Challenge America offers support primarily to small organizations for projects in all artistic disciplines that extend the reach of the arts to populations that are underserved. Challenge America features an abbreviated application, a robust structure of technical assistance, and grants for a set amount of $10,000. Grants require a cost share/match of $10,000 consisting of cash and/or in-kind contributions. Total project costs must be at least $20,000 or greater.
This category is an entry point for organizations seeking NEA funding. See Applicant Eligibility for more information.
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is the only arts funder in the United States—public or private—that provides access to the arts in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Through our grantmaking to thousands of organizations each year, we support the creative capacity of communities to provide everyone in the United States with diverse opportunities for arts participation. Since 2001, the Challenge America program has extended the NEA’s reach by promoting equal access to the arts in communities across the country. We are committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and fostering mutual respect for the diverse beliefs and values of all individuals and groups.
Challenge America offers support primarily to small organizations for projects in all artistic disciplines that extend the reach of the arts to populations that are underserved. The program is rooted in principles that include, but are not limited to, our recognition that:
- Some populations and some geographic areas have limited grant funding opportunities, and/or have been historically underserved by national arts funding;
- Some small organizations may face barriers to accessing grant funding; and
- Some applicants to the NEA may benefit from enhanced technical assistance resources.
Challenge America seeks to address these potential barriers for organizations seeking funding. The program features an abbreviated application, a standardized $10,000 grant amount, and a robust structure of technical assistance to facilitate entry to NEA funding opportunities.
This category is an entry point for organizations seeking NEA funding. First-time applicants to the NEA, as well as previous NEA applicants who have not been recommended for funding in any of the three most recent Fiscal Years (FYs 2020, 2021, or 2022) in any of the following grant programs, are eligible to apply:
- Grants for Arts Projects (formerly known as Art Works),
- Research Grants in the Arts, or
- Our Town.
Previous NEA applicants recommended for FY 2020, FY 2021, or FY 2022 funding in Grants for Arts Projects (formerly known as Art Works), Research Grants in the Arts, or Our Town are not eligible to apply.
Previous Challenge America applicants and grantees are eligible to apply, as long as they were not recommended for FY 2020, FY 2021, or FY 2022 funding in Grants for Arts Projects (formerly known as Art Works), Research Grants in the Arts, or Our Town. See Applicant Eligibility for more information.
Eligible organizations that received American Rescue Plan (ARP) or CARES Act funding are eligible apply to this program as long as they were not recommended for FY 2020, FY 2021, or FY 2022 funding in Grants for Arts Projects (formerly known as Art Works), Research Grants in the Arts, or Our Town.
Our expectation is that organizations will eventually transition from Challenge America to Grants for Arts Projects, the NEA’s principal funding opportunity.
Challenge America supports arts projects in all artistic disciplines. Projects must extend the reach of the arts to populations that are underserved. Possible projects include, but are not limited to: arts programming, including commissioning or presentation of artists or artwork; marketing and promotional activities; and organizational planning. Projects may consist of one or more specific events or activities, and should not cover an entire season of programming. We do not support seasonal or general operating support.
Applicants should carefully read the application Review Criteria and address those criteria in the application.
What do we mean by underserved populations?
The term “underserved,” as defined by our legislation and agency policy, refers to those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability. At least one of these characteristics must be evident in the proposed project. Age alone (e.g., youth, seniors) does not qualify a group as underserved.
As applicable, engagement with the following constituencies is encouraged (in accordance with White House Executive Orders):
- Historically Black Colleges and Universities,
- Tribal Colleges and Universities,
- American Indian and Alaska Native tribes,
- African American Serving Institutions,
- Hispanic Serving Institutions,
- Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and
- Organizations that support the independence and lifelong inclusion of people with disabilities.
Projects may focus on reaching a particular constituency; however, they may not be exclusionary under national civil rights laws and policies prohibiting discrimination. This extends to hiring practices and audience engagement.
To view examples of the types of projects we have previously funded, visit our Recent Grants Search tool.