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Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grants

Division of Preservation and Access

Receipt Deadline March 15, 2018

The deadline for this program has passed.

Updated guidelines will be posted in advance of the next deadline. In the meantime, please use these guidelines to get a sense of what is involved in assembling an application.

Brief Summary

The mission of this Challenge Grants program is to strengthen the institutional base of the humanities by enabling infrastructure development and capacity building. Grants 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 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 grants organizations can increase their humanities capacity with 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 provide capital directly supporting the purchase of equipment and software; the design, purchase, construction, restoration, or renovation of facilities needed for humanities activities; and collections sharing. Such direct expenditures 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.

 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, but instead should reflect careful strategic planning to strengthen and enrich an institution’s humanities activities. 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.


Contact NEH’s Division of Preservation and Access at 202-606-8309 or challenge[at]neh[dot]gov. Applicants who are deaf or hard of hearing can contact NEH via Federal Relay (TTY users) at 800-877-8399.