CHALLENGE AMERICA: FAQs
How can I find out when new guidelines are released?
NEA guidelines are updated every year. Sign up for the notification service provided by Grants.gov, the federal government’s online application system. Sign up here. Sign up to receive our discipline-specific newsletters.
What do you mean by “small-sized” organizations?
The NEA does not specifically define “small-sized,” as the term can mean different things in different places around the country, depending on the geographic location of an organization and the artistic discipline. For example, different organizations with the same operating budget size may be considered large or small -- depending on where the organization is located.
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 and your project is a good fit, please reach out to a staff member to discuss.
How can I make sure that my project that addresses gender or racial equity is compliant with national civil rights laws Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibit discrimination (such as on the grounds of race, color, or national origin)?
Projects may focus on reaching a particular group or demographic (such as gender, disability, economic status, race, color, or national origin, including limited English proficiency); however, they may not be exclusionary under Federal civil rights laws and policies prohibiting discrimination. This extends to hiring practices, artist selection processes, and audience engagement. Your application should make it clear that project activities are not exclusionary. Please review the Assurance of Compliance, as well as NEA Civil Rights guidance on our website, including this archived webinar: Things to Know Before You Apply: Federal Civil Rights and Your Grants Application.
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.
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 overlapping activities or costs with projects for which you already are receiving other NEA or federal funds.
Does the space for my project need to be ADA compliant?
Yes, you will not be awarded a grant if the venue(s) where the project activities will take place and programming are not accessible.
Federal regulations require that all NEA-funded projects be accessible to people with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities may be audiences, visitors, artists, performers, teaching artists, students, staff, and volunteers. Funded activities should be held in a physically accessible venue, and program access and effective communication should be provided for participants and audience members with disabilities. If your project is recommended for funding, you must provide detailed information describing how your is physically and programmatically accessible to people with disabilities.
What if my organization ends up not being able to carry out the project activities in our application?
If you are recommended for a grant, you will have an opportunity to request changes (e.g., a time extension, a modification to project activities) at that stage of the process. If you receive a grant, you may request project changes later in the process, as outlined in the How to Manage Your Award Handbook.
While we try to accommodate changes to your project, approval is not guaranteed. If you need to request a change, please contact your NEA specialist to discuss what is possible. Cancellation costs are not allowable.
Can I apply for more NEA 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 NEA 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 or activities between the awards.
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. By the time that an application is identified as incomplete, it will be several weeks after the application deadline. 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. Staff will not contact applicants to request missing material. Use the "How to Apply" section 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.
How soon after the "Earliest Start Date for Proposed Project" for my deadline does my project have to begin?
The NEA’s 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 NEA to fund only the portion of your project that will take place after the "Earliest Start Date for Proposed Project." If you include project costs that are incurred before this date 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 -- will be substantially shorter.
If you get close to the end of your grant period and think you need more time to complete approved project activities, 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 NEA-supported project is still underway. Note that if you receive an extension on a previous year's project, it may affect your grant period, budget or timeline for your new proposed project.
Can federally recognized tribes apply?
Yes. 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, non-profits situated on federally recognized tribal lands, or other non-profits whose mission primarily serves federally recognized tribal enrollees) should consult with us to verify their eligibility before preparing an application.
Can non-federally recognized tribes apply?
Yes, as long as the applicant is a non-profit, 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 non-profit, 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 "Unallowable Activities/Costs" 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:
- Awards and prizes.
- Payment to an individual or organization to obtain training or technical assistance for their own benefit with little or no involvement from your organization. (Allowable activities would include services that are offered or coordinated by your organization such as making your facilities available, conducting workshops or conferences, or providing hands-on assistance. These activities also should be monitored and evaluated by your organization.)
- Production funds awarded to an individual or organization through a competitive review process with little or no subsequent involvement from your organization.
- Emergency relief funding for housing or food.
Can our organization use funds we received from the Small Business Administration (SBA) or other federal agencies as cost share/match for an NEA grant?
No. Federal funds are not allowed to be used as cost share/match for federal grants (2 CFR §200.306). In addition, the NEA’s enabling legislation does not allow any federal funds to be used as cost share/match for its grants. This includes the Paycheck Protection Program and Shuttered Venues Operators Grants (SVOG) from the SBA, as well as other federal funding, including funding from:
- Corporation for National and Community Service (e.g., AmeriCorps)
- National Endowment for the Humanities
- National Park Service
- National Science Foundation
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
- U.S. Department of Education (e.g., 21st Century Community Learning Centers)
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Or an entity that receives federal appropriations such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or Amtrak
Note that organizations are eligible to apply for NEA funding even if they have applied for and received funding from the SBA, provided the organization isn't double-claiming any individual's salary during the same period of time. Recipients will be required to keep documentation to show which employees are being paid from each funding source so that the government isn't paying more than 100 percent of a salary. Applicants with additional questions about SBA programs should contact the SBA directly as we are unable to provide guidance on programs other than our own.
How should my organization formulate its project if we’re not sure if an in-person gathering will be possible due to COVID-19 or other public health emergency? Will it be possible to make project changes if needed later in the process?
You should do your best to complete information within the application to the best of your knowledge.
If you are recommended for a grant, you will have an opportunity to request changes (e.g., a time extension, a modification to project activities) at that stage of the process. If you receive a grant, you will have the opportunity to request project changes later in the process, as outlined in the How to Manage Your Award Handbook.
We will work with you to try to accommodate changes to your project, but approval is not guaranteed. If you need to request a change while your application is still under consideration, please contact your NEA specialist to discuss what is possible.
My organization usually applies for in-person performances. Can we apply for virtual performances, or the costs associated with planning for virtual performances?
Our project may need updated technology to support quality virtual programming. To what extent can these costs be included in the project budget, and do we need to differentiate between supplies or equipment costs?
You can apply for costs related to updated technology as long as they fit into the proposed project.
Costs could include:
- Equipment, purchase or rental;
- Software, e.g., timed ticketing software;
- Increased bandwidth;
- Streaming subscriptions; and
- Specialized audio-visual equipment for performers.
The distinction between supplies and equipment is determined by cost and useful life. A justification for the cost is required in some cases.
If you intend to purchase equipment that costs $5,000 or more per item with an estimated useful life of more than one year, clearly identify the equipment and you will need to provide a justification for this expenditure either in the Project Budget form or in your narrative.
Digital devices or other technologies are considered supplies if they are less than $5,000 per item, regardless of the length of useful life; no additional justification is required.
Can my project budget include the cost of open or closed captions or sign language interpretation for virtual events?
Our exhibition space and/or performance venue will need to make physical changes to meet social distancing requirements, such as the removal of seats or installation of plexiglass to protect staff. To what extent can these costs be included in the project budget?
You can apply for costs related to physical changes as long as they are allocable/directly related to the proposed project. However, we do not fund the costs of physical construction or renovation, or the purchase costs of facilities or land.
Can project budgets include expenses related to increased sanitation measures due to COVID-19, such as additional personnel, cleaning services, PPE, and other supplies
Yes. You can apply for costs related to increased sanitation as long as they fit into the proposed project.