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Strategic Plan

Fiscal Year 2013 - Fiscal Year 2017

"Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens."
(National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of l965)

NEH Mission Statement: The National Endowment for the Humanities serves and strengthens our nation by supporting high quality projects and programs in the humanities and by making the humanities available to all Americans.

Goals, Objectives, Strategies


Objective 1: Facilitate basic research and original scholarship in the humanities.


  • Provide support for fellowships and stipends that enable scholars—both those affiliated with educational institutions and those working independently—to devote a concentrated period of time to research and writing on significant subjects in all fields of the humanities.
  • Support collaborative research projects on significant subjects in the humanities.
  • Encourage international scholarly collaboration in the humanities.
  • Encourage the use of digital technologies in scholarly research and the dissemination of research findings.
  • Work in partnership with the National Science Foundation to support projects to record, document, and archive endangered languages worldwide, with a special emphasis on endangered Native American languages.
  • Support humanities scholarship and related course development by faculty at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities.

Objective 2: Strengthen teaching and learning in the humanities in elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education.


  • Provide professional development opportunities for teachers at all levels of the nation’s educational system to renew and deepen their knowledge of the humanities.
  • Strengthen efforts to enhance the availability and quality of humanities teaching and learning in the nation’s community colleges, especially the study of diverse cultures and historical perspectives.
  • Support efforts of faculty at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities to deepen their knowledge in the humanities and strengthen their humanities offerings.
  • Develop and support NEH’s EDSITEment web portal as a means of enriching online teaching and learning resources available to teachers, students, and parents.

Objective 3: Preserve and increase access to cultural heritage resources that constitute the cultural and intellectual patrimony of the American people and that are important to research, education, and public understanding of the humanities.


  • Support the preservation of and expanded access to historically significant collections in libraries, archives, historical societies, and other cultural repositories.
  • Work in partnership with other institutions, such as the Library of Congress, to digitize and make more accessible historic U.S. newspapers, including newspapers printed in languages other than English.
  • Support the creation of research tools and reference works of major importance to the humanities,
  • Work in partnership with the National Science Foundation to support projects to record, document, and archive endangered languages worldwide, with a special emphasis on endangered Native American languages.
  • Support research that leads to new digital tools, technologies, national standards, best practices, and other methodologies for the preservation of collections and cultural resources.
  • Support the training of staff from the nation's cultural repositories in the appropriate procedures for preserving and enhancing access to humanities collections.
  • Provide support for basic preservation activities to small and mid-sized libraries, archives, museums, and historical organizations.

Objective 4: Provide opportunities for American citizens of all ages and wherever located to engage in lifelong learning in the humanities.


  • Support efforts by museums and historical organizations to produce interpretive exhibitions and educational materials that convey significant humanities themes and topics.
  • Support substantive documentary films, radio programs, and online media presentations that advance public understanding of the humanities and promote citizen engagement in consideration of humanities issues and themes.
  • Support significant projects and programs that interpret the humanities collections of libraries and archives and circulate those projects throughout the nation.
  • Broaden the Endowment's reach by distributing products and programs of NEH grants to new audiences and communities.
  • Support humanities projects that make creative use of new technologies to enhance the quality and reach of public humanities programming.

Objective 5: Maintain and strengthen partnerships with the state humanities councils.


  • Support state council efforts to develop locally initiated humanities programs for the people in each state.
  • Encourage high quality council-conducted humanities programs in the various states.
  • Encourage state humanities councils in their efforts to create and support humanities-rich websites and digital projects.
  • Support state humanities councils in ongoing collaborations with colleges and universities, museums, libraries, historical societies, and other institutions.
  • Recognize and encourage council activities that promote civil discussion, particularly of issues that divide Americans.

Objective 6: Provide a focal point for development of the digital humanities.


  • Provide national leadership in spurring innovation and best practices in the digital humanities.
  • Encourage and support innovative digital projects and programs that will enhance the way humanities research is conducted and the way the humanities are studied, taught, and presented in the United States.

Objective 7: Strengthen the institutional base of the humanities through financial incentives provided by matching challenge grants.


  • Encourage cultural and educational institutions to engage in long-range planning in order to strengthen their humanities programs intellectually and financially.
  • Encourage efforts of cultural and educational institutions to attract and increase nonfederal contributions to their humanities resources and activities.
  • Support the efforts of cultural and educational institutions to use digital technologies, where appropriate, in their humanities activities.
  • Encourage Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and two-year colleges to take advantage of special Challenge grant opportunities designed with these institutions in mind.

Objective 8: Stimulate third-party support for humanities projects and programs.


  • Encourage and support efforts of educational and cultural organizations to secure nonfederal sources of funding in support of humanities projects and programs.
  • Leverage the private sector contributions of the nation's businesses, foundations, and philanthropic-minded individuals on behalf of humanities projects and programs.


Objective 1: Broaden awareness of, access to, and support for the humanities.


  • Use NEH’s national visibility and stature to communicate the importance of the humanities to all Americans.
  • Make creative use of the NEH website—as well as other digital information technologies—to disseminate publications and information relating to NEH, its grant programs, and grant products to broad segments of the American population.
  • Communicate widely and variously the ways that the humanities embody values of civility and civic engagement that are fundamental to democratic culture.
  • Use opportunities such as the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, the National Humanities Medal awards, National Arts and Humanities Youth Program awards, and reports to Congress to convey the importance of the humanities.
  • Work in partnership with state humanities councils to increase awareness of the importance of the humanities and in extending the reach of the humanities to all citizens in communities across the nation.
  • Conduct outreach and place special emphasis on expanding access to NEH programs and activities.

Objective 2: Collect, analyze, and disseminate information about the state of the humanities in the United States.


  • Work independently and in partnership with other national organizations to collect, analyze, and provide access to data and information on the state of the humanities.
  • In partnership with federal and nonfederal organizations, including the state humanities councils, design and implement new data collection instruments that will provide vital information on the humanities labor force and on humanities education and programming in the states and across the nation.
  • Use social media and other digital tools to elicit comments from the field and the public at large about NEH programs and operations and the state of the humanities in general.

Objective 3: Develop and maintain partnerships with individuals, organizations, and institutions in support of the humanities.


  • Develop partnerships with other agencies, foundations, and organizations to leverage resources and expand audiences for the humanities.
  • Establish and strengthen partnerships with other federal agencies, as well as with agencies and institutions in other nations, to address critical issues in the humanities.


Objective 1: Provide effective and results-oriented service to the American people.


  • Periodically review the agency's operations, particularly:

    • the application process, endeavoring to reduce the administrative burden on applicants while maintaining the ability of NEH staff to process incoming applications in a timely fashion
    • the merit review process, seeking ways of streamlining the process—particularly through the creative use of digital technologies—without compromising the quality or integrity of the review process
    • grant management, with an eye toward increasing the use of NEH’s electronic grants management system to collect and make use of information on the progress and outcomes of grant-supported projects
    • budget and financial management, working to maintain strong internal controls and financial integrity and accountability in the agency’s operations
    • information management, striving to harness the capabilities of digital technologies to collect and analyze data in a manner that will inform decision-making at every level of the agency
    • the transparency of agency operations and methods of communication with the public, with a particular focus on web-based and social media communications strategies.
  • Where appropriate, work in consultation with NEH members of AFGE Local 3403 to enhance quality of service and efficiency of operations.

Objective 2: Recruit and retain a highly qualified, diverse, and results-oriented work force.


  • Ensure that the NEH workforce has the education, skills, and training needed to advance the mission of the agency.
  • Maintain a diverse and results-oriented workforce that is deployed appropriately in support of the agency's core functions.
  • Seek opportunities to streamline the hiring process, with an emphasis on reducing the barriers to federal employment.