Home Programs National Endowment for the Arts Big Read Prepare Your Application

Prepare Your Application

Getting started

Before you begin your application, please make sure you have fully read and understood the program guidelines.

Submit your intent to apply and application via Arts Midwest’s online grants portal, SmartSimple. Please note, there is an option to save and complete the application later. You will have the ability to add collaborators in the grants portal so you can work on the application as a team.

Click here for detailed instructions on how to get set up in SmartSimple.

The online account registration and application process will ask for the following information:

Account registration information

Applicant organization information:

  1. Address information
  2. Contact information
  3. Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  4. Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) number: Registration for a UEI is free at SAM.gov.
  5. Organization mission statement
  6. Annual operating budget
  7. Other organization details (institution type, primary discipline, time zone, etc.)

Intent to apply information

  1. Plain language summary of your proposed project (1-2 sentences).
  2. Short description of your proposed project (1000-character limit).
  3. Have you received a grant from Arts Midwest in the past?
  4. Your proposed program’s start and end dates.
    1. Programming must occur between September 1, 2023 and June 30, 2024.
    2. Note: Dates may be tentative. If exact dates are unknown, please provide a range of possible dates/months.
  5. Book title (one of 15 available on the NEA Big Read list).
  6. Grant request amount (between $5,000 and $20,000).
    1. Note: You will be able to edit this amount, if needed, before you finalize your application.

Application information

Application details

  1. Proposed number of partner organizations (pending and confirmed).
  2. Proposed number of book discussions (must be at least 5).
  3. Proposed total number of events (including book discussions).
  4. Anticipated adults and youths served.
  5. Streaming online accessibility (as applicable).


1. Organization description (2000-character limit)

  • Provide information about your organization’s mission, history, and achievements.

2. Programming description (4000-character limit)

  • Provide a rationale for your chosen NEA Big Read book.
  • Describe your programming plans in detail, including types of activities, locations, and dates. Be sure that your plans meet the minimum project requirements and address the themes, writing, and content of the chosen book.
  • Explain how your program will distribute copies of your chosen NEA Big Read book and optional companion title(s).
  • Describe your organization’s efforts to further diversity, equity, inclusion, and access, as it relates to your proposed project.

3. Project partners (4000-character limit)

  • Describe your partnerships with libraries (as applicable) and community organizations.
  • Explain the role each partner will play in your program, the activities each partner will undertake with your organization, and whether these partnerships are confirmed or pending.
  • Explain how your partnerships will allow you to reach your intended audience(s) and engage individuals of diverse backgrounds and ability levels.

4. Community impacted by proposed programs (2000-character limit)

  • Describe the community you work with and plan to reach with your programming.

5. Underserved audiences (1000-character limit)

  • Provide any details about the underserved audience(s) served through this project.

Project Budget

  • Enter details regarding expenses related directly to the project. Be sure to represent your 1-to-1 cost share/match.


If you have questions about the NEA Big Read, application components, or the application guidelines, please call Arts Midwest at 612.238.8024 or email [email protected].