CHALLENGE AMERICA: Frequently Asked Questions

How can I find out when new guidelines are released?
National Endowment for the Arts guidelines are modified every year. Sign up for the notification service provided by, the federal government’s online application system.

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Does my project have to be new? Does it have to be big?
No. 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; we welcome small projects that can make a difference in their community or field.

What do you mean by ‘small and mid-sized’ organizations?
The National Endowment for the Arts does not specifically define “small and mid-sized,” as those terms can mean different things in different places around the country. These labels have different meanings depending on the geographic location of an organization and the artistic discipline. For example, the size of a theater located in one city may differ from the size of a museum in another. Likewise, the same operating budget size may be considered large or small -- depending on these same factors. Challenge America reviewers should be able to understand your organization within its own unique environment. Including area demographics can help your application illustrate that environment. If you are unsure whether your organization is a good fit, don’t hesitate to reach out to a staff member to discuss.

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 performance by a guest artist that is part of a concert hall's regular season 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 already are receiving other National Endowment for the Arts or federal funds.

Can I apply for more National Endowment for the Arts funding for a project supported by an earlier grant?
Yes. If you have previously received a grant to support an earlier phase of a project (for example, for research for a documentary, or early development work on a new play or choreographed work) you may re-apply to the National Endowment for the Arts for additional funding to support a later phase (for example, the post-production/editing/distribution phase of the documentary, or the final development/premiere of the new play or dance). However, each application must clearly describe the specific phase of work to be supported, and there can be NO overlapping project costs between the awards.

Can my partner organizations also apply for National Endowment for the Arts funds to support our collaborative work?
A partnering organization may apply for funds to support a joint effort but there can be no overlapping project costs between the applications. For example, if you are a dance company, and you are applying for the development of a new work and a presenting organization/theater is also applying for a residency/performance project that includes your company and the presentation of the new work, you must ensure that the costs are kept separate. You cannot include travel costs in your budget if these same costs are also reflected in the presenter’s budget. You cannot include as cost share/match any income that is derived from a federal grant made to another entity (e.g., if a presenter includes your artist fees as an expense in their budget, you cannot use that as income in your own budget). In short, you should communicate closely with your partners to be sure that you are each clear on the division of costs and activity between the applications.

In addition to the work samples, are there other items that we should upload into the Applicant Portal?   
No. The Applicant Portal is where you will be filling out the different narrative fields and also where you will upload your work samples. Follow the directions on the work sample size and types, which are outlined in the instructions on the right side of the guidelines under the “To Apply” box, “Prepare Application Material.” Do not include additional materials that do not demonstrate the artistic excellence and artistic merit of your project. Only upload materials that we request. Other items that you include will not be reviewed.

As you consider your work sample uploads, remember that you want to submit work that is appropriate for your project. For example, if you are doing a visual arts project make sure that you include work samples from the artist(s) you are working with. If you are going to be doing a music project, include video or audio files to provide a reference point for our reviewers to judge artistic excellence. Still photographs are nowhere as effective as video for illustrating the excellence of a performing arts project, such as a dance production.

Will you contact me if my application is missing anything?
No. Because of the volume of applications, we have 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. Staff will not contact applicants to request missing material. Don't let that happen. Use the "How to Prepare and Submit an 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. We can’t stress this enough: Do not wait until the day of the deadline to submit! We suggest setting an internal application deadline for your organization that is 24-48 hours before the actual application deadline.

If my application is determined to be incomplete, may I add the missing item(s) and resubmit the application?
No. The staff has to check thousands of applications. By the time that an application is identified as incomplete, 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.

We are unable to accept any new or updated information after the application deadline.

Can I get a sample application?
Yes. See the FOIA Reading Room, Frequently Requested Records for information on what is available as sample application material and how to request it.

How soon after the "Earliest Beginning Date for National Endowment for the Arts Period of Performance" for my deadline does my project have to begin?
The National Endowment for the Arts’ support can start any time on or after that date.

Can my project start before this date?
No. Proposed project activities for which you're requesting support cannot take place before this date. Ask the National Endowment for the Arts to fund only the portion of your project that will take place after the "Earliest Beginning Date for National Endowment for the Arts Period of Performance." If you include project costs that are incurred before the "Earliest Beginning Date for National Endowment for the Arts Period of Performance" in your Project Budget, they will be removed.

How long can my project last? May I apply for another project during this period?
We generally allow a period of performance of up to two years. Challenge America 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 from our Office of Grants Management, 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 a National Endowment for the Arts-supported project is still underway. Note that if you receive an extension on a previous year's project, it may affect your grant period for your new proposed project.

If my application is rejected, can I find out why?
After notification, applicants who have questions may contact the staff responsible for handling their application. Any applicant whose request for funding has not been recommended may ask for an explanation of the basis for rejection. In such instances, the National Endowment for the Arts must be contacted no later than 30 days after the official notification.

Can federally recognized tribes apply?

In keeping with federal policies of Tribal Self Governance and Self-Determination, we may provide support for a project with a primary audience restricted to enrolled members of a federally recognized tribe. Applicants (federally recognized tribal governments, nonprofits situated on federally recognized tribal lands, or other nonprofits whose mission primarily serves federally recognized tribal enrollees) should consult with to verify their eligibility before preparing an application.

Can non-federally recognized tribes apply?
Yes, as long as the applicant is a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3), U.S. organization. Projects for non-federally recognized tribes and indigenous groups may be supported, but project participation can’t be restricted to only tribal members.

Can Native Hawaiian groups apply?
Yes, as long as the applicant is a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3), U.S. organization. Projects for Native Hawaiians may be supported, but project participation can’t be restricted to only Native Hawaiians.

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:

Most organizations that apply to the National Endowment for the Arts can’t subgrant federal funds to individuals or organizations. Congress prohibits the National Endowment for the Arts 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 completed 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:

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 website, announcements and evaluations of public events, and archival documentation.