PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENTS: Regional Partnership Grant Program Description

The regional arts organizations (RAOs) are private, nonprofit entities created by state arts leaders in the mid-1970s to facilitate the exchange of artists across state borders. The National Endowment for the Arts encouraged the development of RAOs to cultivate the touring of artists to sparsely populated and underserved areas of the country.

Over time, RAOs have evolved to play a major role in strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of the U.S. arts infrastructure. They draw on their own ability to cultivate public and private resources; work collaboratively across state, national, and international borders; and deliver programming across all arts disciplines.

RAOs play a leading role with federal agencies, funders, and those working at the state and community level to design, implement, and channel resources into programs and services that meet the needs of the public they serve. While they operate independently, RAOs collaborate with each other, their member states, and constituency groups in a national network to assist the National Endowment for the Arts and other funders in delivering programs.

The federal investment in this area is predicated on each RAO executing an inclusive and responsive planning process in response to constituent needs. Partnership Agreement funding enables the RAOs to address priorities identified at the regional level as well as by the National Endowment for the Arts such as:

  1. The creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence. Activities may include, but are not limited to: the commissioning, development, and production of new work; and artist stipends, workshops, and residencies.

  2. Public engagement with, and access to, various forms of excellent art across the nation. Activities may include, but are not limited to:

    *Some considerations are allowed for projects that involve multi-state tours developed by presenter consortia; touring of artists across vast distances within state boundaries; in-state touring of culturally-specific programs to new venues and new audiences; or that take place in states that have a large concentration of artists/organizations, such as California and New York. However, it is required that at least 85% of the Regional Touring funds will support the presentation of artists from out of state. No more than 20 percent of the NEA Regional Touring funds may be used to support an RAO's administrative costs.

    • The NEA Regional Touring Program, which is designed to give all Americans access to excellence in the performing, literary, media, and visual arts. Support is available for regional programs that:

      • Increase access in underserved communities.
      • Increase benefit through complementary educational activities and community partnerships.
      • Are based on planning with touring artists and community groups.
      • Ensure high quality.
      • Encourage diversity.
      • Predominantly feature the presentation of out-of-state* artists and organizations.
      • Assist and strengthen a network of arts-presenting organizations in rural and underserved communities.
    • Support for presenting, touring, outreach, and other activities, including booking conferences and professional development, designed to enhance public engagement with the arts.

    • Support for stable, professionally-directed programs that are responsive to a region’s diverse folk & traditional arts heritage, and that can strengthen regional support of the folk & traditional arts. Programs may include, but are not limited to, professional positions in support of the folk & traditional arts; fieldwork to identify and document underserved folk & traditional artists; apprenticeships, mentorships, or folk arts in education programs; and regional activities that increase public awareness of living cultural heritage. Both RAOs and nonprofit organizations working in cooperation with their RAO are eligible for this type of support.

      We encourage long-range planning for folk & traditional arts programming and acknowledge that long-range planning is fortified if accompanied by an extended funding horizon.

      To that end:

      • Folk Arts Partnership applications submitted by RAOs that are “on-year” regional arts organizations in this set of guidelines must reflect a three-year planning horizon.
      • On-year RAOs that qualify for multi-year funding will not have to apply for support until the RAO is an on-year regional again, and will receive designated Folk Arts Partnership support each of the three years, commensurate with year-one funding, subject to changes in our annual appropriation from the Congress, or substantive changes in the program at the regional level.
      • If you are an “off-year” RAO that did NOT receive multi-year Folk Arts Partnership funding in FY17, FY18,  or FY19, and you will be submitting an application for support of folk & traditional arts for FY20:
        • Your application should reflect long-range planning that is three years in scope.
        • You must continue to submit annual funding applications that reflect a three-year planning horizon until your next “on-year” when you will be eligible to request/receive multi-year funding.
      • Nonprofit organizations are NOT eligible for three-year Folk Arts Partnership funding, and must continue to submit a full application annually. Folk Arts Partnership applications submitted by nonprofit organizations should provide evidence of long range planning.
  3. Learning in the arts at all ages of life. Activities may include, but are not limited to:

    • Support for lifelong learning activities for youth, adults, and intergenerational groups.
    • Support for other activities such as workshops, mentorships, and apprenticeship programs; and professional development for artists, teaching artists, and other leaders.
  4. Activities that integrate the arts into the fabric of community life. Activities may include, but are not limited to: projects that focus on the development of plans for cultural and/or creative sector growth and stability; the enhancement of public spaces through design or new art works; and other arts or design activities intended to foster community interaction in public spaces.

  5. Promotion of public knowledge and understanding about the contributions of the arts. Activities may include, but are not limited to: recognition and promotion of artistic achievement; research and communication about the arts' contributions to social, civic, economic, and/or other objectives; impact analyses of arts and cultural programming; recognition of professional arts workers as a key sector of American industry; and collaborations with other state, regional, or national entities to explore or enhance the role that the arts can play in their programming.

Deadline Dates

Applications must be submitted electronically through, the federal government’s online application system. The system must receive your validated and accepted application no later than 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time, on September 27, 2019. The Contact Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Awards will support activities that are scheduled to begin on July 1, 2020, or any time thereafter.

Award Information

Partnership Award Amounts

Funds will be allotted based on:

  • National Endowment for the Arts allocations;
  • Strength of the RAO plans and accomplishments in relation to the review criteria; and
  • The number of SAAs that participate as members in the RAO.

The RAO Partnership Agreement grant complements support provided by state arts agencies (SAAs), other public and private funders, and revenue generated through earned income.

For activities that strengthen state support of the folk & traditional arts, applicants may request up to $100,000; however, funding amounts generally range from $20,000 to $45,000 annually.

Cost Share/Matching Requirement

All awards must be matched at least 1 to 1.

All costs included in your Project Budget must be expended during your period of performance. Costs associated with other federal funds, whether direct or indirect cannot be included in your Project Budget. Costs incurred before the earliest project start date of July 1, 2020, cannot be included in your budget or match.

Applicant Eligibility

Eligibility Requirements for Regional Arts Organizations

In order to enter into a Partnership Agreement with the National Endowment for the Arts, a regional arts organization must:

  • Be comprised of at least three state arts agency (SAA) members.
  • Conduct a comprehensive and inclusive planning process that engages SAAs and other constituents.
  • Develop programs and services that respond to recommendations from the planning process.
  • Establish metrics for accomplishing goals and measuring progress in relation to the RAO’s plan.
  • Base program funding decisions on criteria that rely primarily upon artistic excellence and merit.
  • Maintain sound fiscal and administrative procedures.
  • Meet the National Endowment for the Arts’ Legal Requirements at the time of application.
  • Have submitted acceptable Final Report packages by the due date(s) for all Arts Endowment award(s) previously received, and report on funded activities in accordance with the National Standard for Arts Information Exchange.

Regional arts organizations that subgrant must:

  • Require their grantees to provide DUNS numbers before a grant can be made.
  • In certain instances, report grants of $25,000 or more in federal funds and information about the compensation of executives related to those grants to the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act Subaward Reporting System (FSRS).
  • Ensure that all subawards made with Federal or matching funds are in compliance with the General Terms and Conditions for the National Endowment for the Arts award, including requirements for pass-through entities as provided under 2 CFR 200.331.

Eligibility Requirements for Nonprofit Organizations Cooperating with their Regional Arts Organization

Nonprofit organizations working in cooperation with their RAO are eligible for support designed to strengthen regional support of the folk & traditional arts. In order to be eligible, such organizations must:

  • Meet the National Endowment for the Arts’ "Legal Requirements" including nonprofit, tax-exempt status at the time of application.
  • Have a three-year history of 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.
  • Have the support of their RAO for this activity (see "How to Apply" for details).

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.

National Endowment for the Arts, Regional, and State Partnership

The National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts Organizations, and the State Arts Agencies comprise a national network of arts funders, cultural program and service providers, and leaders in the arts and culture sector. We believe that each participating entity benefits from partnership in the network. We invest in the network through State and Regional Partnership Agreement grants in order to: 

  • Strengthen the cultural infrastructure of the US,
  • Facilitate the creation and presentation of artistic works,
  • Provide the public with lifelong learning opportunities in the arts,
  • Enhance public engagement with, and access to, the arts,
  • Foster greater cultural understanding, and
  • Contribute to the enrichment of lives and communities throughout the nation.

We acknowledge that SAAs may choose to participate in the work of a regional arts organization of which it is not a member. SAAs may choose to shift membership from one regional arts organization to another, or may choose to withhold membership in an RAO. While recognizing that the ecology of the network benefits from change, we also believe that the network benefits from stability. To this end, shifts in state membership in RAOs must be preceded by at least one full year of planning by all of the agencies involved, including the National Endowment for the Arts.