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Challenge America

Grants to USA Nonprofits, Tribes, and Agencies
for Arts Activities in Underserved Communities

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National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

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Deadline Date:

04/03/18 Recommended SF-424 Submission; Final applications are due 04/12/18 11:59 PM ET


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Grants of $10,000 to USA nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and tribes to increase the availability of arts opportunities for underserved populations. Applicants are advised to verify or create the required registrations by March 21. Applications are invited for projects that promote public engagement with various forms of art.

Grant Program Description:

The Challenge America category offers support primarily to small and mid-sized organizations for projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations -- those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability. Age alone (e.g., youth, seniors) does not qualify a group as underserved; at least one of the underserved characteristics noted above also must be present. Please provide details about the underserved audience you select in your application. Grants are available for professional arts programming and for projects that emphasize the potential of the arts in community development.

This category encourages and supports the following objective:
-Engagement: Public engagement with, and access to, various forms of excellent art across the nation.

Challenge America Grants:
-Extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations.
-Are limited to the specific types of projects outlined below.

Partnerships can be valuable to the success of these projects. While not required, applicants are encouraged to consider partnerships among organizations, both in and outside of the arts, as an appropriate way to engage with the identified underserved audience.


This category supports focused, distinct projects that take place over limited periods of time and involve limited geographic areas. Such projects generally are smaller in scale and shorter in duration than those in the Art Works category.

All projects must extend the reach of the arts to populations that have limited access to the arts due to geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability. The involvement of experienced artists and arts professionals is essential. Each applicant must present a straightforward project that reflects only one of the three project types below. Grants are available only for:

Guess Artist Project Types:

Guest Artist project type, which refers to an arts event or events that will feature one or more guest artists. The guest artist is engaged specifically for the proposed project, and is not considered a resident artist, regular company member, or individual currently serving on the artistic staff of the applicant organization.

Guest artist(s) should reflect the artistic disciplines of the National Endowment for the Arts, which may include musicians, composers, conductors, actors, directors, dancers, choreographers, curators, visual artists, writers, or media artists. The intention of the Guest Artist project type is to provide National Endowment for the Arts support to the applicant organization and its community to engage with an artist(s) and present a public event that might otherwise not be accessible to audiences that have historically been underserved.

Allowable guest artist event activities are broad, and may include a festival; exhibition; literary reading; musical, theatrical, or multi-media performance; media screening; broadcast; or lecture. The event(s) may take place in an arts venue or a non-traditional arts venue, but it must be in a location that is accessible to the public. In addition to guest artist fees, there can be a range of other costs associated with the project, including supplies, venue costs, public relations, professional documentation of the project, and program enhancements specific to this grant project. Examples of program enhancements include interpretive material, transportation, program accommodations (e.g., sign language interpretation, audio description, Braille, tactile exhibit tours), catalogues, brochures, or publications. Other enhancements such as specific lecture-demonstrations, pre- or post-event talks, or workshops relevant to the proposed arts event are also eligible. The guest artist’s role in the required, culminating public event should be clearly described within the application narrative, including the schedule of activities.

NOTE: Projects that involve K-12 standards-based arts instruction are not eligible. (See Arts Education in the Art Works category.) Other classes and workshops are eligible expenses but must culminate in a public event with involvement by the participating guest artist.

Cultural Tourism:

Cultural Tourism, specifically the unified promotion of community-wide arts activities and/or the development of cultural tourism products to enhance public engagement with arts and culture in communities and in cultural districts (including the marketing and promotion of arts and culture to populations that have been historically underserved). NOTE: Promotional projects for a single organization are not eligible. Unified promotion is defined as the professional assessment, design, and/or distribution of public relations and marketing tools (calendars, websites, radio and television, brochures, rack cards, signage, etc.) designed to benefit several local organizations in a community.

Public Art Projects:

Public Art Projects, community-based and professionally directed. Although many kinds of arts projects take place in the public realm, for the Challenge America category, the Public Art project type is intended to support primarily visual arts projects, which may be temporary or permanent, such as murals, sculptures, multi-media, or environmental art, developed through a meaningful community engagement process. Evidence of community involvement should be apparent in the planning, design, or fabrication of the work, and should include a professional lead artist. Please see “Public Art Resources” for additional information.
NOTE: The following are not eligible for support: Conservation, restoration, or repair of existing public art; or the development of a public art master plan. These activities may be supported in the Art Works category.

National Environmental Policy Act and/or the National Historic Preservation Act Review:

If you are recommended for a grant, your project may be subject to the National Environmental Policy Act  (NEPA) and/or the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the National Endowment for the Arts will conduct a review of your project to ensure that it is in compliance with NEPA/NHPA.
Some of the common project types that garner a NHPA review are:

-A project involving or occurring near a district, site, building, landscape, structure or object that is at least 50 years old or older and therefore included in or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (please note that in some instances, buildings or structures may be included in or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places that are less than 50 years old).
-The commissioning and installation of temporary or permanent outdoor furnishings such as benches or market structures or art such as a sculpture or mural.
-An arts festival in a park.
-Design planning and services for projects that may involve a historic site, structure, or district.

This review and approval process may take up to several months to complete and may delay your project's start date. The results of the review may impact NEA’s ability to make a grant award/our ability to release grant funds.

Note: Federal regulations require that all NEA-funded projects be accessible to people with disabilities. Funded activities must be held in an accessible venue and program access and effective communication must be provided for participants and audience members with disabilities. If your project is recommended for funding, you will be asked to provide information describing how you will make your project physically and programmatically accessible to people with disabilities.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 178794

Estimated Size of Grant:

All grants are for $10,000.

Term of Contract:

The earliest beginning date for the period of performance is January 1, 2019.

Grants awarded under these guidelines generally may cover a period of performance of up to two years. 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 grants generally are smaller in scope and shorter in duration than other projects supported under other NEA categories. It is anticipated that most projects -- including planning and close-out time -- will be substantially shorter.

Any planning costs that are included as part of the project must be incurred during the established period of performance. No pre-award costs are allowable in the Project Budget. Project costs that are incurred before the "Earliest Beginning Date for National Endowment for the Arts Period of Performance" will be removed from the Project Budget.


  • City or township governments
  • County governments
  • Independent school districts
  • Native American tribal governments (Federally recognized)
  • Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education
  • Private institutions of higher education
  • Public and State controlled institutions of higher education
  • See RFP and/or Grant Guidelines for full eligibility
  • Special district governments
  • State governments

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Applicant Eligibility:

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 National Endowment for the Arts.

To be eligible, the applicant organization must: 
-Meet the National Endowment for the Arts’ "Legal Requirements" including nonprofit, tax-exempt status at the time of application. (All organizations must apply directly on their own behalf. Applications through a fiscal agent are not allowed. See more information on fiscal sponsors.)
-Have a three-year history of arts programming prior to the application deadline.
-Have submitted acceptable Final Report packages by the due date(s) for all National Endowment for the Arts grant(s) previously received.

An organization whose primary purpose is to channel resources (financial, human, or other) to an affiliated organization is not eligible to apply if the affiliated organization submits its own application. This prohibition applies even if each organization has its own 501(c)(3) status. For example, the "Friends of ABC Museum" may not apply if the ABC Museum applies.

All applicants must have a DUNS number ( and be registered with the System for Award Management (SAM, and maintain an active SAM registration until the application process is complete, and should a grant be made, throughout the life of the award. 

The designated state and jurisdictional arts agencies (SAAs) and their regional arts organizations (RAOs) are not eligible to apply under the Challenge America guidelines. SAAs and RAOs may serve as partners in projects. However, they may not receive NEA funds (except as provided through their designated grant programs), and SAA/RAO costs may not be included as part of the required match. SAAs and RAOs are eligible to apply through the Partnership Agreements guidelines.

Ineligible applications will not be reviewed.

Native American, Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian Applicants or Projects:

NEA provides support for projects featuring Native American, Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian arts across all NEA disciplines.

Application Limits:

If an organization applies to the Challenge America category, it may not submit another application to the Art Works category.

You may apply to other National Endowment for the Arts funding opportunities, including Our Town, in addition to Challenge America. In each case, the request must be for a distinctly different project or a distinctly different phase of the same project, with a different period of performance and costs.

An organization that has received Challenge America grants in FY 2016, 2017, and 2018 may not apply for a Challenge America grant under these FY 2019 guidelines. That organization may apply for FY 2019 support under other National Endowment for the Arts funding opportunities including Art Works.

For this category, exceptions to the one-application rule are made only for parent organizations that have separately identifiable and independent components; this includes city or county governments.

A parent organization that comprises separately identifiable and independent components (e.g., a university campus that has a presenting organization and a radio station) may submit an application for each such component. In addition, a parent organization also may submit one application on its own behalf for a distinctly different project. The parent organization must meet the eligibility requirements for all applicants. NOTE: A related organization that performs grant administration duties for a parent organization (e.g., a college foundation that administers grants awarded to a college and its components) may submit applications for components and the parent organization in lieu of such applications being submitted by the parent. The related organization must meet the eligibility requirements for all applicants.

An independent component must be a unit that is both programmatically and administratively distinct from the parent organization, have its own staff and budget, and generally have an independent board that has substantial responsibility for oversight and management. To qualify as independent, a component should be equivalent to a stand-alone institution with a separate mission.

The following do not qualify as independent components:
-Academic departments of colleges and universities.
-Programs and projects of organizations.

For example:
-An art museum on a university campus serves the general public and does not grant degrees. 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.
-A symphony association sponsors a youth orchestra in addition to its professional orchestra. Some symphony musicians serve as faculty for the youth orchestra; there is some overlap of membership between the symphony trustees and the youth orchestra's advisory board; and the executive director for the symphony association serves as CEO for both the professional and youth orchestras. In this case, while the youth orchestra may be an important program of the symphony association, it is not equivalent to a separate institution and therefore does not qualify as an independent component.

A parent organization should consult with our staff to verify the eligibility of its component before preparing an application.

To ensure that Challenge America funding reaches new organizations and communities, the National Endowment for the Arts has implemented a policy to limit consecutive-year funding.

Starting with grants that were awarded in FY 2013 (as indicated by a grant letter dated on or after October 1, 2012, and a grant number beginning with "13 - 78"), an organization that receives Challenge America grants for three years in a row is not eligible to apply to the category for the following one-year period. Therefore, an organization that has received grants in FY 2016, 2017, and 2018 may not apply under these FY 2019 guidelines. That organization may apply for FY 2019 support under other National Endowment for the Arts funding opportunities including Art Works. 

Under these guidelines, funding is not available for:
-Direct grants to individuals. (NEA encourages applicant organizations to involve individual artists in all possible ways.)
-Awards to individuals or organizations to honor or recognize achievement.
-General operating or seasonal support.
-Cash reserves and endowments.
-Costs for the creation of new organizations.
-Construction, purchase, or renovation of facilities. (Design fees, preparing space for an exhibit, installation or de-installation of art, and community planning are eligible. However, no National Endowment for the Arts or matching funds may be directed to the costs of physical construction or renovation or toward the purchase costs of facilities or land.)
-Commercial (for-profit) enterprises or activities, including concessions, food, T-shirts, or other items for resale.
-Subgranting or regranting, except for state arts agencies, regional arts organizations, or local arts agencies that are designated to operate on behalf of their local governments or are operating units of city or county government. (See more information on subgranting.)
-Costs to bring a project into compliance with federal grant requirements. This includes environmental or historical assessments or reviews and the hiring of individuals to write assessments or reviews or to otherwise comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and/or the National Historic Preservation Act.
-Individual elementary or secondary schools -- charter, private, or public -- directly. Schools may participate as partners in projects for which another eligible organization applies. Local education agencies, school districts, and state and regional education agencies are eligible. If a single school also is a local education agency, as is the case with some charter schools, the school may apply with documentation that supports its status as a local education agency.
-Projects that replace arts instruction provided by an arts specialist.
-Generally, courses in degree-granting institutions.
-Literary publishing that does not focus on contemporary literature and/or writers.
-Generally, publication of books, exhibition of works, or other projects by the applicant organization's board members, faculty, or trustees.
-Exhibitions of, and other projects that primarily involve, single, individually-owned, private collections.
-Projects for which the selection of artists or art works is based upon criteria other than artistic excellence and merit. Examples include festivals, exhibitions, or publications for which no jury/editorial judgment has been applied.
-Expenditures related to compensation to foreign nationals and/or travel to or from foreign countries when those expenditures are not in compliance with regulations issued by the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control. For further information,
-Project costs supported by any other federal funding. This includes federal funding received either directly from a federal agency (e.g., National Endowment for the Humanities, Housing and Urban Development, National Science Foundation, or an entity that receives federal appropriations such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or Amtrak); or indirectly from a pass-through organization such as a state arts agency, regional arts organization, or a grant made to another entity.
-Activities that occur over an extended period (e.g., projects that span a full season, long-term residencies, most large-scale projects).
-Competitions other than design competitions.
-Projects that involve curriculum-based instruction in the arts.
-Subgranting or regranting.
-The same organization (parent or component) for more than three consecutive years, even if for different projects.
-Social activities such as receptions, parties, galas.
-Alcoholic beverages.
-Contributions and donations to other entities.
-Gifts and prizes, including cash prizes as well as other items (e.g., iPads, gift certificates) with monetary value.
-General miscellaneous or contingency costs.
-Fines and penalties, bad debt costs, deficit reduction.
-Marketing expenses that are not directly related to the project.
-Audit costs that are not directly related to a single audit (formerly known as an A-133 audit).
-Rental costs for home office workspace owned by individuals or entities affiliated with the applicant organization.
-Visa costs paid to the U.S. government.
-Costs incurred before the beginning or after the completion of the official period of performance.

Pre-proposal Conference:

The Challenge America Guidelines Webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 15:00.

National Endowment for the Arts staff will conduct a one-hour guidelines workshop for potential Challenge America applicants. A presentation will be followed by a Q&A session.

Registration information will be available at a later date.

More information about the February 28 webinar may be found here:

On January 24, 2018, National Endowment for the Arts staff conducted a guidelines workshop webinar for previous Challenge America applicants who are interested in applying to the Art Works category instead of Challenge America. An overview presentation was followed by a Q&A session.

View a recording of the January 24 webinar here:

Pre-Application Information:

Grants cannot exceed 50% of the total cost of the project. All grants require a nonfederal match of at least 1 to 1. For example, if an organization receives a $10,000 grant, the total eligible project costs must be at least $20,000 and the organization must provide at least $10,000 toward the project from nonfederal sources.

Application Calendar:
-Part 1 - Submit SF-424 to April 12, 2018
-Part 2 - Submit Materials to Applicant Portal: April 17-24, 2018
-Earliest Announcement of Grant Award or Rejection: December 2018
-Earliest Beginning Date for National Endowment for the Arts Period of Performance: January 1, 2019

Note: To allow time to resolve any problems you might encounter, NEA strongly recommends that you register/renew your registration by at least March 21, 2018 and submit the SF-424 to by at least April 3, 2018.

Funding Restrictions:

Application Calendar:

Applicant Eligibility:

Award Information:

Application Review:

Award Administration:

How to Prepare and Submit an Application:


NEA Online Tutorial:

Sample Application Narratives:

View this opportunity on

Contact Information:

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

Challenge America Specialists:

National Endowment for the Arts
400 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20506

CFDA Number:


Funding or Pin Number:


URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming