their Web site.
What are the changes to the guidelines for this year?
The Access to Artistic Excellence and Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth categories have been replaced with a new funding category called Art Works, which embodies the agency’s guiding principle: “Art works.”
Art Works supports the four outcomes mandated by the Agency’s Strategic Plan:
- Creation: The creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence,
- Engagement: Public engagement with diverse and excellent art,
- Learning: Lifelong learning in the arts, and
- Livability: The strengthening of communities through the arts.
Within these outcomes, innovative projects are encouraged. To ensure that innovative ideas and formats for artistic expression are supported, the NEA is requiring that Consortium applications be for innovative projects.
The Challenge America Fast-Track category will still be available, but we’ve implemented a policy to limit consecutive-year funding.
- Grants.gov has implemented new security requirements for the use of the Grants.gov system.
What does this mean to me?
If you’ve been applying to Access to Artistic Excellence, you now will apply to Art Works.
The two application deadlines are at the same times as last year (March 10 and August 11, 2011).
You’ll continue to go to the discipline that is most relevant to your project as your starting place.
All types of projects supported in the past continue to be eligible in Art Works.
If you’ve been applying to Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth, you now will apply to Art Works though the Arts Education discipline.
- If you have a pre-K through 12 curriculum-based project that aligns with national or state arts education standards, your new starting place will be the Arts Education discipline.
- You will need to make a schedule adjustment within the Arts Education discipline. You may apply to either the March 10 or August 11, 2011, application deadlines; there no longer is a June deadline. The March deadline is for community-based projects with project start dates of January 1, 2012, or later. The August deadline is for school-based projects with project start dates of June 1, 2012, or later.
If you will be applying for an official Consortium project in Art Works, you must apply for an innovative project. An official Consortium project is an exception to the one-application rule and represents a partnership of organizations that undertakes a shared project. In general, innovative projects are characterized as those that may prove transformative with the potential for meaningful change; are distinctive by offering fresh insights and new value for the field and/or the public through unconventional solutions; and may be shared and/or emulated, or lead to other innovations.
If you’ve been applying to Challenge America Fast-Track and you’ve received a Challenge America Fast-Track grant each of the last three years, you are not eligible to apply to the Fast-Track category this year. You may apply to other NEA funding opportunities including Art Works.
Using Grants.gov: You are now required to change your password every 90 days, among other security-related changes. See www.grants.gov for more details.
What effect does the new strategic plan have on the guidelines?
We’ve revised the guidelines to more closely align with our outcomes. To address government-wide reporting and accountability mandates, applicants will choose the outcome(s) that reflect the results expected to be achieved by their projects. Grantees also will be asked to provide evidence of those results at the end of their projects.
How do I choose the right outcome?
It’s all about primary purpose and the results you expect to achieve.
If the primary purpose of your project is to create new art, choose Creation.
If the primary purpose of your project is to engage the public with art, choose Engagement.
If the primary purpose of your project is the acquisition of knowledge or skills in the arts by participants, choose Learning.
If the primary purpose of your project is to strengthen communities through the arts, choose Livability. Please contact staff if you are considering Livability as an outcome to make sure you are making the right choice. The requirements for Livability are different from -- and more extensive than -- the requirements for the other outcomes
Think about the primary purpose of your project and how it relates to the results you expect to achieve. Also look at the evidence of those results that you would need to provide if you receive a grant (you should look at the reporting requirements for each outcome to see what will be required). Choose the one outcome that you think is most relevant and indicate this in your application and on the application form (note that you also may select a secondary outcome).
Do these guidelines still emphasize the discipline of a project?
Yes. The Arts Endowment directs applicants to funding opportunities through the field or discipline of their project, such as Dance. This is intended to make it easy for applicants to apply and to underscore the importance of artistic fields and disciplines at the agency. Two categories (Art Works and Challenge America Fast-Track) are used to organize the Grants for Arts Projects opportunities that are available in each field or discipline.
If you see other categories listed for your discipline on the Web site, these are in addition to Grants for Arts Projects. The Funding Opportunities that appear in the introductory material for each discipline direct potential applicants not only to funding possibilities through Grants for Arts Projects (the primary route of support for most applicants), but to other Arts Endowment areas of interest as well.
How does the "discipline orientation" work?
First, choose the discipline or field of your project. If you're unclear about the discipline of your project, you may want to read the descriptions of several disciplines before you make a choice.
Let's say you have a design project. In that case you would look to the Design section of the Web site. Through that section you'll find a brief description of Design at the Arts Endowment and an overview of Funding Opportunities in Design. Under Grants for Arts Projects, you will find examples of the types of design projects that are supported under each of the two Grants for Arts Projects categories.
What is the area for Arts Education?
Arts Education is for pre-K-12 curriculum-based projects that align with national or state arts education standards. All projects must include the three educational components of “experience, create, and assess” as outlined in the guidelines. If you’ve been applying to Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth, you will most likely apply through Arts Education now. All other types of educational activities for individuals of all ages will go to the relevant discipline.
How do I choose between the School-Based and Community-Based application deadlines for Arts Education if my project involves activities both in and outside of schools? What about after-school programs?
The key to choosing between the School-Based and Community-Based deadlines is whether your arts learning project is directly connected to the school curriculum and instructional program. If it is, select School-Based. If it is not, select Community-Based. The location of the activity -- on the school property or in the community -- or the time of the day or year are not the determining factors.
Included in the School-Based area is curriculum-connected instruction, sometimes referred to as co-curricular activity, which occurs outside of the school building and school day. In fact, a co-curricular project in the arts may be more effective because it places students in the arts facilities of the community, thus providing them with an enhanced artistic environment for their learning.
When arts learning activities are not formally connected to the curriculum and instructional programs of pre-kindergarten through grade 12 schools, they should be submitted under the Community-Based area.
After-school programs can be something of a "gray" area. Depending on the arrangements between the individual school and/or local education agency (school district) and the organizations providing after-school programs, these projects may be co- or extracurricular in nature.
For a co-curricular project -- one that is formally connected to the school curriculum and instructional program -- select the School-Based deadline.
For an extracurricular project -- one without any formal connection to the school curriculum and instructional program -- select the Community-Based deadline. An example would be an arts organization that leases a school building for space but provides its own arts learning program after school.
If I have a single-discipline presenting project, do I submit my application under the Presenting area?
No. The Presenting area is for multidisciplinary projects only. If you have a single-discipline presenting project, submit your application to that particular discipline. There is one exception, however, for outdoor historical dramas; for more information see the description of project types accepted under the March 10, 2011, application deadline for Presenting.
Should I choose a discipline or Local Arts Agencies? Aren't all arts organizations "local arts agencies"?
The majority of arts organizations should choose a discipline. While you may be a local arts organization, you probably don't meet our definition of a Local Arts Agency.
For our purposes, local arts agencies generally are arts councils, departments of cultural affairs, or arts commissions. While the majority are private entities, others are public municipal, county, or regional agencies that operate in cooperation with mayors and city managers. Local arts agencies generally make grant awards directly to both artists and arts organizations, present programming to the public, manage cultural facilities, provide services to artists and arts organizations, and facilitate community cultural planning. Arts and business councils, audience alliances, and organizations such as lawyers for the arts also are included, but may only apply under the March 10 Art Works deadline for service activities developed in coordination with a local arts agency.
If you meet the definition of a local arts agency, you should submit your application through Local Arts Agencies regardless of the discipline of your project.
What are Fast-Track grants?
Fast-Track grants feature an expedited application review. As a result, applicants are notified of the decision on their request approximately six months after they apply -- several months faster than in other categories. Fast-Track grants are limited to specific types of projects and are offered only under the Challenge America Fast-Track category. There also is only one grant amount: $10,000.
MAY MY ORGANIZATION APPLY FOR A GRANT?/ELIGIBILITY
What kinds of organizations may apply?
Nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3), U.S. organizations; units of state or local government; or federally recognized tribal communities or tribes may apply. Applicants may be arts organizations, local arts agencies, arts service organizations, local education agencies (school districts), and other organizations that can help advance the goals of the Arts Endowment. In addition, an organization must have at least a three-year history of programming by the application deadline to be eligible.
Are there any new eligibility requirements?
Yes. You must have a DUNS number (www.dnb.com) and be registered with the Central Contractor Registration (CCR, www.ccr.gov) and maintain an active CCR registration until the application process is complete.
The federal government started requiring applicants and grantees to have DUNS numbers in 2003. Shortly thereafter, when Grants.gov was implemented and we began using the system in 2004, CCR registration was required in order for organizations to submit grant applications through Grants.gov.
Because we require applicants to use Grants.gov, the need for DUNS numbers and CCR registration isn’t new at the application submission stage. What’s new is that you’ll have to maintain the requirements throughout out the application process, and grantees will have to meet the requirements. The federal government’s Office of Management and Budget has directed agencies to not make awards to organizations if they do not have a DUNS number and if their CCR registration has expired.
My organization does not have its own nonprofit status. Can we apply through a fiscal agent?
No. An ineligible organization (i.e., one without its own nonprofit status) may not use a fiscal agent for the purpose of application. The NEA stopped accepting applications from fiscal agents in 2005.
If I don't have my own nonprofit status and I can't use a fiscal agent, is there any way that I can still be a part of a grant?
While you may not apply for and receive a grant on your own, you may participate in a project submitted by another organization that is eligible. Remember, however, that each eligible organization is able to submit only one application. Your project, or your participation in the applicant organization's project, would have to be of sufficient priority that the eligible organization would be willing to use its one application for that request.
Why can't individuals apply?
Congress has prohibited the Arts Endowment from making direct grants to individuals except for Literature Fellowships.
My organization has never received an Arts Endowment grant in the past. Should I consider applying?
Yes. New applicants are funded every year. Prior Arts Endowment support is not a review criterion. Eligible applications are evaluated on the basis of artistic excellence and artistic merit. Note, however, that federal grants management entails administrative responsibilities that some small budget organizations may find too taxing with their limited resources. If your organization has an operating budget of less than $50,000 or has never applied for public funds before, you might want to consider approaching local or state sources rather than the Arts Endowment.
Are only large organizations in major metropolitan areas really competitive?
Absolutely not. The Arts Endowment recognizes that the significance of a project can be measured by excellence and inventiveness, not solely by budget size, institutional stature, or the numbers of people or areas that are reached. In fact, the profile of grants for past funding years shows a diverse range of organizational size and longevity. (See our lists of grantees.) In addition, the Arts Endowment takes into consideration projects that can provide an unusual or especially valuable contribution because of geographic location or the potential to reach underserved populations.
How many applications can I submit?
An organization may submit only one application under Grants for Arts Projects. This application may be submitted under Art Works OR Challenge America Fast-Track.
There are some limited exceptions to this one-application rule:
An organization applying under Art Works may submit only one application unless: 1) it is a parent organization in which case additional applications are allowed for separately identifiable independent components, or 2) it also applies on behalf of a consortium. An organization that applies under Art Works may not submit a second application for a Challenge America Fast-Track grant.
An organization may submit only one application for a Challenge America Fast-Track grant unless it is a parent organization, in which case additional applications are allowed for separately identifiable independent components. (A city or county government may qualify as a parent organization.) Consortium applications are not accepted for Fast-Track grants. If an organization applies to the Challenge America Fast-Track category, it may not submit another application -- including a consortium application -- to the Art Works category. Nor may it serve as the primary consortium partner in a consortium application submitted by some other organization.
What is an independent component?
An independent component must be a unit that is both programmatically and administratively distinct from its parent organization, has its own staff and budget, and generally has an independent board that has substantial responsibility for oversight and management.
To qualify as independent, a component should be equivalent to a separate institution with a separate mission. For example, a university with an art museum wishes to submit one application on its own behalf and one on behalf of the art museum. The university serves a student population and grants degrees. The university trustees manage the university's budget, staff, and programming. The art museum serves the general public and mounts exhibitions. The museum board, not the university trustees, manages the museum's budget, staff, and programming. In this example, the art museum essentially is a stand-alone organization and qualifies as an independent component.
The following do not qualify as independent components:
Academic departments of colleges and universities.
Programs and projects of organizations. For example, we've found that many youth orchestras sponsored by symphony associations are actually programs, and not independent components.
You should consult with Arts Endowment staff to verify the eligibility of a component before preparing your application.
There's a note that indicates that I don't HAVE to apply as a consortium even if I'm requesting support for a collaborative or consortium project. Are you discouraging consortium applications?
No, we're discouraging extra work for applicants, and ultimately, grantees! The Arts Endowment definitely encourages collaborative projects and consortia.
If you are submitting only one application in a fiscal year, do not label it a "consortium" project, even if you have a partner or partners. However, if you submit a second application under the Grants for Arts Projects guidelines in that same fiscal year, that application must be for a valid collaborative project and must be labeled an official "consortium" project in order to be eligible. All official consortium applications must be for innovative projects. Additional application material is required for formal consortium applications.
If you are considering serving as the lead applicant for an official consortium application, we encourage you to consult with Arts Endowment staff before preparing the application.
My organization is working with three other groups on a consortium project. Why are you asking that I list only one?
Again, we are trying to simplify work for both applicants and Arts Endowment staff. Your consortium can include as many members as you wish. However, for the purposes of your application, you should designate only ONE (typically the organization other than your own that will have the greatest role in the project) as your official consortium partner. This one official partner must meet all of the Arts Endowment's eligibility requirements, must complete and submit the Consortium Partner Information form, and must submit those items that are required of consortium members in the "How to Prepare and Submit an Application" instructions. Any other groups that are participating in your project DO NOT have to submit any application material or meet the eligibility requirements. However, their roles in the project should be made clear in your project description.
If you receive a grant for a consortium project, you'll only have to report to us on your one official partner and not on all of the participating groups. See the General Terms & Conditions for more information (available in the Manage Your Award section).
Will my organization's own application be at a disadvantage if we also participate in a consortium application?
Participation in a consortium application -- as either the lead applicant or official partner member -- will not affect, either positively or negatively, consideration of an organization's own application. A consortium application will be evaluated on its own merits against the review criteria and in competition with other applications in the same funding category, possibly including an organization's own application.
Although my organization is not eligible under your guidelines, may we still participate in a consortium application?
Yes, your organization may participate in a consortium project. However, it may not act as either the lead applicant or the officially designated partner.
My organization is applying directly for a Challenge America Fast-Track grant. May we submit a second application for a consortium project?
No. Official consortium applications are not accepted for Fast-Track grants. The exception to the one-application rule for consortium applications is relevant only to the Art Works category. If you apply to the Challenge America Fast-Track category you may not submit a consortium application -- or any other application -- to the Art Works category. Nor may you serve as the primary consortium partner in a consortium application submitted by some other organization.
If you apply for a Fast-Track grant that is the one and only application that you are allowed.
If I apply to one of the Grants for Arts Projects categories may I also apply to the Arts on Radio and Television?
Yes, but be sure to read the eligibility sections of the Arts on Radio and Television guidelines and the Arts Endowment's Grants for Arts Projects guidelines to see what limitations are in effect.
Can I apply to one of the Grants for Arts Projects categories and one of the other Funding Opportunities listed for my discipline?
Restrictions vary depending on the particular Funding Opportunity in which you are interested. Read the eligibility section for the Funding Opportunity to see what limitations are in effect.
The "We Do Not Fund" section indicates that funding is not available for individual elementary or secondary schools directly. Do you mean only public schools, or does that include private and charter schools?
We do not fund directly any elementary or secondary schools -- charter, private, or public.
How can a school be part of an application?
A school may participate in a project for which another eligible organization applies. Local education agencies (school districts), community organizations, and state and regional education agencies are eligible applicants.
What if my organization is both a school and a school district?
If your school also is the local education agency (school district), as is the case with some charter schools, your school may apply as the school district. The school must submit documentation that supports its status as the local education agency with its application. In this case, the official applicant is the school district, and school districts always have been eligible.
The "We Do Not Fund" section says that subgranting is not allowed. What is subgranting?
Subgranting is defined as regranting funds to an individual or organization for activities that are conducted independently of your organization and for the benefit of the subgrantee’s own program objectives. A subgrantee is not directly employed by or affiliated with your organization.
Examples of subgranting include:
- Awards and prizes.
- Payment to an individual or organization to obtain technical assistance for their own benefit with little or no involvement from your organization. (Allowable technical assistance would include services that are offered or coordinated by your organization such as making your facilities available, conducting workshops or conferences, or providing hands-on assistance. These activities also should be monitored and evaluated by your organization.)
- Production funds awarded to an individual or organization through a competitive review process with little or no subsequent involvement from your organization.
Most organizations cannot apply to the Arts Endowment to subgrant federal funds to individuals or organizations. Congress has prohibited the Arts Endowment from making grants for subgranting activity, with exceptions only for state arts agencies, regional arts organizations, and local arts agencies designated to operate on behalf of local governments. Eligible local arts agencies must have a three-year history of subgranting in the arts in order to apply for a subgranting project.
My organization wants to apply for support of its apprenticeship program. How can I clarify in my application that my project does not include awarding subgrants even though my budget may include fees to individual artists?
The key to avoiding the appearance of subgranting is the involvement of your organization.
Many types of projects can and should include fees to individual artists. For example, a budget for an apprenticeship program might include fees paid to artists. These fees are not considered subgranting if your organization provides substantive supervision of and involvement in the mentor-apprentice relationship. This might include:
- Planning a detailed description of the individual master-apprentice course of study.
- Monitoring and evaluating the progress of the activity including conducting site visits.
- Documenting apprenticeship activities including reports from masters and apprentices.
- Arranging public exhibition or performance opportunities for masters and apprentices.
- Archiving material related to the apprenticeships and publicly distributing information about the apprenticeship program and its activities.
Note that simply “checking in” on the activity, including obtaining progress and final reports, does not qualify as substantive involvement in the project.
You can provide evidence of your organization's involvement with this activity through project-related information on your Web site, announcements and evaluations of public events, and archival documentation.
May I include international artists in my project?
Yes, as long as the costs related to their compensation and travel are in compliance with regulations issued by the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Asset Control (see http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/). If those costs are not in compliance, we can't fund them and they can't be included in your application budget.
There are two Art Works application deadlines. How does that work?
The types of projects eligible under each deadline vary. If you go to the Dance section of the guidelines, for example, you will see that certain types of dance projects are eligible under the March 10, 2011, deadline. Other types of dance projects are eligible under the August 11, 2011, deadline. We do this so that similar projects can be grouped together for application processing and review. Make sure that you apply under the deadline that is most appropriate to your particular project. Please note that there is only one deadline for projects submitted under Artist Communities: March 10.
CHALLENGE AMERICA FAST-TRACK
What is Challenge America?
Congress provides funding for Challenge America to make the arts more widely available in communities throughout the country.
In this category, the focus is on simple, straightforward local projects that involve experienced professional artists and arts professionals. All projects must extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations -- those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability. Projects generally are smaller in scale and shorter in duration than those in the Art Works category. They are often carried out by small or mid-sized organizations.
Funding is limited to the specific types of projects that are detailed in the guidelines. Included are arts events (e.g., festivals, exhibits, readings, performances, or screenings) that feature guest artists in community settings; the development of professionally directed public arts projects such as murals, sculptures, or environmental art; cultural district revitalization; cultural tourism; and design activities for new or existing cultural facilities or civic spaces. Each request must be for only one of these project types.
Subgranting and regranting activity are not eligible. Projects that involve curriculum-based arts instruction are not eligible in this category (see Arts Education in the Art Works category).
Why is this category called "Fast-Track"?
This category is characterized as "fast-track" because an expedited application review allows applicants to learn whether they have been recommended for a grant more quickly (in about six months) than in the Arts Endowment's other categories.
When you talk about supporting primarily small and mid-sized organizations, what do you mean?
This category only offers $10,000 grants, not the range of grants up to $100,000 as in Art Works. This grant size and the limited scope of the projects that are eligible for support make this category most appropriate for organizations with modest operating budgets. Large budget organizations are not excluded, but they tend to be more interested in Art Works.
Remember, you may apply for only one grant this year. Therefore, weigh your choice carefully. If you have a project that:
Extends the arts to underserved populations
Is local and can have a significant impact within your community
Fits within the specific types of projects supported in this category
then you should consider submitting your application to the Challenge America Fast-Track category.
You also should consider applying to this category if you have never applied to, or received a grant from, the Arts Endowment before.
Be sure to see the Eligibility requirements for all applicants and review the descriptions of recent Fast-Track grants. If you have questions about the appropriate category for your project, please contact a Challenge America Fast-Track specialist.
Why are Fast-Track grants limited to such specific projects?
In order to expedite the application review and because funds for Fast-Track grants are very limited, the Arts Endowment decided to concentrate funding in key areas where small grants have the potential to make significant impacts within communities.
Why are organizations limited to three Challenge America grants in a row?
To ensure that Challenge America Fast-Track funding reaches new organizations and their communities of underserved populations with limited access to the arts.
What are the details of the three-grants-in-a-row limitation? Can I apply to another category if I canít apply to Challenge America Fast-Track?
If you have received Challenge America Fast-Track grants for three years in a row (FY 2009, 2010, and 2011), you are not eligible to apply to the Fast-Track category for FY 2012 support. During FY 2012, you may apply to other Arts Endowment funding opportunities including Art Works. You are able to apply to the Challenge America Fast-Track category again in FY 2013.
Does my project have to be new? Does it have to be big?
Projects do not have to be new. Excellent existing projects can be just as competitive as new activities.
Projects do not need to be big either; the Arts Endowment welcomes small projects that can make a difference in their community or field.
Does my project have to be outside the scope of my regular programming?
No, a project can be a part of an applicant's regular season or activity. For example, a theater company's educational activities that occur year round could constitute an acceptable project. Other projects might be a workshop production of a work in progress or a charrette sponsored by a community design center. What is important is the specificity of the activities involved. Also, there can be no overlap with projects for which you are receiving other Arts Endowment or federal funds.
Why don't you fund general operating or seasonal support?
The shift away from general operating/seasonal support to project support occurred several years ago due to Congressional mandate. The Congress wanted a clear way for the agency to know exactly what it was funding, and directed the agency to make grants only for specific, definable activities -- not for general support.
I know that you don't provide seasonal support, but what if my organization only undertakes one project per year?
Some organizations only undertake one very specific, short-term project in the course of a year -- a ten-day jazz festival, for example. In this case, the whole festival (excluding any unallowable costs such as fund raising, entertainment, etc.) could be considered a project. Or an applicant may want to isolate certain components of that same festival, such as the presentation of a key artist and the associated activities. Just be specific about how the Arts Endowment and matching funds are going to be used. Your project budget should not equal your organization's total operating budget for the year.
How specific do I have to be about my project?
Be as specific as you can. Reviewers often have difficulty making positive recommendations without information on specific artists, productions, venues, distribution plans, etc.
If you apply under Art Works and you receive more current information after you've submitted your application, forward it to the specialist handling your application as soon as possible. Be sure to include your application number on any such submissions.
Due to the expedited application review for Fast-Track grants, we are unable to accept new and/or updated information after an application for a Challenge America grant is submitted.
How will my application be evaluated?
Congress specified in our authorizing legislation that "artistic excellence and artistic merit" are the criteria by which applications must be evaluated.
What do you mean by "artistic excellence and artistic merit"?
Artistic excellence refers to the quality of the art that is made or presented. Is it of a sufficient standard to deserve support in a national competition? Note that the Arts Endowment recognizes that there are various approaches to excellence among different cultures, media, styles, periods, etc., but that all have their standards.
We get many questions about "artistic merit." It is a term that the Congress included in our legislation as a basis for funding, or, in its absence, not funding applications. We interpret "artistic merit" to include a range of factors that go beyond the technical proficiency or standards of a work. Artistic merit might include, for example, the potential influences or effects of a project, the ability to carry out the project, the degree to which a project preserves an important cultural tradition, or the fact that a project reaches an artistically underserved community.
For more detailed information about how the artistic excellence and artistic merit of applications will be evaluated, see the "Review Criteria" for your category in the guidelines. Make sure you demonstrate how your project meets the review criteria in your application material.
Who will review my application?
Art Works applications are reviewed by advisory panels. Each panel is composed of a diverse group of arts experts and other individuals, including at least one knowledgeable layperson, with broad knowledge of the types of projects coming before it. Composition of the panels changes every year.
Panels are convened by field or discipline. For example, if you apply under Literature your application will be reviewed by an advisory panel that is made up predominantly of literature experts. Art Education panels include educators and others who work with children and youth as well as artists and other field/discipline experts. The panelists will look at the artistic quality and merit of the proposed arts learning experience.
After Art Works applications are reviewed by advisory panels, the panel recommendations are reconciled with available funds by the staff. These recommendations then go to the National Council on the Arts. After the Council meets, the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts reviews the Council's recommendations and makes the final decision on all grant awards.
Challenge America Fast-Track grants receive an expedited review. After review by staff and a diverse group of individuals with expertise and broad knowledge related to the specific types of projects under review, recommendations are reconciled with available funds and then go directly to the Chairman for final decision.
Do you ever transfer applications to a different panel?
Sometimes the Arts Endowment staff transfers an Art Works application to a field/discipline other than the one the applicant selected to ensure appropriate panel review. If this happens to your application, we will notify you and give you the opportunity to submit any additional work samples and/or other material that may be required. However, choose your field/discipline carefully as we cannot guarantee that an application will be transferred in all cases where this might be desirable. The Arts Endowment will not transfer applications between categories (e.g., from Art Works to Challenge America Fast-Track).
How much should I ask for?
For Art Works, you may request from $10,000 to $100,000. Be realistic about your request. Do not inflate your request "to give the Arts Endowment something to cut." Panelists review budgets carefully and are critical of overreaching or grantsmanship.
Take a look at the lists of recent grants to gain some idea of recent grant award levels and corresponding project types and sizes. In FY 2010, more than 68% of awards were for $25,000 or less.
For Fast-Track grants you don't have a choice about how much to request. Grants will be awarded for $10,000 or not at all.
Remember, all grants (including Fast-Track) must be matched at least dollar-for-dollar with nonfederal funds. For example, if you receive a $10,000 grant you must provide at least $10,000 toward the project from other sources and your total project costs must be at least $20,000.
See the "Grants.gov Tips"
Should I send my application package in the mail?
You must submit most of your application material electronically through Grants.gov. After this submission, you must send certain items, such as work samples, directly to the Arts Endowment.
However, the National Endowment for the Arts continues to experience delays and damage to support material (e.g., CDs, DVDs) in the delivery of First-Class and Priority mail through the United States Postal Service (USPS). We recommend that you use a commercial delivery service.
We also strongly recommend that you maintain on file proof of your on-time submission. Without proper documentation, the Arts Endowment will not accept application material that is delayed or lost in transit.
What can I do to make my project description easier for the Arts Endowment to review?
Follow the directions in the guidelines concerning both formatting and content. The instructions on formatting have been developed in response to requests by advisory reviewers. Condensed type, tightly fit on one page, is hard to read and review. Use at least 12-point type and try to leave as much white space as possible; even double space if you wish. Do not condense or reduce your type. As your space is limited, be careful not to repeat information, especially what you include in the "Project Description" section on the Federal Domestic Assistance/Short Organizational Form (SF-424). Do not feel obligated to fill all the space or use all of the pages available -- reviewers appreciate clear, concise narratives.
There are no magic words that you can use to describe your project and make sure you get a grant. Say clearly what you want to do, why you want to do it, and how you intend to do it. Check that you've addressed the information that is requested for the Details of the Project narrative and review your narrative against the "Review Criteria," as that is what the reviewers will do. Try to make sure that there are no unanswered questions about your project.
What if I need more pages than the limit listed in the guidelines for my application material?
Submit only the number of pages allowed. Excess pages will be removed and will not be reviewed.
How important are work samples?
Work samples are crucial for evaluating the artistic quality of your project.
They are required for all Grants for Arts Projects applications. Read carefully the application instructions for your discipline or field because each area asks for slightly different types of work samples, in terms of both content and acceptable formats.
Use your work samples to demonstrate the quality of the critical elements of the project described in your narrative. Panels often have difficulty making positive recommendations without work samples that communicate effectively the range and quality of the proposal. It's important for you to preview your work samples before submitting them to ensure that there are no technical problems that might interfere with the review of your work.
Samples and material should be recent, of high quality, and as relevant to the project as possible. For example, if you are applying for a project to complete a work, submit a sample of the work in progress if it's available. Likewise, if you're proposing a commissioning project or fee support for guest artists, submit a sample that provides an example of work by the artist involved in the project.
Arts Education applicants should choose work samples that demonstrate the quality of the proposed arts learning experience. Provide evidence of the quality of the organizations, artists, works of art, etc., involved in the project, as well as the interactions that will take place. If possible, choose work samples that show children and youth creating, performing, or otherwise engaged in or responding to the arts.
Will you accept a digital work sample?
Yes, we'll accept digital work samples. However, be mindful of the specifications of the sample, especially the format and size. The application instructions for your discipline may have suggestions for the preparation of your digital sample based on samples that have worked well in the past.
Please note that we no longer accept slides, audio cassettes, or VHS cassettes as work samples.
When will I be able to submit my work samples electronically?
The NEA anticipates that all work samples will be submitted electronically in 2012.
During 2011, Presenting applicants to the August Art Works deadline will be asked to help the Arts Endowment test a new system designed to enable applicants to upload their work samples electronically. The goal is to eliminate the need to mail application supporting materials after completing the Grants.gov application process. The new system will support a variety of work sample formats, including PDF (documents), JPG (images), MP3 (audio), and FLV and MP4 (video).
How much of my work sample will be seen or heard by the reviewers?
Generally three to five minutes of each sample are seen or heard. (Please be aware, however, that the entire sample that you submit -- not just the selected segment -- is considered part of the application package and may be reviewed.) Reviewers have only a few days to evaluate many applications. While they try to be generous with their attention, time is a constraint.
Work samples should be recent, as relevant to the project as possible, and should show your work to its best advantage. When planning your video or audio submission, cue it to the three to five minutes that you most want to be seen or heard. Generally, all visual images that are submitted are seen (but typically only for a few seconds apiece), and publications are made available for review at the panel meeting.
The Arts Endowment may copy or digitally convert your work samples to facilitate review. By submitting a work sample, you are giving the Arts Endowment permission for reproduction and dissemination for the purpose of review.
Should I include a work sample with my Musical Theater or Theater application to the Art Works category?
Yes. Musical Theater and Theater applicants to the Art Works category are required to submit a work sample to be reviewed by panelists.
Several union (e.g., Actors Equity Association) contracts allow for producers and presenters to submit work samples for the purpose of fund raising. Some contracts require that permission be obtained prior to producing and submitting samples of work (video, audio, digital images, etc.). Please note that this information does not substitute for legal advice. Organizations should contact their union representatives with questions and to request permission for the production of work samples.
Should I include a work sample with my Challenge America Fast-Track application?
Yes. A work sample is required for all Fast-Track grant applicants including those in Musical Theater and Theater. Be sure to read carefully the requirements for Fast-Track grant work samples, as any sample submitted in this category must meet certain specifications.
What about evidence of commitment to the project by collaborating organizations and individuals -- do the reviewers really care about these?
FFor certain fields/disciplines and types of projects, absolutely. The application instructions for your field/discipline will let you know if evidence of commitment is required for your particular type of project. If it is, don't send general statements of support for your organization. Rather, send statements that demonstrate that the collaborating organizations and individuals are committed to the specific project.
Will you contact me if my application is missing anything?
No. Because of the volume of applications, the Arts Endowment has a strict approach to incomplete applications. For your application to be considered complete, every item that is required MUST be included in your application package, which must be submitted no later than the application deadline date under which you are applying. Arts Endowment staff will not contact applicants to request missing material, and incomplete applications will be returned to you. Please don't let that happen. Use the "What makes a complete application" section for your category to make sure that you have included every item. Have the completeness and accuracy of your application package double-checked by a responsible staff member who understands the importance of this task. Allow at least six weeks to prepare your application, the work samples, and other supplementary information. And do not wait until the day of the deadline to submit!
If my application is returned because it is incomplete, may I add the missing item(s) and resubmit the application?
No. The Arts Endowment staff has to check thousands of applications. By the time that an application is identified as incomplete and returned to the applicant, it will likely be several weeks after the application deadline. An organization cannot add missing items and resubmit the application after the application deadline. We encourage you to double-check your application package against the "What makes a complete application" section to make sure that nothing is missing.
For Art Works, if new or updated information that significantly affects your application (including changes in artists) becomes available after the deadline, you may send it to the specialist handling your application.
Due to the expedited application review for Challenge America Fast-Track grants, we are unable to accept any new or updated information after the application deadline.
What are some of the most frequently missed items in the application package?
Remember that a complete application includes ALL of the items in the "How to Prepare and Submit an Application" section for your category, not just the application forms. Make certain that all items required for the Attachments Form are, in fact, attached. If your application package is incomplete, it will be returned to you.
What are some of the most common mistakes on the Project Budget form?
Make sure the items in your budget correspond with the project that you describe in your application. Review your Project Budget form against your narrative and look for any inconsistencies or budget items that don't relate to the narrative. For example, if you propose an artist residency project, panelists will look for items such as fees for artists and the supplies and material that they might need. An omission of these types of items may make the panel question the nature of your request and whether the project has been described accurately in the narrative.
Your Project Budget should reflect only those costs that you will incur during the "Period of Support" that you indicate on the Federal Domestic Assistance/Short Organizational Form (SF-424). Do not include any costs that you incur before or after those dates; they will be removed. However, we understand that you may want to show a more complete picture of your project's budget than is allowed on the form, so we will accept copies of your own project budget. If you choose to submit your own budget, just make sure that you also submit the official Project Budget form with only those costs that are associated with your requested "Period of Support."
Many mistakes concern indirect cost rates and donated space, supplies, and volunteer services (also known as in-kind contributions). See the questions below for further explanation of these items.
My organization paid an artist retainer prior to our project period start date. The artist is integral to the funded project. Can that expense be included on the Project Budget form?
No. Many organizations contract artists well in advance of the period of support in order to ensure availability. However, all pre-award costs are unallowable and they cannot be included in your application budget.
What is an indirect cost rate, and do I need one?
In addition to the direct costs that may be assigned readily to a given project, there may be other costs that are not so easily designated because they benefit more than one project or activity. Such common or joint costs usually are referred to as indirect costs, or overhead. Examples of indirect costs might include rent, utilities, etc.
The federal government has developed a method for determining each project's fair share of an organization's indirect costs. This method is based on an indirect cost rate (ICR), which first must be established by agreement between an organization and a federal agency. The organization must initiate the negotiation for an ICR. Generally, the agency that provides the preponderance of the organization's federal funding is responsible for negotiating the ICR. Once an organization has an ICR from one federal agency, that ICR may be used when applying for a grant from any other federal agency. The ICR agreements are valid for a fixed period only and usually must be renegotiated annually.
You do not need an ICR to apply for or to receive an Arts Endowment grant. You may claim administrative costs or overhead as direct costs under "3. Other expenses" on the Project Budget form. (This assumes that there is a basis for justifying the costs as direct costs.) If you are considering establishing an ICR, you should assess the benefit that you expect to realize against the costs that you are likely to incur in preparing an ICR proposal each year. (Your auditor is a good source of advice.) ICR proposals must be accompanied by considerable supporting financial detail, e.g., audited financial statements, schedules of salaries, listings of current grants, and an analysis of your organization's physical facilities by square footage.
To help organizations avoid the costs of preparing ICR proposals for grant applications that might not result in awards, the Arts Endowment will accept applications that show estimated amounts for indirect costs. In the event that the application is funded and an estimated amount for indirect costs is included in the approved project budget, the organization is then required to negotiate an ICR agreement. An organization which previously has not established an indirect cost rate with a federal agency must submit its initial indirect cost proposal immediately after it is advised that an award will be made, and no later than three months after the effective date of the award.
Additional information can be found in the Indirect Cost Guide For NEA Grantees.
Can we claim indirect costs on a consortium application?
Only if the lead applicant already has an indirect cost rate agreement negotiated with the federal government. That rate can be applied to costs incurred by the lead applicant ONLY. Lead applicant expenses must be broken out and clearly identified on the Project Budget form. You may not claim indirect costs incurred by other consortium members or apply the lead applicant's rate to those expenses.
What are in-kind contributions? Is there a "cap" or percentage limit for in-kind contributions as matching funds?
We've clarified the term "in-kind contributions" by saying "Donated space, supplies, volunteer services." In-kind contributions are goods and services that are donated to the project by individuals or organizations other than the applicant. To qualify as matching resources, these items also must be listed in the project budget as direct costs. The dollar value of these non-cash donations should be calculated at their verifiable fair-market value.
There is no formula for how much of the required match can be in-kind. However, reviewers tend to look very carefully at any project with a budget that shows a match that is largely in-kind; generally some cash match is preferred. In all cases, matching funds are evaluated in the context of the project. (In-kind costs should only be used to meet the matching requirements of the grant.)
Many applicants mistakenly designate as in-kind contributions items that are actually cash contributions. For example, applicants often list their own contributions to the project (such as supplies, rent, and staff salaries) as in-kind. Generally, these items are considered cash donations. They do not qualify as in-kind because they are being "contributed" by the applicant, and not a third party. For an applicant's staff salary on a project to qualify as in-kind, an employee would have to donate his or her time beyond the regularly compensated work schedule.
Remember, if you use donated space, supplies, and/or volunteer services (i.e., in-kind contributions) as part of your match, you need to maintain proper documentation. For help in doing this, see our sample format for recording in-kind (third party) contributions.
On the NEA Organization & Project Profile form, I'm asked to provide figures under Individuals Benefiting -- what's your best guidance?
Provide actual figures, or reasonable estimates, only for the items that are relevant to your project. Your figures should encompass only those activities and individuals directly affected by or involved in your project. We don't want you to inflate or make up unrealistic numbers, so leave blank any items for which you don't have actual figures or reasonable estimates. If you receive a grant, you'll be asked to update the information.
Should I send in new or updated information before I'm notified whether I have received an award?
For Art Works, you should submit new or updated material at any time if it significantly affects your application. Forward it to the specialist handling your application as soon as possible. Be sure to include your application number on any such material.
Due to the expedited application review for Challenge America Fast-Track grants, we are unable to accept any new or updated information after the application deadline.
What is the Assurance of Compliance?
All applicants and grantees of Arts Endowment funds are required to be in compliance with the laws and regulations that govern nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs. By signing the application form, the applicant certifies that it is in compliance with those statutes. Specific information on those statutes can be found at http://www.arts.gov/about/Civil.html.
Can I get a sample application?
Yes. Please see the Freedom of Information Act Guide for information on what is available as sample application material and how to request it.
When will I be notified about my application?
The "Earliest Announcement of Grant Award or Rejection" date for your category on the Application Calendar tells you when we expect to announce grant decisions.
Note that "announcement" is likely to be an informal congratulatory note from the Deputy Chairman for Programs & Partnerships coupled with a request for any necessary project revisions, or a rejection letter. Official grant award notification, which is the only legal and valid confirmation of award, can take several months to reach you depending on a number of things, such as whether a revised budget is needed for your project, the number of awards to be processed, whether we have our appropriation from Congress, etc. You should not make any financial or legal commitments relating to the Arts Endowment's support until you receive the official notification that includes a grant letter signed by the Arts Endowment Chairman.
How soon after the "Earliest Beginning Date for Arts Endowment Period of Support" for my deadline does my project have to begin?
The Arts Endowment's support can start any time on or after that date.
Can my project start before this date?
No project activities for which you're requesting support can take place before this date. Plan your project so that it does not need an earlier starting date; or ask the Arts Endowment to assist a portion of your project that will take place after the "Earliest Beginning Date for Arts Endowment Period of Support." If project costs that are incurred before the "Earliest Beginning Date for Arts Endowment Period of Support" are included in your Project Budget, they will be removed.
How long can my project last? May I apply for another project during this period?
The Arts Endowment generally allows a period of support of up to two years. Many applicants request a grant period somewhere between 12 and 24 months. Ask for the amount of time that you think is necessary. The two-year period is intended to allow an applicant sufficient time to plan, execute, and close out its project, not to repeat a one-year project for a second year.
Challenge America Fast-Track grants generally are smaller in scope and shorter in duration than other projects. It is anticipated that most projects -- including planning and close-out time -- will be substantially shorter.
If you get close to the end of your grant period and think you need more time, you may request an extension, but approval is not guaranteed.
As long as it meets all other eligibility requirements, an organization may apply for another project (with totally different project costs) the following year even if an Arts Endowment-supported project is still underway. Note that if you do receive an extension on a previous year's project, it may affect your grant period for your new proposed project.
If my application is funded, what do I have to do? How soon can I get my money?
If you applied under Art Works, you may be contacted first for revisions. Applicants whose grants are recommended at less than the amount that is requested may be asked to revise the project budget. Also, the Arts Endowment reserves the right to support a particular portion(s) or cost(s) of the project that is described in the application.
If you applied for a Challenge America Fast-Track grant, you will receive a preliminary letter of notification.
Later, you will receive an official grant award notification with information about legal and reporting requirements and managing your award. Remember, official grant notification can take several months to reach you depending on a number of things, such as approval and processing of revisions, whether we have our appropriation from Congress, etc.
Instructions and forms for managing an award, including those for requesting grant funds and our General Terms & Conditions, can be found in the
Manage Your Award section. After you properly complete and submit your request, the grant funds will be electronically transferred to your bank account, generally within 30 days of the receipt of your request.
If my application is rejected, can I find out why?
After notification, applicants who have questions may contact the Arts Endowment staff responsible for handling their application. Any applicant whose request has not been recommended may ask for an explanation of the basis for denial. In such instances, the Arts Endowment must be contacted no later than 30 days after the official notification.
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