NEH Toolbox

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Toolbox

For humanists and scholars in the humanistic social sciences, the National Endowment for the Humanities is a primary funding source within the federal government. According to their website: 


"Because democracy demands wisdom, NEH serves and strengthens our republic by promoting excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans." (source: About NEH)


As a liberal arts institution, Wellesley College and its faculty are well prepared to contribute to this mission.


Special Programs of Interest

Fellowships (individual projects; research leading to book publication)

Public Scholars (books for wide audiences)

Collaborative Research

Summer Stipends (internal nomination process, contact OSR)

Humanities Connections Planning and Implementation grants (curriculum)

Digitial Humanities (various opportunities)

*See full listing of grant programs on the NEH website.


Samples, Templates, and Guidance



In 2019, Wellesley College was fortunate to have a live webinar session between our faculty and an NEH program officer. Below are answers to questions pertaining to writing competitive NEH fellowship applications that were posed during that session.

  • How do I choose the right length for my fellowship period in my application? Be sure to request the maximum amount of time you need to complete the work. You will not have the opportunity to lengthen it, although you can always decrease the length in consultation with NEH if your circumstances change.
  • Does NEH prefer to fund later stage (writing) projects versus early stage (researching) projects? Both are viable, but later stage applications tend to be easier to write and so get funded more. But itis possible to write a good early stage project application. You must be able to explain where you are in the project, where you are going and the questions posed, and how to address them. A detailed timeline is especially important.
  • Is it necessary to have a press lined up to publish your work? No. Only about 1/3 of applications already have a press lined up. If you have one, great. Mention it! It will be an asset. Bit if not, that is OK. You can explain the types of presses you would pursue and why, or indicate early interest expressed by a press so far.
  • How many times can I submit the same project following past rejections? No limit! People have gotten funded on their 9th try. Reviewers turnover 100% every year (and must sit out for 3 years before reviewing again). So you will generally NOT get the same reviewers, and they won't be aware of past applications. Some people make it a practice to apply every year, year-in and year-out. NEH approves of this strategy! Each set of reviews you get can offer valuable feedback. And your chances of success increase when you revise and resubmit.
  • How can I construct a strong 3-page narrative for my application?
    • ​Overview/Significance & Scholarly Context: The most important thing is to convey succinctly WHY this work is important to carry out. They ask panelists to review based on the significance of the work.Think of this as trying to anser the question "What will we know when you complete your project that we don't currently know?"
    • Current State: Where are you now in the project? Give a sense of the overall, wider project this may be part of.
    • Work Plan: Greater emphasis is being placed on the the quality of your work plan than ever. The bar is higher now for this than in the past. It is not enough to say "I will be writing..." What distinguishes an Excellent application from a Very Good one is often the level of detail in the workplan. How long will you be in the archive and when? What materials will you be pulling up? What questions will you be addressing with those materials? 
    • Completion: What would happen after the grant ends? It is not enough to say "I'll publish a book."
  • How can I best approach the 1-page bibliography? A model often used successfully is to list 1/3 primary works and 2/3 secondary works. This is acceptable and you should use the bibliography to tell your overall story.
  • How can I strategically choose my letter writers? A successful strategy is to provide each letter writer with a copy of your narrative, and tell them what you would like them to focus on in the letter. If there are gaps in the overall story of your narrative, sometimes the letter writer can help address the gap by what they choose to focus on.
  • How do I choose a good writing sample to include? This could be anything of your choosing, but choose carefully. They are looking for clarity of writing, and whether you can really convey your work in an accessible manner to a wide audience (not just specialist in your field).