Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grants

Office of Challenge Grants

Grant Snapshot

Maximum award amount


Open to


Expected output

Digital Infrastructure

Period of performance

Five or Six Years, Depending on Type of Institution

Application available

Application due

Expected notification date

Project start date

ALERT from The first time you log in to after June 29, 2018, you’ll be asked to create a user account (if you don’t already have one). Going forward, you will use your username and password every time you log in to Your current username and password will no longer work.  If you are renewing or registering a new entity in, you must mail an original, signed notarized letter stating that you are the authorized Entity Administrator for the entity associated with the DUNS number. Read the FAQs to learn more about these process changes. Currently recommends that registrations and renewals submit their notarized letters at least 45 days in advance of expiration dates or anticipated needs. Please note that you will be unable to access Workspace or fillable application forms until your registration is active.

The mission of this Challenge Grants program is to strengthen the institutional base of the humanities by enabling infrastructure development and capacity building. Awards aim to help institutions secure long-term support for their core activities and expand efforts to preserve and create access to outstanding humanities materials. Applications are welcome from colleges and universities, museums, public libraries, research institutions, historical societies and historic sites, scholarly associations, state humanities councils, and other public and 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.

Through these awards organizations can increase their humanities capacity with funds invested in a restricted, short-term endowment or other investment fund (or spend-down funds) that generate expendable earnings to support and enhance ongoing program activities. Eligible activities include the documentation of cultural heritage materials that are lost or imperiled; the preservation and conservation of humanities materials; and the sustaining of digital scholarly infrastructure.

Challenge grants may also support the purchase of equipment and software; the design, purchase, construction, restoration, or renovation of facilities needed for humanities activities; and collections sharing. Such expenditures bring long-term benefits to the institution and to the humanities more broadly.

Up to 10 percent of total grant funds (federal matching funds plus certified gifts) may be used for fundraising costs during the period of performance.

Challenge funds (both federal matching funds and required nonfederal gifts) must enhance the humanities in the long term. Challenge grants should not merely replace funds already being expended, but instead should reflect careful strategic planning to strengthen and enrich an institution’s humanities activities. Institutions may use challenge funds to meet both ongoing and one-time humanities-related costs, provided that the long-term benefit of the expenditure can be demonstrated.

Review your application package

As soon as you know you're ready to apply for this grant, make sure you register for a SAM number/DUNS number, and for a account as this is vital to the grants process. If you already have registered for these items, make sure they are up to date.

Begin by reading the full grant guidelines and studying the application. The files are linked below. You want to ensure you understand all the expectations and restrictions for projects delivered under this grant and are prepared to write the most effective application. 

Download Application Materials

Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grants Guidelines (PDF)

Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grants Guidelines (DOC) application package for Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grants

Budget Resources

Challenge Grants Sample Financial Summary, 2018 (PDF)

Program Resources

Additional Information for Challenge Grants Applicants about Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, August 2018

Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grants Frequently Asked Questions, August 2018 (PDF)

Assurances for Construction Programs (PDF)

Assurances for Non-Construction Programs (PDF)

Certification Regarding Lobbying (PDF)

Disclosure of Lobbying Activities form (PDF)

Certification of Matching Gifts for NEH Challenge Grants Form, 2018 (PDF)

Do's and Dont's in Administering an NEH Challenge Grant

DUNS Number Requirement

Sample Application Narratives

Alexandria Archive Institute, Data Literacy and Community Building in Digital Heritage (PDF)

Cabell County Public Library, Construction of a New Branch Library (PDF)

Dubuque County Historical Society, Preservation and Restoration through Campus Improvements (PDF)

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Multidisciplinary Display of Permanent Collection Artwork (PDF)

Reynolda House Roof Renovation (PDF)

University of California, San Diego, Construction of the Institute of Arts and Humanities (PDF)

Complete your application package

Be sure to follow the instructions outlined in the guidelines and in the instructions. 

Submit your application package on

You will receive a confirmation from when you've successfully submitted your application. 

Verify you have received email messages from

After you submit your application, will send you up to five e-mail messages confirming receipt of your application. These messages represent different stages in the application acceptance process. You should verify that you have received all confirmation messages. Please note that email filters may send these messages to your spam or junk folder.

Program Statistics

In its first competition the program received
The program had a
funding ratio
The program made
29 awards