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NEA Big Read

Grants and In-Kind Support to USA Community Reading Programs
for Events that Promote Books and Community Engagement

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Arts Midwest

Deadline Date:



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Grants ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 and in-kind support to USA and territories community reading programs to host events that promote books and community engagement. Funding is intended for events that use a book to encourage participants to engage with reading material and with fellow community members. Selected organizations also receive access to online training resources and opportunities, digital resources, and promotional materials designed to support widespread community involvement.

Each NEA Big Read program includes a kick-off event, often attended by high-profile leaders and other local luminaries; major events inspired by the content and themes from the book (e.g., panel discussions and author readings); artistic events related to the book (e.g., art/writing contests, film screenings, and theatrical performances); and book discussions in diverse locations involving a wide range of audiences.

Funding may support supplies, artistic fees, speaker fees, project overhead costs, promotional fees, salaries, venue rental fees, travel costs, book purchases, and other expenses directly related and necessary to conduct a community-wide multidisciplinary arts program.

Applicants must choose one of the 32 reading selections from the NEA Big Read list ( Applicants that have received NEA Big Read grants must choose a different reading selection than what they have received grants for in the past. 

NEA Big Read Program Proposals must include diverse and imaginative events and literacy activities at a variety of locations; and community partnerships. For specific program requirements, see the URL for Full Text.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 187206

Estimated Size of Grant:

Eligible organizations may apply for a grant ranging from $5,000 to $15,000.

Term of Contract:

September 1, 2020 - June 30, 2021.

Events should take place over the course of one month or longer.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

An applicant organization must:
- Comply with federal eligibility requirements. For example, an applicant must be a nonprofit 501c(3) organization, a unit of state or local government, or a federally recognized tribal community or tribe. Check your IRS status.
- Partner with a library (if the applicant organization itself is not a library). University and college applicants must partner with a library that is not directly affiliated with their educational institution.
- Choose one of the 32 available reading selections. Applicants that have received an NEA Big Read grant in the past must choose a different reading selection from their previous award.

Eligible applicants include organizations such as arts centers, arts councils, arts organizations, colleges and universities, community service organizations, environmental organizations, fairs and festivals, faith-based organizations, historical societies, housing authorities, humanities councils, libraries, literary centers, museums, school districts, theater companies, trade associations, and tribal governments.

Local education agencies, school districts, and state and regional education agencies are eligible applicants. Arts Midwest does not fund individual elementary or secondary schools—charter, private, or public—directly. Schools may participate as partners in projects for which another eligible organization applies. 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.

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 501c(3) status. For example, the “Friends of ABC Library” may not also apply if the ABC Library applies. Organizations may apply for one grant per program year.

Funding is not available for:
- Overlapping project costs between federal awards, whether received directly from a federal agency or indirectly, such as through a state agency or other entity.
- Programs restricted to any organization’s membership; programs must be promoted and available to the general public.
- Payment for facilities, purchase of capital equipment, or non-project related administrative expenses.
- Fellowships or cash prizes.
- Capital improvements or construction, purchase of capital goods, purchase of real estate property, or endowments.
- Expenses to purchase alcoholic beverages or to pay associated costs (servers, insurance, liquor licenses, etc.)
- Entertainment costs, such as opening parties, receptions, or fundraisers designed to raise funds for your own organization and on behalf of another person, organization, or cause.

Pre-Application Information:

All applications must be submitted electronically on or before Wednesday, January 29, 2020.

Applicants, especially first-time applicants, are strongly encourage to reach out to Arts Midwest before applying, to help you draft a competitive proposal. Arts Midwest staff can answer questions on eligibility and program intent, project development, grant attachment verification, and can, upon request, review your application materials in advance of the deadline.

Important dates
- Application deadline: Wednesday, January 29, 2020
- Panel review: February – April 2020
- Notification: Late April 2020
- Online orientation for grantees: early June 2020
- Programming dates: September 1, 2020—June 30, 2021

Grant recipients must participate in an online orientation with other program participants in June 2020.

Applicants must have an Employer Identification Number, a DUNS number, and an active registration with SAM (

Grants are cost shared and must be matched on a 1-to-1 basis with nonfederal funds such as private grants, in-kind contributions, and earned revenue. Some examples of matching funds can be staff salaries, volunteer hours, or event ticket sales.

Copies of the reading selection are not provided along with the grant award. Applicants should articulate in their proposal a plan to acquire and distribute sufficient copies of their chosen book using the NEA Big Read grant or local funding sources.

Federal grant regulations:

Application advice:


Contact Information:

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

Apply online:

Direct questions to NEA Big Read program staff at:

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

USA Territories: American Samoa (USA)   Guam (USA)   Puerto Rico (USA)   Virgin Islands (USA)   Northern Mariana Islands (USA)

USA Compact Free Associations: The Federated States of Micronesia (USA)   Marshall Islands (USA)   Republic of Palau (USA)

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