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NEH Climate Smart Humanities Organizations Program

General Information

Program Description

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Office of Challenge Programs is accepting applications for the Climate Smart Humanities Organizations program. This program strengthens the institutional base of the humanities by funding operational assessments and strategic planning efforts to sustain and protect historical, cultural, educational, intellectual, and physical assets from the risks of climate change. Projects will result in a climate action, resilience, or adaptation plan including detailed assessments, measurable actions, and expected outcomes. Proposals must address how strategic planning for climate change will increase the organization’s resilience and support its work in the humanities over the long term.

Climate smart strategic planning focuses on two distinct but related types of activities that increase resilience:

  • mitigation planning focuses on reducing your institution’s environmental impact and energy costs
  • adaptation planning prepares for and adjusts to actual and expected climate change scenarios to protect humanities-focused institutional assets and facilities.

In developing your project, your organization should consider if your project scope will include mitigation, adaptation, or a combination of both types of assessments and planning. NEH encourages you to address both mitigation and adaptation, but you may choose to focus on one or the other. In your narrative, please provide a justification for what type of assessments and planning will occur, and how it will increase organizational resilience and support your work in the humanities. This award does not support implementation costs, including construction or renovation. See notice of funding opportunity for examples of potential climate smart projects and the types of assessments that might be considered.

Mitigation assessments inform a comprehensive climate action plan by measuring the environmental impact of your organization’s operations, including energy use, waste production, and resource consumption. Your NEH project should propose specific assessments and explain how they will result in an actionable plan that will reduce your environmental impact and increase organizational resilience. 

Adaptation assessments inform a comprehensive climate adaptation through identifying current and anticipated climate hazards and their potential impact on your humanities organization’s building(s), operations, finances, programming, staff, and audiences. Your NEH project should consider a range of hazards and assess your organization’s capacity to prepare for and respond to them. 

Intended Applicants. This program is intended to increase the operational resilience of humanities organizations such as museums, libraries, archives, historic houses, and humanities-centered subunits of colleges and universities. Your application should clearly articulate how your organization engages with humanities themes through collections, sites, and/or programming. Your application will be evaluated on project design, as well as the degree to which the final climate smart strategic plan supports the institutional base of the humanities. 


  • Applicants must be members of the University of Pennsylvania (faculty, staff, student, postdoctoral trainee) to apply.
  • Institutions of higher education may apply to develop a climate action plan for one or more humanities-based subunits, such as a library, archive, or museum. The proposal should focus exclusively on creating strategic planning documents specifically for those humanities-based subunits.
  • For any sponsored research projects, the applicant must be eligible to serve as Principal Investigator for the project, unless otherwise noted in the LSO. Please see Penn’s PI Eligibility requirements to ensure you are eligible.

Award Information

  • Generally, grants are awarded in amounts up to $300,000 total costs, over 2 years
  • Proposals must include a one-to-one match by third-party, non-federal gifts. Proposed budgets may be up to $600,000 ($300,000 from NEH plus $300,000 in matching funds).

Review Process

Selection Criteria

The University has been invited to nominate one (1) project. A committee established by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) will determine the final nominee(s) to represent the University.

Application Requirements

  1. Candidate(s) details, including name, academic rank, department, email address, phone number, and campus address.
  2. Research Proposal (maximum 4 pages): including citations; single-spaced, 12-point font with one-inch margins). A proposal describing the proposed research or project. The proposal should include the project title, aims, and objectives. Projects must improve a humanities organization’s capacity to respond to a changing climate through operational and/or risk assessments and result in physical or digital planning document(s) outlining specific mitigation and/or adaptation actions the organization will implement over time. Climate Smart supports individual and consortium projects and requires certification of an equal amount of third-party, non-federal gifts to release NEH funds.
  3. Curriculum Vitae (CV) (maximum 5 pages): which includes educational background, professional appointments, awards, and honors. Include all current research support (start-up and external) and pending support, including dollar amounts and start/end dates.
  4. Documents should be saved as NEH_applicant LAST name_applicant FIRST name.