REGIONAL PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENTS: Additional Information on Folk & Traditional Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts is committed to supporting folk & traditional arts in every state, region, and territory. Our recent Living Traditions report includes significant data that shows the strategic role that folk & traditional arts grants and programs play in serving the nation’s most rural and impoverished communities. Likewise, the report illuminates the power of institutional partnerships (among SAAs, RAOs, and nonprofit partners) to extend the reach of arts agencies to the nation’s most underserved communities.

Additionally, findings in the 2018 NEA research report Qualitative Analysis Project Findings: Folk and Traditional Arts Partnership Grants show that best practices of Folk Arts Partnerships involve collaborative partnerships with non-profits to develop and implement projects, including exhibits and events; apprenticeship, fellowship, and awards programs; and fieldwork and research efforts. Partners also provide event space or co-sponsor events; and their networks are commonly used to reach underserved audiences.

In FY2021, the NEA increased its commitment for folk & traditional arts. ]With a new goal of supporting folk & traditional arts in every state, jurisdiction, and region, funds are being awarded through all Partnership Agreements based on the strength of the SAA’s or RAO’s plans in relation to the Partnership Agreements Review Criteria. (SAA | RAO)

Support from the Folk Arts Partnership program helps to dynamically extend the resources of SAAs and RAOs. We wish to honor collaborations through the Partnership Agreement by formalizing institutional partnerships of SAAs and RAOs whose programs have regularly worked with nonprofit organizations. SAAs, RAOs, and collaborating nonprofit organizations will engage in a three-year funding cycle, allowing greater capacity for long-term planning. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. May we receive assistance or guidance to help us plan a program? If so, whom should we contact?

    A: Yes, please contact Cheryl Schiele at to learn more.

  2. May an SAA/RAO partner with a nonprofit organization or university to carry out our Folk Arts Partnership program?

    A: Yes, partnerships with nonprofits or universities are permitted, although the process to apply may be different than in previous years:

    • If guidance or assistance is needed to establish new partnerships or navigate through existing partnerships, please reach out to NEA staff.
    • For SAAs/RAOs whose applications historically included a folk arts funding request, whereby funding was dispersed by the SAA/RAO to longstanding partners at nonprofit organizations or universities, the guidelines do not affect the existing partnerships. There are updated application requirements, however, and you will need to review those in the guidelines.
    • For SAAs/RAOs who historically provided a support letter to nonprofit organizations or universities, thereby allowing the nonprofit to be the applicant-of-record, the guidelines affect the application process. Nonprofit organizations will no longer be able to apply to the NEA for Folk Arts Partnerships funds. Instead, Folk Arts Partnership funding will be awarded directly to the SAA/RAO. The SAA/RAO may enter into a contract with the nonprofit partner to manage the folk arts program. There are updated application requirements that you will need to review in the guidelines.
  3. Are nonprofit organizations or universities eligible to apply for and receive Folk Arts Partnership funding directly?

    A: Nonprofit or university organizations are unable to apply directly to the NEA for Folk Arts Partnership funding. Your organization will need to partner with your SAA/RAO, with a work plan described in the SAA/RAO application that identifies the nonprofit/university carrying out the work in partnership with the SAA/RAO. There are updated application requirements that you will need to review in the guidelines.

  4. We are an SAA/RAO that has been submitting a letter of support to a nonprofit or university. How do we begin this transition?

    A: The NEA will be happy to facilitate a conversation and consult on the best course of action with you and your nonprofit or university partner. Contact Cheryl Schiele at to learn more.

  5. Does our SAA/RAO need to hire a staff position to support Folk Arts Partnership? If not, what are our options?

    A: No, you will not need to hire/create a staff position. There are several options depending on your current Folk Arts Partnership plans. Programs can take a variety of shapes, ranging from developing an in-house program, to facilitating partnerships with external non-profits and universities, contracting fieldwork that is tied to SAA/RAO grantmaking programs such as apprenticeships, organizing networks of folklife/cultural heritage stakeholders, and so on.

  6. What do we do if we are unable to meet the cost share/match for our increased partnership agreement grant now that folk arts is included in it?

    A. Contact the States and Regionals office.

  7. Can you describe “outreach-driven” and the ways in which Folk Arts Partnership programs connect to folk & traditional artists and communities?

    A: As the Living Traditions report shows, Folk Arts Partnerships excel at connecting SAA/RAO resources to hard-to-reach communities when they are driven by face-to-face outreach initiatives. Best practices include ethnographic fieldwork surveys that identify traditional artists and community organizations, as well as the convening of folklife and cultural heritage stakeholders. Research shows that many of the artists and organizations who most readily identify with folklife and cultural heritage initiatives do not always identify as stakeholders in the arts. Therefore, connecting folklife stakeholders with SAA/RAO resources requires intentional, face-to-face communication in addition to online promotion of programs. 

  8. How will applications be reviewed?

    A: Applications will be evaluated in relation to the published review criteria as part of the larger SAA/RAO application. Reviewers who have expertise in Folk & Traditional Arts will be involved in this process.

  9. We are in an off-year for FY23. How will this affect our application?

    A: There are two different scenarios to consider:

    • For off-year SAAs/RAOs already receiving Folk Arts Partnership funding directly, review the updated language for the narrative component of your application. However, there should be no disruption to the way funds are allocated in the grant.
    • For off-year SAAs/RAOs who have historically submitted support letters for nonprofit organizations and university applicants, review the updated language for the narrative component of your application. Folk Arts Partnership funding will be included in your grant. You may secure your existing partnership, distributing funding to the nonprofit organization or university directly.
  10. Will we need to determine and submit a funding amount for Folk Arts Partnership?

    A: No. The Folk Arts Partnership funding allocation will be determined by the NEA, keeping the amounts close to the amounts previously granted and contingent upon the NEA’s overall budget.