University of Southern California


NEH – Challenge Grants

Slots:                                                     One      
Institutions may apply for only one NEH challenge grant in a calendar year. An institution is eligible to apply for a subsequent challenge grant beginning in the third year after the closing date of its most recent NEH challenge grant.     

LOI:                                                        N/A
Internal Deadline:                           January 12, 2015; 5pm
External Deadline:                          May 1, 2015
Award Information:                        Types: Successful applicants will be offered a matching grant. Recipients must raise three times the amount of federal funds offered, except for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities, and two-year colleges. These three types of institutions are required to raise only two times the amount of federal funds offered.

Estimated Number of Awards: Anticipated Amount: NEH will offer successful applicants a matching grant. The requested grant amount should be appropriate to the humanities needs and the fundraising capacity of the institution. The federal portions of NEH challenge grants have ranged in recent years from $75,000 to $500,000. Requests for more than $500,000 are unlikely to be funded at that level. Note that the program encourages requests for smaller grants for sharply defined purposes.

Submission Process:                    Please note the change in application submission process:
PIs must submit their application utilizing the Office of Research’s new Application Portal:  

Link to Award:

Purpose: NEH challenge grants are capacity-building grants, intended to help institutions and organizations secure long-term support for their humanities programs and resources. Through these awards, many organizations and institutions have been able to increase their humanities capacity and secure the permanent support of an endowment. Grants may be used to establish or enhance endowments or spend-down funds that generate expendable earnings to support and enhance ongoing program activities. Challenge grants may also provide capital directly supporting the procurement of long-lasting objects, such as acquisitions for archives and collections, the purchase of equipment, and the construction or renovation of facilities needed for humanities activities. Funds spent directly must be shown to bring long-term benefits to the institution and to the humanities more broadly. Grantee institutions may also expend up to 10 percent of total grant funds (federal funds plus matching funds) to defray costs of fundraising to meet the NEH challenge. Because of the matching requirement, these NEH grants also strengthen the humanities by encouraging nonfederal sources of support.

Applications are welcome from colleges and universities, museums, public libraries, research institutions, historical societies and historic sites, scholarly associations, state humanities councils, and other nonprofit humanities entities. Programs that involve collaboration among multiple institutions are eligible as well, but one institution must serve as the lead agent and formal applicant of record.

Activities supported
Challenge grant funds (both federal and nonfederal together) must enhance the humanities in the long term. Challenge grant funds should not merely replace funds already being expended on the humanities, but instead should reflect careful strategic planning to strengthen and enrich the institution’s humanities activities and commitment to the advancement of knowledge and understanding of the humanities.

Institutions may use challenge grant funds to meet both ongoing and one-time humanities-related costs, provided that the long-term benefit of the expenditure can be demonstrated. Award recipients might use federal challenge grant funds, as well as funds raised for matching, for purposes such as the following:

Through the income from endowments or spend-down funds (which are defined beneath the “Mode of expenditure” heading below), grantees could use challenge grant funds to support

Through direct expenditure, grantees could use challenge grant funds to support