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(OPEN) Limited Submission: NEA Big Read

The NEA Big Read annually provides support to selected nonprofit organizations to host dynamic community-wide reading programs.


An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the 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 themes, voices, and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire conversation and discovery.

The NEA Big Read annually provides support to selected nonprofit organizations around the country to host dynamic community-wide reading programs. Each awarded organization works in collaboration with local community partners to develop and conduct engaging virtual and/or in-person events and activities.

Each NEA Big Read program includes: a kick-off event to mark the start of the program; book discussions; events inspired by the content and themes from the book(s) (e.g., panel discussions, lectures, film screenings); and projects that engage the community and/or respond creatively to the book (e.g., art exhibitions, theatrical and/or musical performances, poetry slams, writing workshops and contests, activities related to collecting and sharing oral/written stories from members of the community). Collectively, events and programming should: reach a variety of audiences; be held in a variety of spaces; when possible, encourage community participants to engage with one another and/or the book; and span a timeframe that makes sense for the community (as short as a week or as long as several months) within the programming period of September 2021 through June 2022.

Selected organizations receive a grant, access to online training resources and opportunities, digital educational resources, and promotional materials designed to support widespread community involvement.

View list of eligible reading selections to choose from.

Please read the full program announcement before preparing your internal application.

Award Amount

Grants range from $5,000 to $20,000 each.

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 revenue. Some examples of matching funds can be staff salaries, volunteer hours, or event ticket sales.


An applicant must:

  • Comply withfederal eligibility requirements.
  • Be a 501c(3) non-profit organization, a unit of local government located in the United States or its territories/protectorates, or a federally-recognized Native nation that share this geography.
  • Partner with a community library if the applicant itself is not a library.
  • Choose one of six available reading selections. Applicants that have received an NEA Big Read grant in the past for one of the available reading selections may apply again for the same book, but must provide an explanation for doing so and a description of how they intend to revisit the text with new programming.

Eligible applicants include organizations such as arts centers, arts councils, arts organizations, community service organizations, environmental organizations, fairs and festivals, faith-based organizations, historical societies, housing authorities, humanities councils, institutions of higher education, libraries, literary centers, museums, school districts, theater companies, trade associations, and tribal governments.

Local education agencies, school districts, and state and regional education agencies are eligible applicants. 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 501c(3) status. For example, the “Friends of ABC Library” may not also apply if the ABC Library applies.

Organizations may apply for one grant per program year.

Ineligible applications will not be reviewed.

Selection Criteria

Application review will be based on the artistic excellence and artistic merit of the program. If selected for a grant, 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, panelists will evaluate each application based on the following review criteria:

  1. Quality programming. The panel will review the relevance and rationale of the chosen NEA Big Read book and companion title(s) and the quality of diverse and imaginative literary programs held at a variety of spaces that: address the themes, writing, and content of the chosen NEA Big Read book and meet the programming requirements.
  2. Community support and outreach. The panel will consider the relevance and depth of involvement with individuals and organizations that will assist with program deployment and broaden audience participation beyond the applicant’s primary constituent base. The panel will also consider efforts to engage audiences of various abilities, ages, cultural backgrounds, educational levels, races, ethnicities, and occupations as partners and participants.
  3. Ability. The panel will consider the applicant’s ability to manage and implement an NEA Big Read program. The panel will consider organizational capacity, the planning timeline, the participation of appropriate personnel, and a reasonable budget plan with the required 1-to-1 match.
  4. Promotion. The panel will review plans for promoting NEA Big Read events and activities through digital and print channels as well as other public relations/marketing efforts; distribution of digital resources and promotional materials; and publicity through partnership with local radio, print, TV, social media, and media outlets as applicable.

Reading Selections

Applicants must choose one of six reading selections from the 2021-22 NEA Big Read list as inspiration for programming. Exploring the theme of American history and culture, these six titles together present an array of voices, perspectives, time periods, and genres that can help us as a nation to reflect on where we’ve been, where we are today, and where we’re going.

In addition to these titles, applicants may choose to develop certain events and/or activities around other literary titles that relate in some way (thematically, historically, etc.) to the NEA Big Read book for the purpose of broadening audience participation. These “companion” titles may span other genres, such as YA, children’s books, poetry, graphic novels, etc.

Copies of the reading selection are not provided along with the grant award. Applicants should articulate in their proposal a plan to acquire and distribute sufficient copies of their books using the NEA Big Read grant or other funding sources.

Limitation Details

An Institution may submit one proposal.

If you are interested in submitting for this program, you must first submit an internal application to according to the required instructions below.

Internal Applications must include the following:

  • A cover page listing
    • The name of this funding opportunity and title of your proposal
    • Your name, UGA position, home department, email, and UGA contact information
    • Your chosen book (one of six available on the NEA Big Read List)
    • Collaborator names, positions, and institutions (if any)
  • A (maximum two-page) proposal summary
  • A brief (less than a page) summary of total costs that includes the total amount of and source for any cost share if additional funding is needed beyond the amount requested from the sponsor.
  • One paragraph describing why this proposal should be UGA’s submission (i.e., why it will be the most competitive for this program)
  • Curriculum vitae

Internal Selection

Limited Submission announcements often generate multiple competing proposals.  UGA reviewers judge proposals as they would in any peer review process, so PIs are urged to put their best foot forward.  Along with typical criteria, reviewers will evaluate internal proposals based on their fit with the sponsor’s articulated goals and criteria.

Internal Submission Instructions

The above internal application materials should be submitted via email as a single .PDF file to by the internal deadline listed above.


Please submit questions regarding the internal competition to

For questions directly related to this program, please call Arts Midwest at 612.238.8010 or email

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