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Open Grant Program and Discretionary Grant Program

Grants to Virginia Nonprofits for Public
Programs that Benefit Local Communities

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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Virginia Humanities

Deadline Date:

10/23/20 5:00 PM Open Grants deadline; Discretionary Grant applications are accepted at any time.


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Grants of up to $20,000 and grants of up to $3,000 to Virginia nonprofit organizations for programs that benefit local communities. Interested applicants should contact Foundation staff prior to applying. Funding is intended to support projects and programming covering a wide range of humanities subjects that address important issues and enrich the cultural life of the state.

Since 1974, Virginia Humanities has awarded more than 3,500 grants, bringing scholars and citizens together to promote a greater understanding of the humanities. Virginia Humanities accepts proposals from nonprofit organizations seeking funding to develop public humanities programs for audiences in Virginia. 

Two kinds of grants are offered, each with its own goals and requirements:

  • The Open Grant Program is open to proposals on a wide range of subjects, for projects in any format consistent with current guidelines. 
  • The Discretionary Grant Program allows for smaller grants to be made at any time during the year. These grants may be used to plan larger projects, or to carry out programs where only a modest amount of funding is required.

While the grant program is designed to remain as open as possible to new ideas and initiatives, Virginia Humanities funding priorities are:

  • Books, reading, and literacy
  • Rights and responsibilities
  • Media and culture
  • Violence and community
  • Science, technology, and society
  • Virginia history

Other specific areas of long-term interest and commitment for Virginia Humanities and its grant programs include:

  • Teacher education programs (especially those related to Virginia’s Standards of Learning)
  • African American history and culture
  • Virginia Indian history and culture(s)
  • Cultures and communities in Virginia
  • Virginia’s folklife and traditional culture(s)
  • Local and regional history

The humanities emphasize analysis, interpretation, and exchange of ideas rather than the creative expression of the arts or the quantitative explanation of the sciences. The goals of the Virginia Humanities grant program are:

  • To encourage the development of high-quality educational programs based in the humanities
  • To create and support accessible programs that reach the broadest possible audience in Virginia
  • To support the work of humanities institutions and of local community organizations working within the humanities
  • To explore the stories that define Virginia and its people  

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 125447

Estimated Size of Grant:

- Open Grants: Beginning immediately, the limit on requests is increased to $20,000; but special requirements will be placed on requests greater than $10,000. Please contact Virginia Humanities grant staff for further information.

- Discretionary Grants: Beginning July 1, 2020, the limit on these grants will increase to $5,000. The current limit of $3,000 remains in effect until then.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Any incorporated non-profit organization in Virginia is eligible to apply. Incorporated non-profit organizations based outside of Virginia are also eligible if their project deals with a subject or subjects directly related to Virginia and a significant audience within the state is anticipated.

A nonprofit organization does not have to have 501(c)3 status to apply; however, it must be an incorporated nonprofit.

Individuals may not apply.

Virginia Humanities Grants may not be used to support the following:

- Advocacy or political action programs that promote a particular solution or point of view
- Creative or performing arts, unless they are used in a supporting role to enhance discussion of issues
-Research or writing unless these are integral to programs having a direct public audience
- Projects whose primary audience is children or youth
- Subvention of publications
- Courses for credit, except those designed especially for teachers
- Acquisition of equipment
- Building construction, restoration, or preservation
- Refreshments or entertainment
- Meals, other than necessary travel expenses for program personnel
- International travel
- Indirect costs
- Expenses incurred or paid out before a Virginia Humanities grant award is made

Pre-Application Information:

Deadlines for Open Grants and Discretionary Grants are as follows:

Letters of intent begin the application process on March 1 or September 1 (extended to September 15 for 2020 applications) and are required before approval to advance to full application stage (April 15 or October 15). Letters will be used to assess eligibility and enable Virginia Humanities staff to provide more timely advice to prospective applicants

1. Open Grants:

- Deadline April 15th; drafts by April 5; decisions in early June.
- Deadline October 15th; drafts by Oct. 5; decisions in early December. (Extended to October 23 for 2020 applications)

2. Discretionary Grant Program: There is no deadline for this program; applications are accepted at any time. Funding decisions are normally made within four weeks following the Foundation's receipt of the proposal.

The Grants Program at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities uses an online application process for both Open and Discretionary Grants but requests a single paper copy, printed and including original signatures, mailed to the funding source at the time of submission. This applies to Open and Discretionary grants.

For online submissions, the funding source closes the application window at 5 p.m. on the deadline day. The required matching printed version of the electronic application (one copy) must be postmarked no later than 48 hours after the deadline (Open Grants).

Normally applicants will be notified of funding decisions within ten (10) days following any action taken by the Board. Inquiries about the status of proposals during the review period are strongly discouraged.

Applicants should contact Virginia Humanities Grants staff in advance of submitting Discretionary or Open Grant proposals. Draft proposals are strongly encouraged for all applications.

The participation of all speakers, advisors, consultants and other project personnel should be confirmed by the time the proposal is submitted.

Staff is available to advise prospective applicants at any stage of the process.

All grants must be matched with at least an equal amount of Cost Share, which can be in the form
of cash or in-kind contributions from non-Federal sources.

The Foundation recommends that drafts be submitted at least three weeks prior to the deadline to allow time for a thorough staff review.

Application process:


What the Foundation funds:

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Online application portal:

For additional information, and to contact staff prior to submitting a proposal, please contact or (434) 924-3296.

Virginia Humanities
145 Ednam Drive
Charlottesville, VA 22903

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Virginia

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