Home Programs National Endowment for the Arts Big Read Application Advice

Application Advice

Approximately 75 organizations in communities of varying sizes across the country are selected each year to participate in the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read. To help you submit the best application possible, we’ve compiled some tips for you here.

Read the guidelines

Whether you have received an NEA Big Read grant in the past or are new to the program, take some time to read through the guidelines and application instructions. Make sure your organization is eligible to apply by reading through the Eligibility Criteria section, and take note of the Program Requirements that you will be required to satisfy if awarded a grant.

Gather inspiration

You likely have an idea of the title and kind of programming you’d like to do, but if you’d like to see what other NEA Big Read grantees have done, there are several resources available to you:

  • Visit arts.gov, click on a book, and visit the Stories from the Community section to see some exemplary programming from recent grantees.
  • Many grantees use social media to promote their programming. Searching for the hashtag #NEABigRead on Twitter or Instagram will also bring up examples of NEA Big Read programming.

Call for feedback

If you applied for a grant in the recent past, you can schedule a phone conversation to receive the panel’s feedback on your application. This feedback can help you strengthen your application. To schedule a conversation, email [email protected].

Include as much detail as possible

A successful NEA Big Read application contains thorough and detailed program plans. We know that this application represents a proposal and that many elements may be tentative, but the more information you can provide the review panel, the better. You don’t have to reach the character limit in each narrative response, but you should make the case for your application as thoroughly as possible.

Don’t forget the detail section at the bottom of the budget form! If there are any expenses or items on your budget that might warrant further explanation, make sure to include an explanation in this area.

Keep in mind that the review panel does not seek out any additional information about your organization or past programming. The only information they have to assess your proposal is what you provide them.

Seek a fresh set of eyes

It can be helpful to have someone who is unfamiliar with your proposed NEA Big Read project read your proposal before you submit. This reader can point out any areas that are unclear, hard to understand, or need more explanation.

Tackle your UEI requirement early

To apply to NEA Big Read you must have a UEI number. This step is necessary in order to receive federal funds and is free. Learn more

Contact the author and the publisher or a book wholesaler

There are discounts available for bulk purchases of books if you request a quote directly from the publisher or a book wholesaler. Look up the publisher of your chosen NEA Big Read book and reach out to them to get an accurate price estimate for your proposal. If you are planning to have the author or poet come to your community as part of your NEA Big Read, reach out to them to inquire about their honorarium, travel requirements, and availability.

Watch application webinars

We’ve put together two webinars focused specifically on the 2022-2023 Big Read application cycle to help you prepare. Hear from a moderated panel of previous grantees about various topics you might consider as you build your application in the “How to Apply” webinar. Then, hear directly from some of our NEA Big Read authors about their books and relevant themes in the “All About the Books” webinar.

Read Sample Applications

These example applications are from three different organizations that applied for the NEA Big Read and were awarded in the 2021-2022 cycle. These should be used as informational examples only to see how they have proposed to plan events, work with partners, publicize their events, etc. Please be advised that the books they reference and application questions they address may have changed.

Teatro Yerbabruja
Bay Shore, NY
An American Sunrise
Download Sample Application (PDF)

Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County
Mount Vernon, OH
The House on Mango Street
Download Sample Application (PDF)

Arts Connection, the Arts Council of San Bernardino County
San Bernardino, CA
An American Sunrise
Download Sample Application (PDF)

Reach out for help!

NEA Big Read staff members are available to answer any questions you may have. Contact us by email at [email protected], or call 612.238.8010.

While we are not able to offer feedback on the contents of an application, we can check your proposal (including your budget form) for any technical errors or missing information before the application deadline.