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Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grants

April 22, 2019

Grant Snapshot

Maximum award amount


Open to Organizations

Expected output



Digital Infrastructure


Period of performance

 Five or Six Years, Depending on Type of Institution


Application due

 May 15, 2019


Expected notification date

 December 31, 2019


Project start date

 May 1, 2020


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 applicant of record that will be legally, programmatically, and fiscally responsible for the award.


Through these awards organizations can increase their humanities capacity through capital expenditures to support the design, purchase, construction, restoration, or renovation of facilities for humanities activities and the purchase of equipment and software.

Such expenditures bring long-term benefits to the institution and to the humanities more broadly.


Challenge grants may also support long-term humanities projects with funds invested in a restricted, short-term endowment or other investment fund (or spend-down fund) that generate expendable earnings to support and enhance ongoing humanities activities. Eligible activities include the preservation and conservation of humanities materials, and the sustaining of digital infrastructure for the humanities.


Fundraising is a critical part of NEH Challenge grant awards: up to 10 percent of total 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.

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