Federal/State Partnership: NEH & the state humanities councils

November 5, 2014
The southwest facade of Constitution Center. Federal/State Partnership is on the
Photo caption

The southwest facade of Constitution Center. Federal/State Partnership is on the 4th floor. The church across the street, reflected in the windows, rings bells hourly.

Kathleen Mitchell

By congressional mandate, the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent federal agency in the executive branch, provides general operating support grants to the 56 state and jurisdictional humanities councils. Federal/State Partnership is the NEH office designated to work with the councils. The councils are Federal/State Partnership’s sole grantees.

State humanities councils are independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations governed by volunteer boards of directors and staffed by humanities professionals. They operate, as designated by Congress, in each of the 50 states as well as in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. The councils employ more than 500 staff members and engage over 1,000 board members. The first councils were founded in 1971 and the last, the Amerika Samoa Humanities Council, was founded in 1994. All but four councils were founded in the 1970s.

Federal/State Partnership is a collaborative effort that links a national federal agency with the state and jurisdictional humanities councils. It helps the National Endowment for the Humanities realize its two primary strategic goals of advancing knowledge and understanding of the humanities and increasing public awareness of, access to, and support for the humanities in the United States. This partnership makes humanities education and lifelong learning readily available at the local level, uniquely tailored to local interests and needs and drawing upon local resources and experiences.

The core work of Federal/State Partnership

Federal/State Partnership oversees the councils’ congressionally appropriated general operating support grants, carries out on-site consultations and review, offers councils general liability insurance, and maintains network-wide communication. It staff reads council board minutes, newsletters, and other publications; keeps up with councils’ activities on the web and social media; and tracks trends and ideas in the broad nonprofit and grantmaking worlds.

Federal/State Partnership publishes the monthly Working Together e-newsletter for council staff, board chairs and members, NEH, and others. The current email list is almost 1,700 with an open rate of over 35%. Federal/State Partnership has a lively presence on the NEH website that includes all the materials councils need to work with Federal/State Partnership and NEH. Both the newsletter and the website feature council activities. Federal/State Partnership also makes use of the Google groups run by the Federation of State Humanities Councils, the councils’ membership organization.

Federal/State Partnership encourages councils to produce and support splendid humanities programming, to serve as models of excellent nonprofit management, to maintain open communication, mutual support, and shared goals with NEH and other councils, and to exercise responsible and impeccable stewardship of public—and all—funds entrusted to them.

A one-page description of the work of Federal/State Partnership is available for download.

Contact information for all the state humanities councils is available online. Download a printable version of the contact information for the fifty-six state humanities councils.

The National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act of 1965 is the legislation under which the National Endowment for the Humanities and the state humanities councils operate. The legislation about state humanities councils is Sec. 956 (sec. 7)(f)(1-7). Other pertinent sections are:

  • Sec. 951. Declaration of findings and purposes
  • Sec. 956. National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Sec. 959. Administrative provisions

Additional information about Federal/State Partnership is available in the "about" section of this website. The Resource Library has a collection of articles and information about council activities, the history of councils, and materials on nonprofit management and governance. Even more information about the work of state and jurisdictional humanities councils as well as of the National Endowment for the Humanities is available in the newsletter archive.