CHALLENGE AMERICA: Eligibility

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.

The following are eligible to apply:

  • Nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3), U.S. organizations;
  • Units of state or local government; or
  • Federally recognized tribal communities or tribes.

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 NEA.

To be eligible, the applicant organization must

  • Be a first-time applicant to the NEA OR be a previous NEA applicant that was not recommended for funding in any of the three most recent Fiscal Years (FYs 2020, 2021, or 2022) in any of the following grant programs:

    • Grants for Arts Projects, formerly known as Art Works (application deadlines in February and July 2019, 2020, and 2021);
    • Research Grants in the Arts (application deadlines in October 2019, October 2020, and April 2021); or
    • Our Town (application deadlines in August 2019, 2020, and 2021).

Previous NEA applicants recommended for FY 2020, FY 2021, or FY 2022 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 NEA Offer Letter dated November 4, 2019, or later).

Previous Challenge America applicants and grantees are eligible to apply, as long as they were not recommended for FY 2020, FY 2021, or FY 2022 funding in Grants for Arts Projects (formerly known as Art Works), Research Grants in the Arts, or Our Town.

Eligible organizations that received American Rescue Plan (ARP) or CARES Act funding may apply to this program as long as they were not recommended for FY 2020, FY 2021, or FY 2022 funding in Grants for Arts Projects (formerly known as Art Works), Research Grants in the Arts, or Our Town.

Challenge America eligibility graphic

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 2022 Grants for Arts Projects July 7, 2021 or FY 2022 Our Town August 5, 2021 deadlines will receive notification of recommendation or rejection in early April 2022. Afterward, these recommendations will be posted to Recent Grants.

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

To be eligible, the applicant organization also must:

  • Meet the NEA’s "Legal Requirements" including nonprofit, tax-exempt status at the time of application.
  • 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.
    • Programming is not required to have taken place during consecutive years. You will be asked to provide examples of previous programming in the application.
    • Organizations that previously operated as a program of another institution may include arts programming it carried out while part of that institution for its three-year history.

An organization whose primary purpose is to channel resources (financial, human, or other) to an affiliated organization may only apply if the affiliated organization does not submit 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 Unique Entity Identifier (Prior to April 4, 2022: a DUNS number; on or after April 4, 2022: a Unique Entity Identifier assigned by SAM), 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. 

The following are not eligible to apply:

  • Individuals;
  • Applications through a fiscal sponsor/agent (organizations must apply directly on their own behalf, see more information on fiscal sponsors/agents); or
  • Designated state and jurisdictional arts agencies (SAAs) and their regional arts organizations (RAOs).

SAAs and RAOs may serve as partners in projects. However, they may not receive NEA 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.

Late, ineligible, and incomplete applications will not be reviewed.

Application Limits

An organization may submit only one application at the Challenge America April 21, 2022, 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.

Parent (and Related) Organizations

Exceptions to the one-application rule are made only for parent organizations that have separately identifiable and independent components (e.g., a university campus that has a presenting organization and a radio station); this includes city or county governments.

See detailed information about Parent (and Related) Organizations, including definitions and other requirements.