CHALLENGE AMERICA: 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

  • Be a first-time applicant to the Arts Endowment OR be a previous Arts Endowment applicant that was not recommended for funding in any of the three most recent Fiscal Years (FYs 2019, 2020, or 2021) in any of the following grant programs:

    • Grants for Arts Projects, formerly known as Art Works (application deadlines in February and July 2018, 2019, and 2020);
    • Research Grants in the Arts (application deadlines in October 2018, October 2019, and April 2020); or
    • Our Town (application deadlines in August 2018, 2019, and 2020).

Previous Arts Endowment applicants recommended for FY 2019, FY 2020, or FY 2021 funding in Grants for Arts Projects (formerly known as Art Works), Research Grants in the Arts, or Our Town, are not eligible to apply (as indicated by an Arts Endowment Offer Letter dated November 8, 2018, or later).

Previous Challenge America applicants and grantees are eligible to apply, as long as they were not recommended for FY 2019, FY 2020, or FY 2021 funding in Grants for Arts Projects (formerly known as Art Works), Research Grants in the Arts, or Our Town.

NOTE: Applicants can check their organization’s grant history using the Recent Grants Search tool. See instructions for using the tool. Organizations that applied to the FY 2021 Grants for Arts Projects July 8, 2020 or FY 2021 Our Town August 6, 2020 deadlines will receive notification of recommendation or rejection in early April 2021. Afterward, these recommendations will be posted to Recent Grants.

Contact us at challengeamerica@arts.gov or 202-682-5700 if you have questions.

  • 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 sponsor/agent are not allowed. See more information on fiscal sponsors/agents.)
  • Have completed a three-year history of arts programming prior to the application deadline. For the purpose of defining eligibility, "three-year history" refers to when an organization began its programming and not when it incorporated or received nonprofit, tax-exempt status.
  • 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 (www.dnb.com) and be registered with the System for Award Management (SAM, www.sam.gov) and maintain an active SAM registration until the application process is complete, and should a grant be made, throughout the life of the award. See “Changes Coming for Federal Organizational Applicants and Awardees” for important information.

See "How to Apply" for the documentation that is required to demonstrate eligibility.

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 National Endowment for the Arts funds (except as provided through their designated grant programs), and SAA/RAO costs may not be included as part of the required cost share/match. SAAs and RAOs are eligible to apply through the Partnership Agreements guidelines.

Ineligible applications will not be reviewed.

Application Limits

An organization may submit only one application at the Challenge America April 22, 2021, deadline. If an organization applies to the Challenge America category, it may not also apply to the Grants for Arts Projects category during the same calendar year.

In Challenge America, 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 project that is different from any project submitted in an application by its independent component(s) and that is not a second project of an independent component.

The application for the independent component must be for a project of the component. For example, if a university campus (parent organization) submits an application for its art museum (an independent component), the project must be for the art museum. The art museum cannot be used as a pass-through entity for projects from other areas of the university.

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 at: challengeamerica@arts.gov or 202-682-5700.