Starting your NEH Proposal

Guidelines for proposal preparation

NEH Grants is the National Endowment for the Humanities grants home page. Go there to learn of grant opportunities, application guidelines, and (later, if funded) resources for managing your grant.

All applicants to National Endowment for the Humanities are required to use Institutions or individuals can apply.

As an Institution

(as in the case of challenge grants, digital humanities projects, or enduring questions):

  • Carleton is registered with, with the Dean of the College and CFR personnel designated as the Authorized Organizational Representatives (AOR). 
  • CFR personnel submit applications on behalf of Carleton and the Dean.

As an Individual

(as in the case of fellowships or summer stipends):

  • If you are applying as an individual, the guidelines for the program to which you are applying will have specific instructions for registering with
  • Note that CFR often does the registering of an individual with, though an individual can register themselves on the Applicant Registration page. If registering yourself, please notify CFR.

Step-by-step instructions to begin a proposal

At Carleton, the two most common NEH asks are for 1) a fellowship, or 2) a summer stipend.
[To learn of other opportunities, explore NEH’s Match Your Project to a Grant Program.]

The guidelines are detailed and easy to follow: for any application reading through the guidelines is essential (for an example, at NEH Grants Fellowships, choose “Fellowship Guidelines (PDF)” in right sidebar titled “Guidelines Resources”). 

For a Fellowship

  • Go to this NEH Fellowships page that provides the proposal due date (in April annually), a brief summary, program statistics, and contact information.
  • On the page are links to the application guidelines and the application package; and program resources such as Fellowships Frequently Asked Questions, 2020 (PDF), this List of recently funded Fellowships, sample application narratives, and resources.
  • (Note that not all links may apply to the current year’s program. NEH often publishes new or updated information a couple of months previous to proposal submission due date.)

For a Summer Stipend

  • Follow this NEH Summer Stipend link to see deadline date (late September annually), a brief summary, program statistics, and contact information.
  • On the page are links to resources of application guidelines and the application package. Also available are program resources such as FAQs, recently funded fellowships, sample application narratives, and resources.
  • (Note again that new or updated information is published a couple of months previous to proposal submission due date.)

Components of common NEH proposals

An NEH Fellowship provides a stipend of $5,000 per month for periods of six to twelve months, with a maximum stipend of $60,000 for a twelve-month period. The award period must be full-time and continuous.

A Summer Stipend provides $6,000 for two consecutive months of full-time research and writing on a humanities project, support projects at any stage of development, and are awarded to individual scholars.

A few FORMATTING particulars

  • Font size is to be no smaller than eleven point. Most documents use single-spacing with one-inch margins.
  • Submission via requires attachment of PDF files. The Grants Office staff will convert your proposal pieces to PDF after proofing the documents and before attaching them to the application package.
  • File names for attachments must be limited to 50 or fewer characters, not use accent marks or special characters, and be named as indicated in the guidelines.

Required application components

For either a fellowship or summer stipend proposal, the application includes four key elements:

1. Narrative 

In no more than three single-spaced pages with 1-inch margins, describe the project’s

  • Significance and contribution
  • Concepts and methods
  • Work Plan
  • Competencies, skills, and access
  • Final product and dissemination

2. Bibliography

In no more than one single-spaced page, list key primary and secondary sources that relate directly to the project.

3. Résumé 

In no more than two single-spaced pages, provide information on

  • Current and past positions
  • Education
  • Awards and honors
  • Publications
  • Other relevant professional activities and accomplishments

(A conventional academic curriculum vitae is not acceptable.)

4. Writing Sample (for fellowship applications)

In no more than 5 single-spaced pages (including any footnotes or endnotes), submit a writing sample from a current or recent project that demonstrates an ability to express ideas and make a clear argument.

The writing sample should

  • be in the style of the proposed project, either from the proposed project (preferred) or from a recent publication
  • be not more than 5 years old
  • be from a single piece of work and single authored (junior scholars can use an excerpt from dissertation if applying for first book project)
  • not include a table of contents, outline, or abstract of proposed work
  • use 1-inch margins and font no smaller than 11-point
  • use single-spacing for footnotes or endnotes

    A few notes:

    • You may precede the sample with a brief headnote providing context.
    • If your sample has been published, you must indicate this and list the publication on your resume.
    • A writing sample is NOT needed for Editions, Translations, and Database Projects.

5. Two Letters of Recommendation

Provide the names, e-mail addresses, and affiliations for two reference letter writers.

  • The NEH will contact the letter writers about a week after the proposal deadline with information about how they can submit their letters online.
  • The deadline for the writers to submit their letters is often around 3 weeks after the deadline.
  • Applicants are notified by email when NEH receives their letters of reference.
  • Missing letters will not disqualify an application from review.

6. An appendix 

An appendix is allowed only for editions, translations, or database projects, or for proposals that include visual materials. If required, see guidelines for specifics.


Needed for the application form

For either a fellowship or summer stipend, the application form asks for items beyond basic contact and demographic information:

  1. A “project title” that is both descriptive and informative to a nonspecialist audience – that is, members of Congress and their staffs, as well as the general public. The title may not exceed 125 characters, including spaces. Longer titles will be detected by the NEH’s application system, which will then reject the application.
  2. A “project description” (akin to an abstract, 1000-character limit) that
    • summarizes your project for a nonspecialist audience (such as members of Congress and their staffs, as well as the general public), and
    • connects the proposed work to larger issues in the humanities.

      The project description cannot exceed one thousand characters, including spaces. Longer descriptions may cause validation software to reject the application, and will be truncated by the NEH’s application system, marring their legibility.

  3. Start and end dates for the proposed project (must start on the first day of the month and end on last day of the month), which correspond with the particular program’s requirements as to earliest or latest start dates and the duration of the grant (at least 6 months, no more than 12 months).
  4. Up to three discrete “fields of project” and one “project director field of study.” These choices – listed on this NEH Project Fields page – are used by NEH staff to assure that an application is read by the appropriate reviewers.
  5. Identification of the Project/Performance Site Location – name the primary location and any other locations where the project activity will occur during the period of performance.
  6. Contact information for letters of reference writers – two for both Summer Stipends and Fellowships. Information needed for each letter writer: full name, email address, title, department name, and institution.
    (After submission of the application, the NEH emails the letter writers with instructions for uploading their letters by a date that follows the application deadline by about a month.)

Compliance specifics

What do I need to do to be compliant with federal requirements?

Each organization receiving funding from a federal agency needs to certify that the institution and individuals are following specified federal guidelines.

Carleton asks all primary investigators (PI and coPIs) involved in a proposal to a federal governmental agency (e.g., NSF, NIH, NEH) to read and sign a Compliance and Disclosure form via this Link to OnBase Form (log in using your Carleton credentials). The form addresses College policies and provides a checklist with links addressing I) financial conflicts of interest, II) human or animal subject involvement, III) responsible conduct of research, and IV) environmental health and safety issues. 


How do I submit my proposal via

All applications to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) are submitted through

Also, this blog post is helpful, but since CFR submits most proposals, individual faculty rarely need to attend to this.

Where do I find more information?

NEH Division of Research Programs, for a listing of the 12 annual funding opportunities

NEH Fellowships

NEH Summer Stipends

NEH-Mellon Fellowships for Digital Publication

List of recently funded Fellowships

Contact program staff in NEH’s Division of Research at 202-606-8200 or