Incubation Grants ($2,000 to $15,000) support projects that are in development. Whether you are planning a new endeavor or re-imagining an existing program, these grants support the thoughtful preparation of a program prior to implementation.


A meaningful question is the start of a great Incubation Grant proposal.

An Incubation Grant encourages you to set out a bold vision and see where it takes you. It might help you forge a new partnership or deepen an existing one, research a new topic or widen perspective on a current topic, talk to community stakeholders, or learn more about your audience. You might be planning a new program or taking a fresh approach to an existing one.

Since these grants support projects in development, we understand that preliminary ideas might change and evolve. We are most interested in hearing about the need you wish to address, your goals as you start this process, and how you plan to proceed. The most competitive proposals will articulate a vision, detail a plan, and commit to serving the needs of your identified audience.


Incubation Grants are different from Action Grants because:
  • They support planning and development, not implementation, regardless of the size of the grant. That means one organization might propose a $15,000 Incubation project, while another proposes a $2,000 Action Grant.
  • Projects that are mostly about “doing” will not be competitive Incubation Grant proposals, no matter how great the idea is. Incubation Grants are intrinsically about discovery. They are the R&D department of the grant world.
  • While pilot programs often fit under the Incubation umbrella, they must include a substantial planning or development component to be competitive in this type of grant. It’s not Incubation just because it’s happening for the first time. If you are ready to implement your program, that is an Action Grant, even if it is new or small.
  • You don’t have to know everything. You do have to have well-articulated goals and a clear plan for setting out on your project. Incubation Grants work best when organizations are open to an iterative process. Where you end up may be a bit different than where you thought you’d be.
  • Incubation Grants assume that failure is an option. A successful Incubation Grant can help you realize that your proposed program is a bad idea and cannot move forward as originally envisioned! It can help you realize that you need more planning and development. And it can help you understand that your organization needs to move in a different direction to achieve your bigger goals.

Still not sure if this grant is right for your project? NJCH staff is available to help you determine the appropriate type of funding for your proposed project.


The most competitive grant proposals support one or more of the Council’s primary goals:
  • to build new audiences for the humanities.
  • to bring people of different perspectives and backgrounds together.
  • to explore new program models.
  • to create lively humanities opportunities around the state.
Consider the following questions and tips as you develop your application:
  • There are no exceptions to our application deadlines. Early is the new on time. Do not wait until the last minute!
  • Tell us a story. Quantifiable data is a huge selling point, but we also want to know why you’re doing what you’re doing and why it’s significant.
  • Your audience is the heart and soul of your project. Who are you serving and what role do they play in your project and for your organization?
  • Questionable budgets strike fear in the heart of funders. It’s a bad idea to either inflate or underestimate your budget. If you don’t have a good idea of what your project is going to cost, you are not ready to submit a grant application.
  • Your budget tells a story. Make sure that story matches the one you’re telling in your narrative. There should be obvious connections between the expenses outlined in your budget and the activities outlined in your narrative.
  • Keep it simple. Avoid generalizations, flowery language, and hyperbole. Don’t write more than you need to. And by all means – proofread!
  • Bigger is not necessarily better.It’s great if you can reach a lot of people with your program or make a big splash. But it’s also great to allow a smaller group to explore an idea with considerable depth.

NJCH staff is here to help. Promise! We can help you conceive your project, give feedback on a draft of your application, help you find a scholar or other expert, connect you with an evaluator, help you identify community partners, and so much more. We also provide workshops that help you understand the grant program and delve deeply into its most important aspects.


Each Incubation Grant proposal is evaluated on the following measures:

The project deeply engages with the humanities and relies on informed resources to pursue complex questions and ideas. It creates opportunities for critical thinking and analysis and pushes participants towards broader perspectives. It includes one or more humanities experts on the project team.

The project is designed to serve an audience or community or is working towards readiness for that purpose. It involves that community in the conception and execution of the project. The project seeks to engage underrepresented or underserved audiences and finds ways to bring together people of different background and experience.

Applicant has a clear vision for the project and has set goals. The project connects to the organization’s mission and objectives. The project is meaningful for the organization and its public, fuels creativity, and is clearly about incubation.

Plan and Budget
The project is supported by a plan and identifies clear goals. The organization is willing to adjust the plan based on discovery during this incubation process. The budget is clearly articulated, reflects the project plan, and makes monetary sense.
The applicant articulates what they wish to assess and connects that effort to the project’s goals and intentions. They identify deliverables that will help them take the next steps in the project’s development.

The organization is capable of executing the proposed project and has assembled an appropriate project team to do so.




Please note: Organizations can apply for either Incubation or Action Grants during each grant round.


Letter of Intent: September 14-30, 2020
Drafts accepted: Through October 16, 2020
Application Deadline: October 29, 2020
Award Notification: By December 23, 2020
Projects Begin: Within 3 months of award


Letter of Intent: March 1-15, 2021
Application Deadline: April 15, 2021
Award Notification: By June 25, 2021
Projects Begin: Within 3 months of award




Grants Officer
609-695-4838 x221