The regional arts organizations (RAOs) are private, nonprofit entities created by state arts leaders in the mid-1970s to facilitate the exchange of artists across state borders. The National Endowment for the Arts encouraged the development of RAOs to cultivate the touring of artists to sparsely populated and underserved areas of the country.

Over time, RAOs have evolved to play a major role in strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of the U.S. arts infrastructure. They draw on their own ability to cultivate public and private resources; work collaboratively across state, national, and international borders; and deliver programming across all arts disciplines.

RAOs play a leading role with federal agencies, funders, and those working at the state and community level to design, implement, and channel resources into programs and services that meet the needs of the public they serve. While they operate independently, RAOs collaborate with each other, their member states, and constituency groups in a national network to assist the National Endowment for the Arts and other funders in delivering programs.

The federal investment in this area is predicated on each RAO executing an inclusive and responsive planning process in response to constituent needs. Partnership Agreement funding enables the RAOs to address objectives identified at the regional level as well as by the National Endowment for the Arts such as:

  1. The creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence. Activities may include, but are not limited to: the commissioning, development, and production of new work; and artist stipends, workshops, and residencies.

  2. Public engagement with, and access to, various forms of excellent art across the nation. Activities may include, but are not limited to:

    • The NEA Regional Touring Program, which is designed to give all Americans access to excellence in the performing, literary, media, and visual arts. Support is available for regional programs that:

      • Increase access in underserved communities.
      • Increase benefit through complementary educational activities and community partnerships.
      • Are based on planning with touring artists and community groups.
      • Ensure high quality.
      • Encourage diversity.
      • Predominantly feature the presentation of out-of-state* artists and organizations.
      • Assist and strengthen a network of arts-presenting organizations in rural and underserved communities.  

      *Some considerations are allowed for projects that involve multi-state tours developed by presenter consortia; touring of artists across vast distances within state boundaries; in-state touring of culturally-specific programs to new venues and new audiences; or that take place in states that have a large concentration of artists/organizations, such as California and New York. However, it is required that at least 85% of the Regional Touring funds will support the presentation of artists from out of state. No more than 20 percent of the NEA Regional Touring funds may be used to support an RAO's administrative costs.

    • Support for presenting, touring, outreach, and other activities, including booking conferences and professional development, designed to enhance public engagement with the arts.
    • Folk Arts Partnership: Support for stable, outreach-driven programs that are responsive to a region’s diverse folk & traditional arts heritage, and that can strengthen regional support of the folk & traditional arts. RAOs are encouraged to support professional positions in support of the folk & traditional arts. Programs also may include, but are not limited to, fieldwork to identify and document underserved folk & traditional artists; apprenticeships, mentorships, or folk arts in education programs; and regional activities that increase public awareness of living cultural heritage.

      NEW: Previously, both RAOs and nonprofit organizations working in cooperation with their RAO were eligible for Folk Arts Partnership funding on an optional and competitive basis. Beginning in FY 2021, all RAOs will receive support for these types of activities as part of their Partnership Agreement. Those RAOs that do not have the capacity for an in-house Folk Arts Partnership program are encouraged to partner with nonprofit organizations to undertake this work. Nonprofit organizations are no longer eligible to apply directly for Partnership funding.

      See “Additional Information on Folk & Traditional Arts” LINK for more information.

  3. Learning in the arts at all stages of life. Activities may include, but are not limited to:

    • Support for lifelong learning activities for youth, adults, and intergenerational groups.
    • Support for other activities such as workshops, mentorships, and apprenticeship programs; and professional development for artists, teaching artists, and other leaders.
  4. Activities that integrate the arts into the fabric of community life. Activities may include, but are not limited to: projects that focus on the development of plans for cultural and/or creative sector growth and stability; the enhancement of public spaces through design or new art works; and other arts or design activities intended to foster community interaction in public spaces.

  5. Promotion of public knowledge and understanding about the contributions of the arts.Activities may include, but are not limited to: recognition and promotion of artistic achievement; research and communication about the arts' contributions to social, civic, economic, and/or other objectives; impact analyses of arts and cultural programming; recognition of professional arts workers as a key sector of American industry; and collaborations with other state, regional, or national entities to explore or enhance the role that the arts can play in their programming.

Deadline Dates

All applicants must submit their applications electronically through, the federal government’s online application system. The system must receive your validated and accepted application no later than 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time, on September 30, 2020. The Contact Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Awards will support activities that are scheduled to begin on July 1, 2021, or any time thereafter.

By December 1, 2020 on-year applicants have the option of submitting an update (up to one page) on any significant developments affecting the organization subsequent to submitting the application. Updates should focus only on information relevant to application review, such as changes to the organization’s operating environment, budget, key leadership/staff, strategic planning, and notable accomplishments. Email updates to:

Following the notification of funding offers (generally April 2021), all applicants must complete and submit a Partnership Agreement Budget for Arts Endowment review. Instructions and deadlines will be provided with the notification of funding.

Award Information

Partnership Award Amounts

Funds will be allotted based on:

  • National Endowment for the Arts allocations;
  • Strength of the RAO plans and accomplishments in relation to the review criteria;
  • The number of SAAs that participate as members in the RAO; and
  • The region’s population.

The RAO Partnership Agreement grant complements support provided by state arts agencies (SAAs), other public and private funders, and revenue generated through earned income.

NEW: Beginning in FY 2021, funds for activities that strengthen state support of the folk & traditional arts will be awarded to each Regional Arts Organization.

Cost Share/Matching Requirement

All awards require a cost share/match of at least 1 to 1.

All costs included in your Project Budget must be expended during your period of performance. Costs associated with other federal funds, whether direct or indirect cannot be included in your Project Budget. Costs incurred before the earliest project start date of July 1, 2021, cannot be included in your budget or cost share/match.

Applicant Eligibility

Eligibility Requirements for Regional Arts Organizations

In order to enter into a Partnership Agreement with the National Endowment for the Arts, a regional arts organization must:

  • Be comprised of at least three state arts agency (SAA) members.
  • Conduct a comprehensive and inclusive planning process that engages SAAs and other constituents.
  • Develop programs and services that respond to recommendations from the planning process.
  • Establish metrics for accomplishing goals and measuring progress in relation to the RAO’s plan.
  • Base program funding decisions on criteria that rely primarily upon artistic excellence and merit.
  • Maintain sound fiscal and administrative procedures.
  • Meet the National Endowment for the Arts’ Legal Requirements at the time of application.
  • Have submitted acceptable Final Report packages by the due date(s) for all Arts Endowment award(s) previously received, and report on funded activities in accordance with the National Standard for Arts Information Exchange.

Regional arts organizations that subgrant must:

  • Require their grantees to provide DUNS numbers before a grant can be made.
  • In certain instances, report grants of $25,000 or more in federal funds and information about the compensation of executives related to those grants to the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act Subaward Reporting System (FSRS).
  • Ensure that all subawards made with Federal or cost share/matching funds are in compliance with the General Terms and Conditions for the National Endowment for the Arts award, including requirements for pass-through entities as provided under 2 CFR 200.331.

All applicants must have a DUNS number ( and be registered with the System for Award Management (SAM, 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 here for important information about upcoming changes for federal applicants and awardees.

National Endowment for the Arts, Regional, and State Partnership

The National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts Organizations, and the State Arts Agencies comprise a national network of arts funders, cultural program and service providers, and leaders in the arts and culture sector. We believe that each participating entity benefits from partnership in the network. We invest in the network through State and Regional Partnership Agreement grants in order to: 

  • Strengthen the cultural infrastructure of the US,
  • Facilitate the creation and presentation of artistic works,
  • Provide the public with lifelong learning opportunities in the arts,
  • Enhance public engagement with, and access to, the arts,
  • Foster greater cultural understanding, and
  • Contribute to the enrichment of lives and communities throughout the nation.

We acknowledge that SAAs may choose to participate in the work of a regional arts organization of which it is not a member. SAAs may choose to shift membership from one regional arts organization to another, or may choose to withhold membership in an RAO. While recognizing that the ecology of the network benefits from change, we also believe that the network benefits from stability. To this end, shifts in state membership in RAOs must be preceded by at least one full year of planning by all of the agencies involved, including the National Endowment for the Arts.