RESEARCH: ART WORKS: Frequently Asked Questions

General Information | Eligibility | The Application | Budget | Application Review | Timing | After Notification


How can I find out when new guidelines are released?

NEA Research: Art Works guidelines are modified every year and generally released on or around August, with a deadline in October. Email to sign up for our listserv to receive updates for when they are released. You can also sign up via

Can I get help if something in the guidelines is unclear?

Yes -- we're here to help you. The Research: Art Works staff can explain and clarify eligibility requirements, review criteria, category definitions, and requirements related to application materials.

If you have questions about Research: Art Works, please email

If you have a question about registering with or the mechanics of, contact directly at 1-800-518-4726, e-mail, or consult the Customer Support material posted on their website.


What kinds of organizations may apply?

Official applicant organizations eligible to apply are nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3), U.S. organizations; units of state or local government; or federally recognized tribal communities or tribes; this includes universities and colleges. Applicants may be universities and colleges, research organizations, arts organizations, local arts agencies, arts service organizations, local education agencies (school districts), and other organizations that can help advance the goals of the Arts Endowment. In addition, the applicant organization must have at least three consecutive years of operating history prior to the application deadline to be eligible.

My organization does not have its own nonprofit status. Can we apply through a fiscal sponsor?

No. An ineligible organization (i.e., one without its own nonprofit status) may not use a fiscal sponsor for the purpose of application. The NEA stopped accepting applications from fiscal sponsors in 2005.

If I don't have my own nonprofit status and I can't use a fiscal sponsor, is there any way that I can still be a part of a grant?

While you may not apply for and receive a grant on your own, you may participate in a project submitted by another organization that is eligible.

If my organization provides fiscal sponsor services, may I apply?

An organization that serves as a fiscal sponsor may not apply for projects on behalf of the entities or individuals that it may sponsor as part of its mission and programs. However, it may apply for its own programs.

The Agency will review the organization's website and other materials to determine the appropriate nature of the project.

Why can't individuals apply?

Congress has prohibited the Arts Endowment from making direct grants to individuals except for Literature Fellowships. As an individual, you can participate in a project on behalf of an organization.

My organization has never received an Arts Endowment grant in the past. Should I consider applying?

Yes. New applicants are funded every year. Prior Arts Endowment support is not a review criterion. Eligible applications are evaluated on the basis of excellence and merit.

Are only large organizations in major metropolitan areas really competitive?

Absolutely not. The Arts Endowment recognizes that the significance of a project can be measured by excellence and inventiveness, not solely by budget size, institutional stature, or the numbers of people or areas that are reached. In fact, the profile of grants for past funding years shows a diverse range of organizational size and longevity. (See Recent Grants.) In addition, the Arts Endowment takes into consideration projects that can provide an unusual or especially valuable contribution because of geographic location or the potential to reach underserved populations.

How many applications can I submit?

An organization may submit multiple applications for different projects under the Research: Art Works program.

You may also apply to other Arts Endowment funding opportunities in addition to the Research: Art Works program, including Our Town, and Art Works OR Challenge America. In each case, the request must be for a distinctly different project.

May I include international personnel in my project?

Yes, as long as the costs related to their compensation are in compliance with regulations issued by the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Asset Control (see If those costs are not in compliance, we can't fund them and they can't be included in your application budget.

Would it be possible for someone that is not employed by the official applicant organization to serve as the Principal Investigator/Project Director?

Yes; however, the official applicant organization is the legally binding agent for the application, and thus is agreeing to be responsible for the actions of the principal investigator/project director.

I am a state arts agency (SAA) or a regional arts organization (RAO), and I am interested in applying for an application for a Research: Art Works grant. Can I apply?

No, SAAs and RAOs cannot apply for this opportunity as the authorizing organization, but can apply as the official applicant under the NEA Partnership Agreements category.

I am a SAA or RAO, and I am interested in being a partner on an application for a Research: Art Works grant. Can I serve as a partner?

Yes, SAAs or RAOs may participate as a partner for this opportunity; however, no federal or matching funds included in the NEA Partnership Agreement can be given to or provided by the SAA or RAO.


Should I send my application package in the mail?


You must submit the first part of your application electronically through After this submission, you must submit most of your application material and your work samples through the NEA GrantsOnline™ System (NEA-GO).

What can I do to make my project description better?

There are no magic words that you can use to describe your project and make sure you get a grant. Say clearly what you want to do, why you want to do it, and how you intend to do it. Check that you've addressed the information that is requested and review your narrative against the "Review Criteria," as that is what the reviewers will do. Try to make sure that there are no unanswered questions about your project.

What if I need more space than the limit listed for my application material?

When you submit narrative information on the Grant Application Form, you will be limited to the character limits specified.

If you submit PDF documents, submit only the number of pages allowed. Excess pages or attachments will be removed and will not be reviewed.

Do I need to include citation references in my proposal and if so, where do I put them?

Including references is not a requirement, but highly encouraged. References can be included in the project narrative of the Grant Application Form.

If I include citation references, what method of citation is preferred?

We do not currently have any requirements regarding the style of citation. Common citation formats include but are not limited to APA, AMA, Chicago, and MLA. Do not use footnoting in the text fields of the Grant Application Form, though this is acceptable for any PDF attachments.

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. Arts Endowment staff will not contact applicants to request missing material, and incomplete applications will be returned to you. Please 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 and other supplementary information. And do not wait until the day of the deadline to submit!

If my application is determined to be incomplete, may I add the missing item(s) and resubmit the application?

No. The Arts Endowment 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 "How to Prepare and Submit an Application" section to make sure that nothing is missing.

For Research: Art Works, if new or updated information that significantly affects your application becomes available after the deadline, you may send it to the Research: Art Works staff at

What are some of the most frequently missed items in the application package?

Remember that a complete application includes ALL of the items in the "How to Prepare and Submit an Application" section, not just the application forms.

Should I send in new or updated information before I'm notified whether I have received an award?

For Research: Art Works, you should submit new or updated material at any time if it significantly affects your application.

One of the proposed research staff is unable to complete the human subjects ethics training and thus cannot supply the required certificate of completion of the training. Is there an alternative to the requirement for this person that would allow him/her to continue as a researcher on the project without the certificate?

We require all researchers involved in human subjects data to demonstrate completion of a federally sponsored human ethics training course. If a particular researcher is unable to provide evidence of this training, then they cannot have a researcher role on a project, but may serve as a consultant.

If our project includes multiple partner organizations (including data collection sites), is some sort of statement of commitment required?

A statement of commitment is not required from all partner organizations for an application, though between one and three statements of supports are required for every application. The statements may demonstrate commitment from any combination of key individuals, organizations, or communities. Regardless of whom the statements of supports are from, if there are multiple sites, you will need to include that information in your proposal. And if IRB approval must be obtained for each of the sites, then you will need to demonstrate that you have made steps to obtain it.

What is the Assurance of Compliance?

All applicants and grantees of Arts Endowment funds are required to be in compliance with the laws and regulations that govern nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs. By signing the application form, the applicant certifies that it is in compliance with those statutes. Specific information on those statutes can be found on the website.

Can I get a sample application?

Yes. Please see the FOIA Reading Room, Frequently Requested Records for information on what is available as sample application material and how to request it.


How much should I ask for?

For Research: Art Works, grants generally range from $10,000 to $30,000. No grants will be made below $10,000 or above $30,000. Take a look at the NEA's Recent Grants to gain some idea of grant award levels and corresponding project types and sizes. Be realistic about your request and the number of years for which you are requesting funds. Do not inflate your request "to give the Arts Endowment something to cut." Panelists review budgets carefully and are critical of overreaching or grantsmanship.

Remember, all grants must be matched at least dollar-for-dollar with nonfederal funds. For example, if you receive a $30,000 grant you must provide at least $30,000 toward the project from other sources and your total project costs must be at least $60,000.

What are some of the most common mistakes on the Project Budget form?

Make sure the items in your budget correspond with the project that you describe in your application. Review your Project Budget form against your narrative and look for any inconsistencies or budget items that don't relate to the narrative. Your Project Budget should reflect only those costs that you will incur during the "Period of Performance" that you indicate on the Federal Domestic Assistance/Short Organizational Form (SF-424) form. Do not include any costs that you incur before or after those dates; they will be removed.

What are in-kind contributions?

In-kind contributions are goods and services that are donated to the project by individuals or organizations other than the applicant organization. In-kind contributions can be donated space, supplies, volunteer services, etc. To qualify as matching resources, these items also must be listed in the project budget as direct costs. The dollar value of these non-cash donations should be calculated at their verifiable fair-market value. There is no formula for how much of the required match can be in-kind.

Many applicants mistakenly designate as in-kind contributions items that are actually cash contributions. For example, applicants often list their own contributions to the project (such as supplies, rent, staff salaries, and faculty course-releases) as in-kind. Generally, these items are considered cash donations if they are from the applicant organization. They do not qualify as in-kind because they are being "contributed" by the applicant organization, and not a third party. For an applicant's staff salary on a project to qualify as in-kind, an employee would have to donate his or her time beyond the regularly compensated work schedule.

Remember, if you use donated space, supplies, and/or volunteer services (i.e., in-kind contributions) as part of your match, you need to maintain proper documentation. For help in doing this, see our sample format for recording in-kind (third party) contributions.

My staff includes students that are participating in the research activities as research assistants and are receiving course credit for their time. Can that be used as a match?

Yes, as long as it is included as part of the project under direct costs.

What are the regulations on in-kind costs?

See the "General Terms & Conditions."

What is an indirect cost rate, and do I need one?

In addition to the direct costs that may be assigned readily to a given project, there may be other costs that are not so easily designated because they benefit more than one project or activity. Such common or joint costs usually are referred to as indirect costs, or overhead. Examples of indirect costs might include rent, utilities, etc.

If your institution has a negotiated indirect cost rate with the Federal government it may use it.  However, you do not need an indirect cost rate to apply for an award.  Negotiating an indirect cost rate can be a lengthy process.  An indirect cost rate proposals must be accompanied by considerable supporting financial detail, e.g., audited financial statements, schedules of salaries, listings of current grants, and an analysis of your organization's physical facilities by square footage before a final agreement is issued. Additional information can be found in the Indirect Cost Guide For NEA Grantees.

You may instead claim administrative costs or overhead as direct costs under "3. Other expenses" on the Project Budget form. (This assumes that there is a basis for justifying the costs as direct costs.) Or, you may claim a 10% di minimis indirect cost rate on total modified direct costs, if you have never had an indirect cost rate with the federal government. However, you cannot claim both direct administrative/overhead costs and the di minimis rate.

Is there a cap for the indirect cost rate?

No. There is no cap on the indirect cost rate.

Can unrecovered indirect costs be used as a match?


Can other Federal funds be used as a match?

No. Matching contributions must come from non-Federal sources.

Can funds from State Arts Agencies (SAAs) or Regional Arts Organizations (RAOs) be used as a match?

If your SAA or a RAO identifies their grant or part of the funds to your organization as a federal NEA subgrant, you may NOT claim that award or portion as a match for an NEA grant. (You may not use Federal money, even if it comes to you indirectly, to match a NEA award). If your SAA or a RAO did not identify NEA funds in their award to you, then you may use their grant to match an NEA grant if related to the approved project.


How will my application be evaluated?

Congress specified in our authorizing legislation that "artistic excellence and artistic merit" are the criteria by which applications must be evaluated.

What do you mean by "artistic excellence and artistic merit"?

  • See the “Review Criteria.”

Who will review my application?

Research: Art Works applications are reviewed by external advisory panels. Panels are convened by research and philanthropy fields, and often comprised of panelists who have some to extensive experience in arts-related research or arts philanthropy. These fields may include but are not limited to education, psychology, economics, sociology, communications, medicine and health. The composition of the panels changes every year.

After applications are reviewed by advisory panels, the panel recommendations are reconciled with available funds by the staff. These recommendations then go to the National Council on the Arts. After the Council meets, the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts reviews the Council's recommendations and makes the final decision on all grant awards.


When will I be notified about my application?

In April, the following year after the close of the application deadline is the "Earliest Announcement of Grant Award or Rejection" date.

Note that "announcement" is likely to be an informal congratulatory message from the Director of Research and Analysis coupled with a request for any necessary project revisions, or a rejection notification. Official grant award notification, which is the only legal and valid confirmation of award, can take several months to reach you depending on a number of things, such as whether a revised budget is needed for your project, the number of awards to be processed, whether we have our appropriation from Congress, etc. You should not make any financial or legal commitments relating to the Arts Endowment's support until you receive the official notification that includes a grant letter signed by the Arts Endowment Chairman.

How soon after the "Earliest Beginning Date for Arts Endowment Period of Performance" for my deadline does my project have to begin?

The Arts Endowment's support can start any time on or after that date.

Can my project start before this date?

No project activities for which you're requesting support can take place before this date. Plan your project so that it does not need an earlier starting date; or ask the Arts Endowment to assist a portion of your project that will take place after the "Earliest Beginning Date for Arts Endowment Period of Performance." If project costs that are incurred before the "Earliest Beginning Date for Arts Endowment Period of Performance" are included in your Project Budget, they will be removed.

How long can my project last? May I apply for another project during this period?

Research: Art Works generally allows a period of performance of up to three years, depending on the project type and scope. Within the limits of the guidelines, ask for the amount of time that you think is necessary.

If you get close to the end of your grant period and think you need more time, you may request an extension, 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 an Arts Endowment-supported project is still underway. Note that if you do receive an extension on a previous year's project, it may affect your grant period for your new proposed project. Please email your requests to, and include your grant number.


If my application is funded, what do I have to do? How soon can I get my money?

If you applied under Research: Art Works, you may be contacted first for revisions. Applicants whose grants are recommended at less than the amount that is requested may be asked to revise the project budget. Also, the Arts Endowment may choose to support only a particular portion(s) or cost(s) of the project that is described in the application.

Later, you will receive an official grant award notification with information about legal and reporting requirements and managing your award. Remember, official grant notification can take several months to reach you depending on a number of things, such as approval and processing of revisions, whether we have our appropriation from Congress, etc.

Instructions and forms for managing an award, including those for requesting grant funds and our General Terms & Conditions, can be found in the Manage Your Award section. After you properly complete and submit your request, the grant funds will be electronically transferred to your bank account, generally within 30 days of the receipt of your request.

If my application is rejected, can I find out why?

After notification, applicants who have questions may contact the Arts Endowment staff responsible for handling their application. Any applicant whose request has not been recommended may ask for an explanation of the basis for rejection. In such instances, the Arts Endowment must receive the request no later than 30 days after the official notification.