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NEA Big Read

Grants to USA Nonprofits, Agencies, Tribes, and Libraries
for Community Book Events and Reading Programs

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National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Arts Midwest

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Grants ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 to USA and territories nonprofit organizations, government agencies, tribal governments, and public libraries for community reading programs and book events. Funding is intended to support keynote sessions, lectures by authors, panel discussions, writing contests, performances, and book discussions in communities throughout the Country. In addition to a cash grant, recipients receive access to online training resources, digital resources, and promotional materials to encourage community participation.

An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, NEA Big Read broadens one's understanding of the world, its 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.

NEA Big Read applicants submit proposals to host a series of community events presented at a variety of locations over the course of one month or longer. Events use the same NEA Big Read book as a point of departure and encourage participants to engage both with the book and fellow community members. Each NEA Big Read program includes: a kick-off event, often attended by high-profile leaders and other local luminaries; major events inspired by the content and themes from the book (e.g., panel discussions and author readings); artistic events related to the book (e.g., art/writing contests, film screenings, and theatrical performances); and book discussions in diverse locations involving a wide range of audiences.

Program requirements:

Successful NEA Big Read programming should encourage reading and discussion of the selected book on a community-wide scale. The NEA Big Read must include the following:

1. Diverse and imaginative events and literary activities held at a variety of locations. Specifically:
- A kick-off event to launch the program.
- A minimum of 5-10 discussions on the selected book.
- At least one keynote session on the selected book and its themes, either with the author or another appropriate speaker. If you are considering an author visit as part of your programming, please be aware that honoraria and availability vary by individual. Other considerations for a keynote could include a panel discussion or a presentation by someone associated with the book or author.
- A minimum of two special events involving other forms of artistic programming designed to engage participants with the selected book (e.g., art exhibits/contests, films, musical performances, theatrical readings, and creative writing activities related to the themes of the book.

Proposed events that seek to celebrate and/or build awareness of a particular culture described in the book must be conducted in a respectful manner, be relevant to the story, provide appropriate context for participants, and offer substantive educational opportunities.

Note: Event types may be combined (e.g., a kick-off event can include a keynote session and a discussion of the book).

2. Community Partnerships
- Applicant organizations must partner with a library (if the applicant itself is not a library). University and college applicants must partner with a library that is not directly affiliated with their educational institution.
- Applicants should partner with various community organizations to reach beyond their primary constituent base.
- Examples of potential partners include local community and arts organizations, community colleges and universities, correctional institutions, libraries, bookstores, local businesses, middle and high schools, military installations, museums, senior centers, social service organizations, and youth groups.

3. Promotional Efforts and Partnerships
To ensure strong community participation in NEA Big Read activities by individuals of various ages, cultural backgrounds, educational levels, and occupations, organizations should actively promote their programming through digital and print channels as well as other public relations/marketing efforts. Organizations should also consider partnering with local radio, print, TV, social media, and other media outlets as applicable.

Grants may be used for such expenses as book purchases, speaker fees and travel, salaries, promotion, and venue rental.

Application review will be based on the artistic excellence and artistic merit of the program. Specifically, each application will be evaluated based on the following review criteria:

- Quality of diverse and creative literary programming that: address the themes, writing, and content of the chosen NEA Big Read book; meet the programming requirements; and have the potential to engage a wide range of community members of various ability levels and backgrounds.
- Relevance and depth of involvement with community partner organizations that will broaden community participation beyond the applicant's primary constituent base and reach historically underrepresented and marginalized audiences. 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 resources and promotional materials; and publicity through partnerships with local radio, print, TV, social media, and other 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.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 184644

Number of Grants:


Estimated Size of Grant:

Organizations will be selected for grants from $5,000 to $15,000.

Term of Contract:

Programming Dates: September 1, 2019—June 30, 2020

Recommended length of proposed programming is one month.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

To be eligible, an applicant organization must:

- Be a 501c(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.
- 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 32 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.
(Update: Entities who create or update their registration in will no longer need to have an approved Entity Administrator notarized letter on file before their registration is activated. Entities seeking Federal Assistance still must mail the original, signed copy of the notarized letter to the Federal Service Desk. Failure to do so within 30 days of activation may result in the registration no longer being active. Unfortunately, the NEA and Arts Midwest have no control over the SAM requirements.)
- 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. The Foundation does 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 501c(3) status. For example, the “Friends of ABC Library” may not also apply if the ABC Library applies.

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
- 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

Pre-proposal Conference:

The NEA Big Read November 2018 Webinar will take place on Wednesday, November 14, 2018, at 2:00 PM EST.

Led by NEA Director of Literature Amy Stolls and Arts Midwest’s NEA Big Read Program Director Joshua Feist, the webinar will discuss the six new books in the NEA Big Read Library for 2019-20, as well as success stories and programming ideas for the library’s other titles. Participants will be encouraged to ask questions about the books and their authors, as well as about the application process.

To register for the Webinar:

About the Webinar:

Pre-Application Information:

All applications must be submitted electronically on or before Thursday, January 24, 2019.

Application Timeline:

- Application deadline: January 24, 2019
- Panel review: February—April 2019
- Notification of selected communities: Late April 2019
- Online orientation for grantees: June 2019
- Promotional materials distributed to grantees: August 2019
- Program activity: September 1, 2019—June 30, 2020

A NEA Big Read November 2018 Webinar will take place on November 14, 2018. (See Pre-Proposal Conference above.)

Organizations may apply for one grant per program year.

Each organization receiving a grant must:

- Participate in an online orientation with other program participants in June 2019.
- As necessary, seek legal permissions for activities and promotional materials.

2019-2020 NEA Big Read Intent to Apply form:

In order to access the NEA Big Read application, interested applicants must first provide some basic information about themselves, their organization, and the people from their organization who would run an NEA Big Read program whether they are a previous grantee or a brand-new applicant. Once Arts Midwest receives this information, accounts will be configured for the listed individuals in the Arts Midwest NEA Big Read online community and a link to the application will be provided. (Important: Applicants need to self-designate one person to be responsible for managing their NEA Big Read application. The system can only save the progress of one user.)

For any questions, please contact the NEA Big Read program staff.

Grants are cost shared and must be matched on a 1 to 1 basis with nonfederal funds such as private grants, in-kind contributions, and earned revenues. (For additional information, see the Proposal Budget Instructions in Supporting Documents below.)

Reading selections:

Applicants must choose one of the 32 reading selections from the NEA Big Read list. Applicants that have received NEA Big Read grants must choose a different reading selection than what they have received grants for in the past.

For more information about the books, examples of past programming, and other resources:

About the Program:

Application Process:

Application Advice:


Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

To submit the 2019-2020 NEA Big Read intent to apply form:

For any questions, or to schedule a 15-minute consultation with Arts Midwest staff, contact:

Joshua Feist, Program Director

Arts Midwest
2908 Hennepin Avenue, Suite 200
Minneapolis, MN 55408

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming

USA Territories: American Samoa (USA)   Guam (USA)   Puerto Rico (USA)   Virgin Islands (USA)   Northern Mariana Islands (USA)

USA Compact Free Associations: The Federated States of Micronesia (USA)   Marshall Islands (USA)   Republic of Palau (USA)