Humanities Iowa Grant Guidelines

Humanities Iowa Mission and Grant Program Purpose
Grant Scope and Eligibility
Defining a Humanities Scholar
What These Grants Do Not Fund
Conditions of Award
Special Guidelines for Media Projects
Special Guidelines for Teacher Seminars
Deadlines and Submission Information
Frequently Asked Questions
Application Forms

Humanities Iowa Mission and Grant Program Purpose

Humanities Iowa’s mission is to enhance the civic life, culture, and identity of Iowans. Drawing on history, literature, philosophy, law and other humanities fields, we foster life-long learning, critical thinking and community connections. Established in 1971, Humanities Iowa is an independent nonprofit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The humanities are our cultural and intellectual heritage–the sum of human experience, thought and expression. They give us knowledge of the past, insight about the present and wisdom for the future. They teach us about others and help us to know ourselves.

The humanities are also a group of disciplines that both mirror and interpret what human beings have believed, experienced, and celebrated in our time and throughout the centuries. As branches of learning, the humanities include history, literature, languages, philosophy, ethics, law and comparative religion. The history, theory and criticism of the arts are also considered humanities topics. Social sciences that employ qualitative approaches, including cultural anthropology, archaeology, political science, international relations, and interdisciplinary areas such as folklore, women’s studies and American studies, are also fields in the humanities.

Humanities Iowa welcomes applications on themes of ethnicity, diversity and identity. HI believes that the humanities offer the means to bring people together over their various divides and a promise of assistance in the search of the common good.


Grant Scope and Eligibility

Humanities Iowa grants support humanities programs for the out-of-school adult public. We are particularly interested in supporting projects that stimulate meaningful community dialogue, attract diverse audiences, are participatory and engaging, and invite discovery of the humanities in interesting and exciting ways.
Collaborative projects involving multiple community organizations that serve a broad constituency are given preference.

Grants are awarded to not-for-profit organizations that serve the Iowan public. Eligible organizations may include:

  • incorporated nonprofit groups
  • institutions of higher education
  • units of federal, state and local governments
  • Indian tribal governments
  • groups of persons that form an association to carry out a project

An organization does not have to be incorporated as a nonprofit or have tax-exempt status to be eligible for Humanities Iowa grants, but for-profit organizations and activities are ineligible.

Major grants are awarded twice annually, and applicants may request any amount from $3,001 to $20,000. Grants may be awarded as an outright award or conditionally–with requirements to be filled prior to final approval of award. Grants may also be awarded as challenge match grants requiring documentation of match. Organizations seeking funding for amounts up to $3,000 should follow the same guidelines but use the mini grant application.

All grants have a matching requirement. The applicant organization must contribute or generate support for the project that at least equals the grant request. This support could be in the form of cash contributions or in-kind support from third parties, such as volunteer time or donated space for programs.

A key component of a Humanities Iowa grant is the active participation of humanities scholars who encourage dialogue, critical thinking, and analysis in a public setting. Projects that involve scholars in a public capacity include activities such as lectures, readings and discussion, films and discussion, public conferences and symposia, exhibitions, or theater or concert program notes and discussions. A Humanities Iowa grant also may be used to retain the services of a humanities scholar for a short period of time to improve the quality of an organization’s humanities offerings. Consultation projects include humanists-in-residence working with communities, teachers and students. They also include developing exhibitions, creating educational programs and interpreting collections. Humanities scholars should be included in the planning of the proposal as well as the execution of funded projects.


Defining a Humanities Scholar

A humanities scholar has particular training or experience qualifying him or her as a professional in one or more of the disciplines of the humanities. One qualification is an advanced degree (M.A. or Ph.D.) in a humanities field of study. However, individuals without an advanced degree may qualify as humanities scholars because of their methods of research, inquiry and teaching. Humanities Iowa recognizes that scholarship and learning occur outside of traditional academic pursuits. Humanities Iowa also values and respects training and preparation found in diverse cultural traditions.


What These Grants Do Not Fund

Indirect costs. Grant funds may be applied only to direct costs of the project. Overhead or facilities and administrative costs may be included in the project only as part of cost-sharing, using the applicant’s normal institutional rate.

Commercial enterprises. The applicant organization must be a not-for-profit organization, although tax-exempt status is not required.

Salaries and fringe benefits. We cannot support salaries or fringe benefits for permanent or temporary employees. Organization staff may be paid honoraria for project work under certain circumstances (see FAQ for more information).

Individual or personal research, unless the research is integral to a proposed project’s public program.

The writing or publication of books. However, a publication generated as the result of a public program is allowable.

Curriculum design or review.

Academic courses, scholarships, fellowships.


International travel. Travel expenses are not allowable if incurred outside of the U.S., its territories and possessions, or Canada.

Recreation and food. Costs related to amusement, social activities, and entertainment will not be funded.

Capital projects (“bricks and mortar”). We do not support the purchase or restoration of capital equipment, land, buildings, museum or library acquisitions, or the like.

Performances in the creative and performing arts, unless they contribute to or provide humanities perspectives. Living history re-enactments, for example, are eligible (see FAQ for other examples).

Political activities. HI cannot consider funding any project advocating, lobbying for, or funding any particular political or social party, ideology, or action.

Fundraising activities. HI cannot fund telephone solicitation, fundraising events, or professional fundraiser fees.

Programs not open to the public. Reasonable admission may be charged to help cover direct project costs. University and college applicants must clearly demonstrate an attempt to reach the general public through content, format and promotional plans

Programs primarily for children or student audiences. Intergenerational programs (for students and parents, for example), may be considered for funding, however.

Projects by applicant organizations with active Humanities Iowa grants. This includes grants with complete project activities but incomplete/unsubmitted final fiscal and evaluative reports.

Pre-award expenses. We do not support project costs incurred before the grant is awarded.


Conditions of Award

If you are awarded a grant, you will be required to accept the following responsibilities:

  • Expenditure of grant funds can occur only during the term of the grant as defined by the beginning and end dates, and must be for materials, services and grant activities conducted during that time.
  • The uses of the grant funds are limited to those specified in your proposal. They are subject to the conditions and requirements of the NEH and HI. A summary of those requirements, entitled “Administrative and Fiscal Requirements,” is included in the Project Director’s Handbook, which will be sent to the project director and is available on this website. (Click here for the Mini Grant Project Director’s Handbook and here for the Major Grant Project Director’s Handbook.)
  • You must generate in-kind and/or cash support for the grant project in an amount at least equal to your grant award amount. This cost sharing must be expended during the grant period.
  • Requests for changes in the scope of the project, project personnel and/or project budget must be submitted by letter or email to HI for approval as specified in the Handbook.
  • Humanities Iowa and the National Endowment for the Humanities will be credited as funders of the project in all promotion, print or otherwise.
  • Humanities Iowa will be provided with a copy of any digital audio or video recordings made of live public programs included in this project. Unless prohibited by the presenter’s contract, HI may post these recordings or excerpts from them on its website or on its affiliated Internet media pages. HI must be informed of any restrictions on the use of audio or video recordings in the grant’s final report.


Special Guidelines for Media Projects

Humanities Iowa recognizes that media projects can serve as a powerful tool for fulfilling our mission to foster greater public awareness of and appreciation for the value of the humanities. Humanities Iowa will consider applications for media projects such as a radio or television program or series, audiotape or CD sound recording, videotape, motion picture film, DVD, photography or any combination of these media. Special considerations for such grants are:

  • While media projects are governed by the same principles and standards as non-media projects, a special effort must be made to ensure the integrity of the humanities. We intend that these projects be not only of the highest technical and artistic quality, but that the humanities content be central to the project. Humanities scholars are not required to be featured in all media projects, but those who see or hear the program must have no doubt as to the project’s fundamental humanities content.
  • Applicants should first determine the timeline of the project and, in consultation with HI staff, may choose to divide the project into phases (development, production, distribution) and make application for a particular phase rather than the entire project. Grants for post-production are rarely given unless a previous phase received HI grant support.
  • Applications should include an abstract or rough draft of a script or story treatment, as applicable. Please submit one copy as an attachment.
  • Work samples (e.g., raw footage or a rough cut of the project, or a final cut of another project) are welcome, but are not required. Please submit one copy as an attachment.
  • Applications should include a detailed production schedule, with technical requirements (equipment, processes and supplies to be used), as applicable.
  • The project director may be actively involved in the creative process of the project, but any payment made shall be in the form of an honorarium for the creative, scholarly work of the project, not salaries for administrative duties. Salary for administrative duties may be included as part of the cash match.
  • A Humanities Iowa subcommittee may not only review the application, but may also review progress on the awarded project as a condition of release of funds.
  • The finished product should include a disclaimer that the program does not necessarily represent the views of Humanities Iowa or the National Endowment for the Humanities.
  • At least two copies of a finished product must be furnished to Humanities Iowa.
  • Any royalties or proceeds that arise from the sale, rental, or use of a media product funded by HI must be returned to HI in an amount not to exceed the total amount of the HI award. The formula for this repayment will be calculated on the percentage of the HI grant(s) to the total production cost.


Special Guidelines for Teacher Seminars

Humanities Iowa will consider proposals from colleges, universities, area education agencies and school systems for planning and conducting seminars in the humanities for elementary, secondary and post-secondary teachers. Special considerations for such grants are:

  • Academic credit, stipends, or both credit and stipends can be offered for such seminars.
  • Primary emphasis must be given to humanities topics rather than curriculum design or teaching methods.
  • Those who lecture or conduct workshops must be professional scholars in one or more humanities disciplines.
  • Planning committees must include scholars, teachers and administrators as appropriate. The means and criteria for selecting the enrollees should be explained in the proposal.
  • The project director and principal humanities scholar may be the same person. Any payment to the project director shall be as an honorarium for the presentation only, not for administrative duties. Salary for administrative duties may be included as part of the cash contribution for cost-sharing.
  • A sponsor may calculate normal tuition for the seminar participants as a part of the cost sharing, provided that the tuition is waived for those in the seminar.
  • An agenda and list of texts to be used must be submitted as part of the proposal, subject to HI approval and/or adjustment.


Deadlines and Submission Information

Humanities Iowa staff welcomes the opportunity to consult with applicants on proposals by telephone or e-mail. Please contact Heather Plucar, Grant and Finance Director, at or (319) 335-4150.

We will work with you to strengthen the application and answer questions. If you would like to submit a draft proposal for critique, please do so several weeks before the deadline and we will help you refine the document before you submit a final version.

Major grants (award amounts $3,001-$20,000)

  • Spring major grant applications have a deadline of May 1*.
    Grants are awarded in mid-June.
    Projects should begin after July 1.
  • Fall major grant applications have a deadline of October 1*.
    Grants are awarded in mid-November.
    Projects should begin after December 1.
  • *If this date falls on Saturday or Sunday, the deadline will be extended to the following Monday.

A complete major grant application consists of the online application form (cover sheet, budget form, and the signed Agreement and Certifications form), along with the budget narrative, project narrative, and a one-page humanities evaluator description.

Mini grants (award amounts up to $3,000)

Mini grant is for organizations seeking funding for amounts up to $3,000. Applications are accepted year-round and are evaluated upon receipt. We prefer to receive mini grant applications at least four weeks before the start date of the project, but we can sometimes accommodate shorter deadlines.

A complete mini grant application consists of the application form (signed cover sheet, budget form, and the signed Agreement and Certifications form), along with the budget narrative and project narrative.


Please fill out online (preferred) or send completed applications to:

Humanities Iowa
Attn: Grants Director
100 LIB RM 4039
Iowa City IA 52242-1420


Frequently Asked Questions

What are typical formats of programs/projects funded by HI?

  • Literary reading/discussion or lecture/discussion programs led by at least one scholar.
  • Discussion/interpretation programs focused on the showing of films, performances, videotapes/DVDs, and exhibits.
  • Video documentaries–all phases, but generally not the post-production phase unless an earlier phase was supported by an HI grant.
  • Radio programs that reach large audiences.
  • Scholar-led walking tours and accompanying interpretive brochures.
  • Seminars, symposia and workshops led by a scholar.
  • Museum exhibitions–research, design, and/or implementation with an emphasis on interpretive materials and public programs.
  • Oral history projects that involve a community and result in the production and distribution of materials (publications, tapes, videos, exhibits) to the general public.
  • Living history programs that reflect scholarly contributions and are presented or organized by a humanities scholar.
  • Arts programs that place works in their historical, political or social context.
  • Web design projects with scholarly input that bring humanities content to the public.

What are some currently eligible but non-prioritized projects?

  • Organization of archival materials for publication and distribution.
  • Computerization/digitization of inventories, catalogs or archival materials.
  • Projects from organizations with a mission of entertainment or recreation.
  • Programs directed to a limited and/or specialized audience, such as annual retreats and professional development training.

How can I find a scholar for my project?

Contact your local college or university, library or museum. You can also contact the HI office for help in finding a scholar for your topic. Another resource is the HI Speakers Bureau roster, posted on the HI web site. Members of the HI board of directors might also be able to help identify a scholar for your project.

An independent evaluator is a requirement of an HI major grant, and a fee of $200 plus auto travel expenses can be paid out of the grant funds. Ideally the evaluator will be familiar with and traveling within the community in which the HI-funded event is to be held.

Does the project director need to be a scholar?

No, but a scholar should definitely be on the planning committee and program presenters should have appropriate credentials.

What are appropriate honorarium levels for project personnel?

HI grants can support the time and expertise of presenters, researchers, coordinators, and others integral to the project. The level of honorarium is based on precedent for similar events, the actual number of hours/events devoted to the project by the scholar, his/her availability, and public demand.

What about dance, theater and art projects?

It is critical to consult with HI staff about these types of projects prior to application. Typically, HI will not fund performance projects unless they incorporate the interpretation of the performance through a complementary lecture and/or discussion with the audience. For example, if a Scottish highlander group will dance and also explain the history and cultural meanings of bagpipes, traditional dress and the dance steps, the project may be eligible. If a museum hosts an art exhibit and would like to bring in scholars to talk about that particular art movement, that project may also be eligible. Theater presentations that involve living history re-enactments (such as someone portraying the life and times of Grant Wood or Charles Darwin) may also be considered for funding.

Why are the project start and end dates important?

No HI grant funds can support activities occurring prior to the project start date. The length of the grant-funded portion of projects can extend to a maximum of two years from the start date. Additionally, HI’s reporting deadlines are tied to the project end dates.

Can staff salaries be included in the Humanities Iowa Grant Request Column of the Budget Form?

As Humanities Iowa funding is limited, we would prefer to pay the direct costs of a project. If, in special circumstances, a staff member is involved in the creative, scholarly, public presentation of the project, a reasonable honorarium may be included in the project expenses. Salaries should, if included at all, be in the cash cost-share for the applicant organization or in-kind cost-share for any co-sponsoring organizations.

What criteria are used to review and evaluate applications?

Primary considerations:

  • The content of the project–activities should be centered in one or more of the humanities disciplines.
  • Focus–the project has a clearly identified focus provided by a topic or text that is analyzed and discussed using the content and methodology of the humanities.
  • Humanities methods–critical thinking and interpretation should be evident throughout the program.
  • Audience interest–project topics and formats should stimulate the interest of participants.
  • Audience engagement–members of the public should be encouraged to engage in critical thinking and interpretation through project activities that promote disciplined dialogue between and among project participants and audiences.
  • Scholar accessibility–scholars in public humanities projects should interact with non-scholar members of the public.

Other important considerations:

  • Geographic location and the frequency of HI projects in that area.
  • Performance history of previous HI-funded projects from applicant organization and frequency of HI grants to that organization.
  • Repeated funding–whether the same activity has received repeated funding from HI.
  • The importance of the project to the people of Iowa.
  • The size or composition of the intended audience.
  • Diversity–whether minorities, women and people with disabilities are appropriately included both in project planning and implementation.