Information for First-time Applicants

NEH was founded in 1965 “to promote progress and scholarship in the humanities.” NEH accomplishes this mission by supporting research in the humanities, nurturing the nation’s humanities infrastructure, and expanding the reach of the humanities to all Americans.

If you are new to NEH and thinking of applying for a federal grant award, start with this question: Is my project in the humanities?

According to NEH’s enabling legislation, “the term ‘humanities’ includes, but is not limited to, the study and interpretation of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life.”

The types of projects we fund range from the scholarly (including books, archives, and scholarly editions and translations) to the popular (e.g., museum exhibitions, tours of historic places, documentary films, and television, radio, and digital programs). We make grant awards in support of seminars for schoolteachers and college faculty. We also make awards to institutions such as libraries, historical societies, museums, and universities to help build their humanities capacity and infrastructure. NEH supports 56 state and jurisdictional humanities councils around the country, all of which also make awards to local humanities projects.

NEH relies on a competitive application process and a rigorous peer review system to determine which applications are most deserving of federal support. For deadlines and application procedures, go to NEH’s Grants section, which lists all of NEH’s current grant offerings.  

If you believe your humanities project merits consideration, please contact NEH (contact information for each grant program is listed in the application guidelines) and talk to a program officer. They can tell you whether your project fits an existing grant program and give you advice on how to approach the application process. NEH staff will also review draft applications in many of its programs (consult grant guidelines for information on how to submit a draft proposal for feedback).