ART WORKS: Frequently Asked Questions

Changes from Last Year | General Information | Eligibility | Categories | Projects

Application Review | Grant Amounts | Grants.gov | The Application | Timing | After Notification

CHANGES FROM LAST YEAR

What are the changes to the guidelines for this year and what do they mean to me?

The application deadlines and process have changed.

Application deadlines for Art Works are February 20 and July 24, 2014.

You will continue to submit your application material both through Grants.gov and the NEA GrantsOnline™ System (NEA-GO), as previous applicants have done. However, next year you will submit the substantial part of your application through NEA-GO rather than Grants.gov. To implement this new process, the application deadline dates are shifting to be a little bit earlier this year, so mark your calendars.

Here's how it will work for the first Art Works deadline:

Step 1: February 20, 2014

You'll submit the Application for Federal Domestic Assistance (SF-424 -- the form that asks for basic information about your organization and project) through Grants.gov. Yes, that's all you'll submit through Grants.gov!

This is the deadline of record. If you do not submit the SF-424 successfully by February 20, you will be unable to submit a full application through NEA-GO. We encourage you to submit the SF-424 no later than ten days prior to the deadline to give yourself ample time to resolve any problems that you might encounter. If you do not submit the SF-424 to Grants.gov at least ten days prior to the actual deadline, you may encounter unexpected problems that will cause you to miss the deadline. No applications will be accepted after the deadline.

Step 2: March 6-20, 2014

NEA-GO will open for you to submit the NEA Grant Application Form and your work samples. You will have until 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time, on March 20, 2014, to upload, preview/check, and submit your application material and work samples electronically.

You will submit a substantial part of your application through the new Grant Application Form, including:

  • Answers to narrative questions about your organization and project.
  • Financial information about your organization and project.
  • Bios of key individuals.

You will be able to see the Grant Application Form and the information that it collects when the guidelines are posted in January. While you will not have access to the Grant Application Form until NEA-GO opens for you to submit your application material, you can and should prepare your responses and material well in advance of the March 20 deadline and have them fully ready to upload once NEA-GO opens for you. The version of the form that you will be able to see in January will let you know what is required and any specifications about your material (e.g., character limits for narrative responses).

Additional changes

  • The Arts Education discipline has added a new project type for Collective Impact Grants.  Archived webinars on Collective Impact can be found here and here.
  • We've also clarified that the NEA won't make grants for less than $10,000, and we've added language to define what we mean by fiscal sponsorship.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Are the application guidelines available only on the website?

Yes. All materials are available online at the touch of a button.

How can I find out when new guidelines are released?

NEA guidelines are modified every year. Sign up for the notification service provided by Grants.gov, the federal government’s online application system.

Sign up here.

Can I get help if something in the guidelines is unclear?

Yes -- we're here to help you. The list below will help you find the right person to talk to about your application. The staff can explain and clarify eligibility requirements, review criteria, category definitions, and requirements relating to application material. Because we have a small staff, we cannot guarantee assistance for every applicant who contacts us just before a deadline, so try to call early.

If you have questions about Art Works, contact the staff for the field or discipline that is most relevant to your project:

Artist Communities: Pepper Smith, smiths@arts.gov or 202/682-5790

Arts Education (pre-K through 12 curriculum-based projects that align with either national or state arts education standards):

Dance, Design, Media Arts, Museums, Music, Opera, Visual Arts: Denise Brandenburg, brandenburg@arts.gov or 202/682-5044

Literature, Theater & Musical Theater: Nancy Daugherty, daughern@arts.gov or 202/682-5521

Folk & Traditional Arts, Local Arts Agencies, Presenting & Multidisciplinary Works: Terry Liu, liut@arts.gov or 202/682-5690

Dance (including dance presentation): Janelle Ott Long, ottlongj@arts.gov or 202/682-5739; Juliana Mascelli, mascellij@arts.gov or 202/682-5656

Design (including architecture, communications and graphic design, fashion design, historic preservation, industrial and product design, interior design, landscape architecture, planning, universal design, rural design, and urban design): Courtney Spearman, spearmanc@arts.gov or 202/682-5547

Folk & Traditional Arts (including folk & traditional arts projects in any art form): William Mansfield, mansfieldw@arts.gov or 202/682-5678; Barry Bergey, bergeyb@arts.gov or 202/682-5726

Literature: Amy Stolls, stollsa@arts.gov or 202/682-5771

Local Arts Agencies (including projects in any discipline that are submitted by a local arts agency or LAA. Local arts agencies generally are referred to as arts councils, departments of cultural affairs, or arts commissions. LAAs can be private entities or public municipal, county, or regional agencies that operate in cooperation with mayors and city managers. Local arts agencies generally make grant awards directly to both artists and arts organizations, present programming to the public, manage cultural facilities, provide services to artists and arts organizations, and facilitate community cultural planning. Statewide assemblies and cultural service organizations that work specifically with local arts agencies also are eligible, but only for projects that will predominantly serve local arts agencies.): Dinah Walls, wallsd@arts.gov or 202/682-5586

Media Arts: Lakita Edwards or Sarah Metz at mediaarts@arts.gov

Museums (including projects in any discipline that are submitted by a museum): Wendy Clark, clarkw@arts.gov or 202/682-5555

Music (including music presentation):

Organizations with names that begin A through L: Court Burns, burnsc@arts.gov or 202/682-5590

Organizations with names that begin M through Z: Anya Nykyforiak, nykyfora@arts.gov or 202/682-5487

Jazz Projects: Katja von Schuttenbach, vonschuttenbach@arts.gov or 202/682-5711

Opera (including opera presentation): Georgianna Paul, paulg@arts.gov or 202/682-5600

Presenting & Multidisciplinary Works (projects that involve multiple arts disciplines including multidisciplinary arts presenting and other types of multidisciplinary activities):

Organizations with names that begin A through E: Pepper Smith, smiths@arts.gov or 202/682-5790

Organizations with names that begin F through Z: Lara Allee, alleel@arts.gov or 202/682-5698

Theater & Musical Theater (including theater and musical theater presentation):

Organizations with names that begin A through M: Eleanor Denegre, denegree@arts.gov or 202/682-5509

Organizations with names that begin N through Z: Carol Lanoux Lee, leec@arts.gov or 202/682-5020

Visual Arts: Meg Brennan, brennanm@arts.gov or 202/682-5703

If you have a question about registering with or the mechanics of Grants.gov, contact Grants.gov directly at 1-800-518-4726, e-mail support@grants.gov, or consult the Customer Support material posted on their website.

How do I choose the right outcome for my project?

It’s all about primary purpose and the results you expect to achieve.

Think about the primary purpose of your project. How does it relate to the results you expect to achieve? Look at the evidence of those results that you would need to provide if you receive a grant (you should look at the reporting requirements for each outcome to see what will be required). Choose the one outcome that you think is most relevant and indicate this in your application and on the application form.

If the primary purpose of your project is to create new art, choose Creation.

If the primary purpose of your project is to engage the public with art, choose Engagement.

If the primary purpose of your project is the acquisition of knowledge or skills in the arts by participants, choose Learning.

If the primary purpose of your project is to strengthen communities through the arts, choose Livability. Please contact staff if you are considering Livability as an outcome to make sure you are making the right choice. The requirements for Livability are different from -- and more extensive than -- the requirements for the other outcomes.

What does the Arts Education area encompass?

Arts Education is for pre-K-12 curriculum-based projects that align with either national or state arts education standards. Arts Education grantees will be required to describe the methods used to assess learning, and they will be required to submit any tools used to assess learning with their Final Report.

All other types of educational activities for individuals of all ages should be directed to the relevant discipline.

If I have a single-discipline presenting project, do I submit my application under the Presenting & Multidisciplinary Works area?

No. The Presenting & Multidisciplinary Works area is for multidisciplinary projects only. If you have a single-discipline presenting project, submit your application to that particular discipline.

Should I choose a discipline or Local Arts Agencies? Aren't all arts organizations "local arts agencies"?

The majority of arts organizations should choose a discipline. While you may be a local arts organization, you may not meet our definition of a Local Arts Agency.

For our purposes, local arts agencies generally are arts councils, departments of cultural affairs, or arts commissions. Some are private entities; others are public municipal, county, or regional agencies that operate in cooperation with mayors and city managers. Local arts agencies generally make grant awards directly to both artists and arts organizations, present programming to the public, manage cultural facilities, provide services to artists and arts organizations, and facilitate community cultural planning.

If you meet the definition of a local arts agency, you should submit your application through Local Arts Agencies regardless of the discipline of your project.

MAY MY ORGANIZATION APPLY FOR A GRANT?/ELIGIBILITY

What kinds of organizations may apply?

Nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3), U.S. organizations; units of state or local government; or federally recognized tribal communities or tribes may apply. Applicants may be arts organizations, local arts agencies, arts service organizations, local education agencies (school districts), and other organizations that can help advance the goals of the Arts Endowment. In addition, an organization must have at least a three-year history of programming by the application deadline to be eligible.

My organization does not have its own nonprofit status. Can we apply through a fiscal sponsor?

No. An ineligible organization (i.e., one without its own nonprofit status) may not use a fiscal sponsor for the purpose of application. The NEA stopped accepting applications from fiscal sponsors in 2005.

If I don't have my own nonprofit status and I can't use a fiscal sponsor, is there any way that I can still be a part of a grant?

While you may not apply for and receive a grant on your own, you may participate in a project submitted by another organization that is eligible.

If my organization provides fiscal sponsor services, may I apply?

An organization that serves as a fiscal sponsor may not apply for projects on behalf of the entities or individuals that it may sponsor as part of its mission and programs. However, it may apply for its own programs and productions.

The Agency will review the organization's website and other materials to determine the appropriate nature of the project.

Why can't individuals apply?

Congress has prohibited the Arts Endowment from making direct grants to individuals except for Literature Fellowships.

My organization has never received an Arts Endowment grant in the past. Should I consider applying?

Yes. New applicants are funded every year. Prior Arts Endowment support is not a review criterion. Eligible applications are evaluated on the basis of artistic excellence and artistic merit. Note, however, that federal grants management entails administrative responsibilities that some small budget organizations may find too taxing with their limited resources. If your organization has an operating budget of less than $50,000 or has never applied for public funds before, you might want to consider approaching local or state sources rather than the Arts Endowment.

Are only large organizations in major metropolitan areas really competitive?

Absolutely not. The Arts Endowment recognizes that the significance of a project can be measured by excellence and inventiveness, not solely by budget size, institutional stature, or the numbers of people or areas that are reached. In fact, the profile of grants for past funding years shows a diverse range of organizational size and longevity. (See Recent Grants.) In addition, the Arts Endowment takes into consideration projects that can provide an unusual or especially valuable contribution because of geographic location or the potential to reach underserved populations.

How many applications can I submit?

An organization may submit only one application to either Art Works OR Challenge America Fast-Track. Exceptions to this one-application rule are made only for parent organizations, in which case additional applications are allowed for separately identifiable independent components, and certain Media Arts applicants.

What is an independent component?

An independent component must be a unit of an organization that is both programmatically and administratively distinct from its parent organization, has its own staff and budget, and generally has an independent board that has substantial responsibility for oversight and management.

To qualify as independent, a component should be equivalent to a separate institution with a separate mission. For example, a university with an art museum wishes to submit one application on its own behalf and one on behalf of the art museum. The university serves a student population and grants degrees. The university trustees manage the university's budget, staff, and programming. The art museum serves the general public and mounts exhibitions. The museum board, not the university trustees, manages the museum's budget, staff, and programming. In this example, the art museum essentially is a stand-alone organization and qualifies as an independent component.

A city or county government may qualify as a parent organization and apply on behalf of its independent components.

The following do not qualify as independent components:

  • Academic departments of colleges and universities.
  • Programs and projects of organizations. For example, we've found that many youth orchestras sponsored by symphony associations are actually programs, and not independent components.

You should consult with Arts Endowment staff to verify the eligibility of a component before preparing your application.

Can I apply to the Art Works or Challenge America Fast-Track categories and one of the other Funding Opportunities listed for organizations?

You may apply to other Arts Endowment funding opportunities, including Our Town, in addition to either Art Works OR Challenge America. In each case, the request must be for a distinctly different project.

The "We Do Not Fund" section indicates that funding is not available for individual elementary or secondary schools directly. Do you mean only public schools, or does that include private and charter schools?

We do not fund directly any elementary or secondary schools -- charter, private, or public.

How can a school be part of an application?

A school may participate in a project for which another eligible organization applies. Local education agencies (school districts), community organizations, and state and regional education agencies are eligible applicants.

What if my organization is both a school and a school district?

If your school also is the local education agency (school district), as is the case with some charter schools, your school may apply as the school district. The school must submit documentation that supports its status as the local education agency with its application. In this case, the official applicant is the school district.

The "We Do Not Fund" section says that subgranting is not allowed. What is subgranting?

Subgranting is defined as regranting funds to an individual or organization for activities that are conducted independently of your organization and for the benefit of the subgrantee’s own program objectives. A subgrantee is not directly employed by or affiliated with your organization.

Examples of subgranting include:

  • Awards and prizes.
  • Payment to an individual or organization to obtain technical assistance for their own benefit with little or no involvement from your organization. (Allowable technical assistance would include services that are offered or coordinated by your organization such as making your facilities available, conducting workshops or conferences, or providing hands-on assistance. These activities also should be monitored and evaluated by your organization.)
  • Production funds awarded to an individual or organization through a competitive review process with little or no subsequent involvement from your organization.

Most organizations cannot apply to the Arts Endowment to subgrant federal funds to individuals or organizations. Congress has prohibited the Arts Endowment from making grants for subgranting activity, with exceptions only for state arts agencies, regional arts organizations, and local arts agencies designated to operate on behalf of local governments. Eligible local arts agencies must have a three-year history of subgranting in the arts in order to apply for a subgranting project.

My organization wants to apply for support of its apprenticeship program. How can I clarify in my application that my project does not include awarding subgrants even though my budget may include fees to individual artists?

The key to avoiding the appearance of subgranting is the involvement of your organization.

Many types of projects can and should include fees to individual artists. For example, a budget for an apprenticeship program might include fees paid to artists. These fees are not considered subgranting if your organization provides substantive supervision of and involvement in the mentor-apprentice relationship. This might include:

  • Planning a detailed description of the individual master-apprentice course of study.
  • Monitoring and evaluating the progress of the activity including conducting site visits.
  • Documenting apprenticeship activities including reports from masters and apprentices.
  • Arranging public exhibition or performance opportunities for masters and apprentices.
  • Archiving material related to the apprenticeships and publicly distributing information about the apprenticeship program and its activities.

Note that simply "checking in" on the activity, including obtaining progress and final reports, does not qualify as substantive involvement in the project.

You can provide evidence of your organization's involvement with this activity through project-related information on your website, announcements and evaluations of public events, and archival documentation.

May I include international artists in my project?

Yes, as long as the costs related to their compensation and travel are in compliance with regulations issued by the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Asset Control (see http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/). If those costs are not in compliance, we can't fund them and they can't be included in your application budget.

CATEGORIES

ART WORKS

How does the "discipline selection" work?

Choose the discipline or field of your project. If you're unclear about the discipline of your project, you may want to read the descriptions of several disciplines before you make a choice.

Let's say you have a visual arts project. In that case you would look at the Visual Arts description. You will find examples of the types of visual arts projects that are supported under Art Works.

There are two Art Works application deadlines. How does that work?

The types of projects accepted under each deadline vary. Make sure that you apply under the deadline that is most appropriate to your particular project. For example, if you go to the Dance section of the guidelines, you will see that certain types of dance projects are eligible under the February 20, 2014, deadline. Other types of dance projects are eligible under the July 24, 2014, deadline. We do this so that similar projects can be grouped together for application processing and review. Please note that there is only one deadline for projects submitted under Artist Communities (February 20) and Design (July 24).

PROJECTS

Does my project have to be new? Does it have to be big?

No.

Projects do not have to be new. Excellent existing projects can be just as competitive as new activities.

Projects do not need to be big either; the Arts Endowment welcomes small projects that can make a difference in their community or field.

Does my project have to be outside the scope of my regular programming?

No, a project can be a part of an applicant's regular season or activity. For example, a theater company's educational activities that occur year round could constitute an acceptable project. Other projects might be a workshop production of a work in progress or a charrette sponsored by a community design center. What is important is the specificity of the activities involved. Also, there can be no overlap with projects for which you are receiving other Arts Endowment or federal funds.

Why don't you fund general operating or seasonal support?

The shift away from general operating/seasonal support to project support occurred due to Congressional mandate. The Congress wanted a clear way for the agency to know exactly what it was funding, and directed the agency to make grants only for specific, definable activities -- not for general support.

I know that you don't provide seasonal support, but what if my organization only undertakes one project per year?

Some organizations only undertake one very specific, short-term project in the course of a year -- a ten-day jazz festival, for example. In this case, the whole festival (excluding any unallowable costs such as fund raising, entertainment, etc.) could be considered a project. Or an applicant may want to isolate certain components of that same festival, such as the presentation of a key artist and the associated activities. Just be specific about how the Arts Endowment and matching funds are going to be used. Your project budget should not equal your organization's total operating budget for the year.

How specific do I have to be about my project?

Be as specific as you can. Reviewers often have difficulty making positive recommendations without information on specific artists, productions, venues, distribution plans, etc.

If you apply under Art Works and you receive more current information after you've submitted your application, forward it to the specialist handling your application as soon as possible. Be sure to include your application number on any such submissions.

APPLICATION REVIEW

How will my application be evaluated?

Congress specified in our authorizing legislation that "artistic excellence and artistic merit" are the criteria by which applications must be evaluated.

What do you mean by "artistic excellence and artistic merit"?

Artistic excellence refers to the quality of the art that is made or presented. Is it of a sufficient standard to deserve support in a national competition? We recognize that there are various approaches to excellence among different cultures, media, styles, periods, etc., but that all have their standards.

We get many questions about "artistic merit." It is a term that the Congress included in our legislation as a basis for funding, or, in its absence, not funding applications. We interpret "artistic merit" to include a range of factors that go beyond the technical proficiency or standards of a work. Artistic merit might include, for example, the:

  • Potential to achieve results consistent with the selected NEA outcome. The NEA's outcomes are:
    • Creation: The creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence,
    • Engagement: Public engagement with diverse and excellent art,
    • Learning: Lifelong learning in the arts, and
    • Livability: The strengthening of communities through the arts.
  • Potential impact on artists, the artistic field, and the organization's community.
  • Where applicable, extent to which the project is considered to be innovative.
  • Extent to which a project is inclusive of individuals from all demographic backgrounds of the community, and physical and cognitive abilities.
  • Or the fact that a project reaches an artistically underserved community.

For more detailed information about how the artistic excellence and artistic merit of applications will be evaluated, see the "Review Criteria" for your category in the guidelines. Make sure you demonstrate how your project meets the review criteria in your application material.

Who will review my application?

Art Works applications are reviewed by advisory panels. Each panel is composed of a diverse group of arts experts and other individuals, including at least one knowledgeable layperson, with broad knowledge of the types of projects coming before it. Composition of the panels changes every year.

Panels are convened by field or discipline. For example, if you apply under Literature your application will be reviewed by an advisory panel that is made up predominantly of literature experts. Art Education panels include education providers and others who work with youth as well as artists and other field/discipline experts. The panelists will look at the artistic quality and merit of the proposed arts learning experience.

After Art Works applications are reviewed by advisory panels, the panel recommendations are reconciled with available funds by the staff. These recommendations then go to the National Council on the Arts. After the Council meets, the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts reviews the Council's recommendations and makes the final decision on all grant awards.

Do you ever transfer applications to a different panel?

Sometimes the Arts Endowment staff transfers an Art Works application to a field/discipline other than the one the applicant selected to ensure appropriate panel review. If this happens to your application, we will notify you and give you the opportunity to submit any additional work samples and/or other material that may be required. However, choose your field/discipline carefully as we cannot guarantee that an application will be transferred in all cases where this might be desirable. The Arts Endowment will not transfer applications between categories (e.g., from Art Works to Challenge America Fast-Track).

GRANT AMOUNTS

How much should I ask for?

For Art Works, grants generally range from $10,000 to $100,000. No grants will be made below $10,000. Be realistic about your request. Do not inflate your request "to give the Arts Endowment something to cut." Panelists review budgets carefully and are critical of overreaching or grantsmanship.

Take a look at the Recent Grants to gain some idea of recent grant award levels and corresponding project types and sizes. In the past few years, more than half of half of the agency's grants have been less than $25,000.

Remember, all grants (including Fast-Track) must be matched at least dollar-for-dollar with nonfederal funds. For example, if you receive a $10,000 grant you must provide at least $10,000 toward the project from other sources and your total project costs must be at least $20,000.

GRANTS.GOV

See the "Grants.gov Tips"

THE APPLICATION

Should I send my application package in the mail?

No.

You must submit the first part of your application electronically through Grants.gov. After this submission, you must submit most of your application material and your work samples through the NEA GrantsOnline™ System (NEA-GO).

What can I do to make my project description better?

There are no magic words that you can use to describe your project and make sure you get a grant. Say clearly what you want to do, why you want to do it, and how you intend to do it. Check that you've addressed the information that is requested and review your narrative against the "Review Criteria," as that is what the reviewers will do. Try to make sure that there are no unanswered questions about your project.

What if I need more space than the limit listed for my application material?

When you submit narrative information on the Grant Application Form, you will be limited to the character limits specified.

If you submit PDF documents, submit only the number of pages allowed. Excess pages will be removed and will not be reviewed.

How important are work samples?

Work samples are crucial for evaluating the artistic quality of your project.

They are required for all Art Works applications. Read carefully the application instructions for your discipline or field because each area asks for slightly different types of work samples, in terms of both content and acceptable formats.

Use your work samples to demonstrate the quality of the critical elements of the project described in your narrative. Panels often have difficulty making positive recommendations without work samples that communicate effectively the range and quality of the proposal. It's important for you to preview your work samples before submitting them to ensure that there are no technical problems that might interfere with the review of your work.

Samples and material should be recent, of high quality, and as relevant to the project as possible. For example, if you are applying for a project to complete a work, submit a sample of the work in progress if it's available. Likewise, if you're proposing a commissioning project or fee support for guest artists, submit a sample that provides an example of work by the artist involved in the project.

Arts Education applicants should choose work samples that demonstrate the quality of the proposed arts learning experience. Provide evidence of the quality of the organizations, artists, works of art, etc., involved in the project, as well as the interactions that will take place. If possible, choose work samples that show youth creating, performing, or otherwise engaged in or responding to the arts.

How do I submit my work samples?

All work samples will be submitted electronically through the NEA GrantsOnline™ System (NEA-GO).

NEA-GO is being administered for the NEA by the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF). Details on how to prepare your work samples for upload are in the guidelines.

How much of my work sample will be seen or heard by the reviewers?

Follow the instructions for the work sample limits for your discipline. That is the maximum amount of your work samples that may be seen or heard.

However, reviewers have to evaluate many applications. While they try to be generous with their attention, time is a constraint. Therefore, submit a carefully chosen selection of your most important work samples.

Work samples should be recent, as relevant to the project as possible, and should show your work to its best advantage.

Should I include a work sample with my Theater & Musical Theater application to the Art Works category?

Yes. Theater & Musical Theater applicants to the Art Works category are required to submit a video work sample to be reviewed by panelists.

Several union (e.g., Actors Equity Association) contracts allow for producers and presenters to submit work samples for the purpose of fund raising. Some contracts require that permission be obtained prior to producing and submitting samples of work (video, audio, digital images, etc.). Please note that this information does not substitute for legal advice. Organizations should contact their union representatives with questions and to request permission for the production of work samples.

Will you contact me if my application is missing anything?

No. Because of the volume of applications, we have a strict approach to incomplete applications. For your application to be considered complete, every item that is required MUST be included in your application package, which must be submitted no later than the application deadline date under which you are applying. Arts Endowment staff will not contact applicants to request missing material, and incomplete applications will be returned to you. Please don't let that happen. Use the "How to Prepare and Submit an Application" section for your category to make sure that you have included every item. Have the completeness and accuracy of your application package double-checked by a responsible staff member who understands the importance of this task. Allow at least six weeks to prepare your application, the work samples, and other supplementary information. And do not wait until the day of the deadline to submit!

If my application is determined to be incomplete, may I add the missing item(s) and resubmit the application?

No. The Arts Endowment staff has to check thousands of applications. By the time that an application is identified as incomplete, it will likely be several weeks after the application deadline. An organization cannot add missing items and resubmit the application after the application deadline. We encourage you to double-check your application package against the "How to Prepare and Submit an Application" section to make sure that nothing is missing.

For Art Works, if new or updated information that significantly affects your application (including changes in artists) becomes available after the deadline, you may send it to the specialist handling your application.

What are some of the most frequently missed items in the application package?

Remember that a complete application includes ALL of the items in the "How to Prepare and Submit an Application" section for your category, not just the application forms.

What are some of the most common mistakes on the Project Budget form?

Make sure the items in your budget correspond with the project that you describe in your application. Review your Project Budget form against your narrative and look for any inconsistencies or budget items that don't relate to the narrative. For example, if you propose an artist residency project, panelists will look for items such as fees for artists and the supplies and material that they might need. An omission of these types of items may make the panel question the nature of your request and whether the project has been described accurately in the narrative.

Your Project Budget should reflect only those costs that you will incur during the "Period of Support" that you indicate on the Federal Domestic Assistance/Short Organizational Form (SF-424) form. Do not include any costs that you incur before or after those dates; they will be removed.

Many mistakes concern indirect cost rates and donated space, supplies, and volunteer services (also known as in-kind contributions). See the questions below for further explanation of these items.

My organization paid an artist retainer prior to our project period start date. The artist is integral to the funded project. Can that expense be included on the Project Budget form?

No. Many organizations contract artists well in advance of the period of support in order to ensure availability. However, all pre-award costs are unallowable and they cannot be included in your application budget.

What is an indirect cost rate, and do I need one?

In addition to the direct costs that may be assigned readily to a given project, there may be other costs that are not so easily designated because they benefit more than one project or activity. Such common or joint costs usually are referred to as indirect costs, or overhead. Examples of indirect costs might include rent, utilities, etc.

The federal government has developed a method for determining each project's fair share of an organization's indirect costs. This method is based on an indirect cost rate (ICR), which first must be established by agreement between an organization and a federal agency. The organization must initiate the negotiation for an ICR. Generally, the agency that provides the preponderance of the organization's federal funding is responsible for negotiating the ICR. Once an organization has an ICR from one federal agency, that ICR may be used when applying for a grant from any other federal agency. The ICR agreements are valid for a fixed period only and usually must be renegotiated annually.

You do not need an ICR to apply for or to receive an Arts Endowment grant. You may claim administrative costs or overhead as direct costs under "3. Other expenses" on the Project Budget form. (This assumes that there is a basis for justifying the costs as direct costs.) If you are considering establishing an ICR, you should assess the benefit that you expect to realize against the costs that you are likely to incur in preparing an ICR proposal each year. (Your auditor is a good source of advice.) ICR proposals must be accompanied by considerable supporting financial detail, e.g., audited financial statements, schedules of salaries, listings of current grants, and an analysis of your organization's physical facilities by square footage.

To help organizations avoid the costs of preparing ICR proposals for grant applications that might not result in awards, the Arts Endowment will accept applications that show estimated amounts for indirect costs. In the event that the application is funded and an estimated amount for indirect costs is included in the approved project budget, the organization is then required to negotiate an ICR agreement. An organization which previously has not established an indirect cost rate with a federal agency must submit its initial indirect cost proposal immediately after it is advised that an award will be made, and no later than three months after the effective date of the award.

Additional information can be found in the Indirect Cost Guide For NEA Grantees.

What are in-kind contributions? Is there a "cap" or percentage limit for in-kind contributions as matching funds?

In-kind contributions are goods and services that are donated to the project by individuals or organizations other than the applicant. To qualify as matching resources, these items also must be listed in the project budget as direct costs. The dollar value of these non-cash donations should be calculated at their verifiable fair-market value.

No formula exists for how much of the required match can be in-kind. However, reviewers tend to look very carefully at any project with a budget that shows a match that is largely in-kind; generally some cash match is preferred. In all cases, matching funds are evaluated in the context of the project. (In-kind costs should only be used to meet the matching requirements of the grant.)

Many applicants mistakenly designate as in-kind contributions items that are actually cash contributions. For example, applicants often list their own contributions to the project (such as supplies, rent, and staff salaries) as in-kind. Generally, these items are considered cash donations. They do not qualify as in-kind because they are being "contributed" by the applicant, and not a third party. For an applicant's staff salary on a project to qualify as in-kind, an employee would have to donate his or her time beyond the regularly compensated work schedule.

Remember, if you use donated space, supplies, and/or volunteer services (i.e., in-kind contributions) as part of your match, you need to maintain proper documentation. For help in doing this, see our sample format for recording in-kind (third party) contributions.

Should I send in new or updated information before I'm notified whether I have received an award?

For Art Works, you should submit new or updated material at any time if it significantly affects your application. Forward it to the specialist handling your application as soon as possible. Be sure to include your application number on any such material.

What is the Assurance of Compliance?

All applicants and grantees of Arts Endowment funds are required to be in compliance with the laws and regulations that govern nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs. By signing the application form, the applicant certifies that it is in compliance with those statutes. Specific information on those statutes can be found on the website.

Can I get a sample application?

Yes. Please see the FOIA Reading Room, Frequently Requested Records for information on what is available as sample application material and how to request it.

TIMING

When will I be notified about my application?

The "Earliest Announcement of Grant Award or Rejection" date for your category on the Application Calendar tells you when we expect to announce grant decisions.

Note that "announcement" is likely to be an informal congratulatory message from the Deputy Chairman for Programs & Partnerships coupled with a request for any necessary project revisions, or a rejection notification. Official grant award notification, which is the only legal and valid confirmation of award, can take several months to reach you depending on a number of things, such as whether a revised budget is needed for your project, the number of awards to be processed, whether we have our appropriation from Congress, etc. You should not make any financial or legal commitments relating to the Arts Endowment's support until you receive the official notification that includes a grant letter signed by the Arts Endowment Chairman.

How soon after the "Earliest Beginning Date for Arts Endowment Period of Support" for my deadline does my project have to begin?

The Arts Endowment's support can start any time on or after that date.

Can my project start before this date?

No project activities for which you're requesting support can take place before this date. Plan your project so that it does not need an earlier starting date; or ask the Arts Endowment to assist a portion of your project that will take place after the "Earliest Beginning Date for Arts Endowment Period of Support." If project costs that are incurred before the "Earliest Beginning Date for Arts Endowment Period of Support" are included in your Project Budget, they will be removed.

How long can my project last? May I apply for another project during this period?

The Arts Endowment generally allows a period of support of up to two years. Many applicants request a grant period somewhere between 12 and 24 months. Ask for the amount of time that you think is necessary. The two-year period is intended to allow an applicant sufficient time to plan, execute, and close out its project, not to repeat a one-year project for a second year.

If you get close to the end of your grant period and think you need more time, you may request an extension, but approval is not guaranteed.

As long as it meets all other eligibility requirements, an organization may apply for another project (with totally different project costs) the following year even if an Arts Endowment-supported project is still underway. Note that if you do receive an extension on a previous year's project, it may affect your grant period for your new proposed project.

AFTER NOTIFICATION

If my application is funded, what do I have to do? How soon can I get my money?

If you applied under Art Works, you may be contacted first for revisions. Applicants whose grants are recommended at less than the amount that is requested may be asked to revise the project budget. Also, the Arts Endowment may choose to support only a particular portion(s) or cost(s) of the project that is described in the application.

Later, you will receive an official grant award notification with information about legal and reporting requirements and managing your award. Remember, official grant notification can take several months to reach you depending on a number of things, such as approval and processing of revisions, whether we have our appropriation from Congress, etc.

Instructions and forms for managing an award, including those for requesting grant funds and our General Terms & Conditions, can be found in the Manage Your Award section. After you properly complete and submit your request, the grant funds will be electronically transferred to your bank account, generally within 30 days of the receipt of your request.

If my application is rejected, can I find out why?

After notification, applicants who have questions may contact the Arts Endowment staff responsible for handling their application. Any applicant whose request has not been recommended may ask for an explanation of the basis for rejection. In such instances, the Arts Endowment must be contacted no later than 30 days after the official notification.