First Time Applicant Guide for Organizations

En Español

Applying for a federal grant is a multi-step process that is always entirely free.

Required Registrations:

Create registrations with, the System for Award Management (SAM), and These are separate systems. Registration can take several weeks to complete.

Both SAM and will require you to use your username and password to log in to their sites, so we recommend that you register in the following order:

  2. SAM
  3. Registration
Go to Create an account to set up your account.

SAM Registration
Go to SAM Entity Registration to get started. SAM registrations, once activated, can take a day or more to be visible in Verify your SAM registration well ahead of the application deadline to which you are applying. Registration

  • Go to Organization Registration, after setting up your account, and registering with SAM.
  • During the registration process, you will be asked to set up a separate username and password for
  • After creating your account, you may link your and accounts. After linking accounts, you will use your credentials each time you sign in to

Registration Help and Resources:
NEA Staff does not have access to your, SAM, or accounts, if you run into issues with any of your registrations, we recommend that you reach out to them directly, as that is often the fastest way to get technical support: Help: Consult the information posted in their Help Center, or use their online form to submit a question. Contact Center: Call 800-518-4726, email, or consult the information posted on the website at Support or Help. The Contact Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

SAM Federal Service Desk: Call 866-606-8220 or see the information posted on the SAM website at SAM User Help

The Application Process

After completing your registrations, you will be able to begin your application.

Part 1: Complete the Application for Federal Domestic Assistance/Short Organization Form
Submitted via workspace, this is a brief form that collects basic information such as the name of your organization, location, and staff contacts. Applicants must complete this step successfully in order to move on to Part 2. A direct link to this form can be found in each grant category’s “How to Apply” page.

Part 2: Complete the Grant Application Form (GAF)
Submitted via our Applicant Portal, the GAF is where you provide details about your organization’s mission, history, and financial capacity, as well as descriptions of your planned project activities, key personnel and partners, the communities you intend to serve, a project budget, and supplemental/work sample materials.

While you won’t have access to the Applicant Portal until the specific dates listed in the calendar, you can find a set of PDF instructions outlining all of the application questions at the bottom of each grant category’s “How to Apply” page. You can use this PDF to prepare your application in advance.

The Using the Grant Application Form tutorial walks you through how to use the Applicant Portal.

Things to Know Before You Apply

Federal Civil Rights and Your Grants Application
In this webinar you can learn about federal Civil Rights compliance requirements when applying for a NEA grant and find guidance on how to accurately communicate your project description and plan.

Accessibility Requirements for Applicants and Grantees
Projects funded by the NEA must be accessible to people with disabilities. Our Accessibility webinar provides you with an overview of these requirements and ways you can to ensure your project is accessible.

National Historic Preservation Act
Projects supported by the NEA may be subject to the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), which is legislation intended to protect historic and archeological sites. You can learn about what kinds of projects may need additional review to ensure compliance with NHPA regulations, as well as how our internal review process works in this webinar.

Sample Applications
We have a FOIA Reading Room where you can take a look at sample application narratives from previously supported applications.

Additional Application Resources
Each of our grant categories have dedicated FAQs and Applicant Resources pages where you can find information specifically tailored to each category. Additionally, NEA staff welcomes your questions about the application process.

Grants for Arts Projects: FAQs | Resources | Questions: Staff Contacts

Challenge America: FAQs | Resources | Questions: Staff Contacts

Our Town: FAQs | Resources | Questions: Staff Contacts

Research: FAQs | Resources | Questions:

Managing Your Award

Managing a federal grant can be complex. While you do not need to familiarize yourself with the requirements before you submit your application, our Office of Grants Management has resources to assist our grantees. On the Manage Your Award page, you can find information about reporting requirements, how to make a payment request, the General Terms and Conditions that apply to your grant, and a handbook with step-by-step instructions.