Big Read Accepting Grant Applications for Community-Wide Reading Programs

Posted by NEA Big Read ; Posted on 
Big Read Accepting Grant Applications for Community-Wide Reading Programs



Application Deadline: Wednesday, January 24, 2018, 4:00 p.m. CST
Programming Dates: September 1, 2018—June 30, 2019

Approximately 75 organizations will be selected for grants from $5,000 to $15,000.

Program description
An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Showcasing a diverse range of contemporary books that reflect many different voices and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire conversation and discovery.

NEA Big Read annually supports approximately 75 dynamic community reading programs, each designed around a single NEA Big Read selection. Organizations selected to participate in NEA Big Read receive a grant, access to online training resources and opportunities, digital resources, and promotional materials designed to support widespread community involvement.

The programs last approximately one month and include a kick-off event, often attended by high-profile community leaders and other local luminaries; major events devoted specifically to the book (e.g., panel discussions and author reading); events using the book as a point of departure (e.g., film screenings and theatrical readings); and book discussions in diverse locations involving a wide range of audiences.

To see examples of current programming and materials developed by previous grantees, visit the NEA Big Read Pinterest account.

Eligibility criteria
An applicant organization must:

  • Be a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization; a unit of state, local, or tribal government; or a tax-exempt public library located within the United States or its territories. Eligible applicants include organizations such as arts centers, arts councils, arts organizations, colleges and universities, community service organizations, environmental organizations, fairs and festivals, faith-based organizations, historical societies, housing authorities, humanities councils, libraries, literary centers, museums, school districts, theater companies, trade associations, and tribal governments. Check your IRS status.
  • Partner with a library (if the applicant organization itself is not a library). University and college applicants must partner with a library that is not directly affiliated with their educational institution.
  • Choose one of the 30 available reading selections. Applicants that have received an NEA Big Read grant in the past must choose a different reading selection from their previous award.
  • Have a DUNS (Dun and Bradstreet) number.
  • Have and maintain an “active” SAM registration (System for Award Management; until the application process is complete, and if selected, throughout the programming dates of the award. This may include renewing your registration annually or more frequently if there are changes in the information. SAM registration is free. Contact your local Procurement Technical Assistance Center for free specialized help with the registration process.
  • Be able to comply with the federal policies and legal requirements, statutes, and regulations in the Assurance of Compliance.
  • Local education agencies, school districts, and state and regional education agencies are eligible. We do not fund individual elementary or secondary schools—charter, private, or public—directly. Schools may participate as partners in projects for which another eligible organization applies. If a single school also is a local education agency, as is the case with some charter schools, the school may apply with documentation that supports its status as a local education agency.

An organization whose primary purpose is to channel resources (financial, human, or other) to an affiliated organization is not eligible to apply if the affiliated organization submits its own application. This prohibition applies even if each organization has its own 501(c)(3) status. For example, the “Friends of ABC Library” may not also apply if the ABC Library applies.

Ineligible applications will not be reviewed.

Grant awards
Eligible organizations may apply for a grant ranging from $5,000 to $15,000. These grants are federal funds from the National Endowment for the Arts (CFDA No. 45.024: Promotion of the Arts_Awards to Organizations and Individuals) and may be used for such expenses as book purchases, speaker fees and travel, salaries, promotion, and venue rental. Grants are cost shared and must be matched on a 1 to 1 basis with nonfederal funds such as staff salaries and wages, private grants, in-kind contributions, and earned revenues. Please see the proposal budget instructions for more information.

If awarded, the applicant will enter into a Grant Agreement with Arts Midwest.

Full funding of grant requests is not guaranteed. If awarded, the grant amount may be less than the amount requested in the applicant’s proposal and rounded to an even dollar amount.

Funding restrictions
Funding is not available for:

  • Overlapping project costs between federal awards, whether received directly from a federal agency or indirectly, such as through a state agency or other entity
  • Programs restricted to any organization’s membership; programs must be promoted and available to the general public
  • Programs that are intended to be experienced solely online
  • Payment for facilities, purchase of capital equipment, or non-project related administrative expenses
  • Fellowships or cash prizes
  • Entertainment costs, such as opening parties, receptions, or fundraisers
  • Selection process and review criteria
  • Approximately 75 organizations from across the country will be selected to participate in the NEA Big Read. Organizations may apply for one grant per program year. Application review will be based on the artistic excellence and merit of the program. Applications are reviewed by an advisory panel composed of a diverse group of arts and literature experts and other individuals with broad knowledge of programs like NEA Big Read. Panel composition changes annually. If selected, an organization will be expected to carry out a program consistent with its proposal. If changes are necessary, they must be discussed and approved by NEA Big Read staff at Arts Midwest.

Specifically, each application will be evaluated based on the following review criteria:

  • Quality of diverse and creative literary programming that: shows a clear connection between the NEA Big Read book and the target audience(s); meets the programming requirements; and engages a wide range of community members with the writing, content, and themes of the selected book.
  • Relevance and depth of involvement with community partner organizations that will broaden community participation beyond the applicant’s primary constituent base and enrich programming. Examples of such partners are arts organizations, bookstores, community centers, community colleges, community service organizations, correctional institutions, libraries, local businesses, middle and high schools, military installations, museums, senior centers, social service organizations, universities, and youth groups.
  • Comprehensive promotion of the NEA Big Read through digital and print channels as well as other public relations/marketing efforts; distribution of digital guides and promotional materials; and publicity through partnerships with local radio, print, TV, and media outlets as applicable.
  • Capacity to manage and implement the proposed NEA Big Read programming including organizational capacity, the provision of appropriate personnel, reasonable budget plan, and evidence of the required 1 to 1 cost share/match.

Reading selections
Applicants must choose one of the 30 reading selections from our Books webpage. Applicants that have received an NEA Big Read grant in the past must choose a different reading selection from their previous award. More information about the books and Reader Resources can be accessed by visiting


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