Director, Challenge Programs

Washington, D.C
Aug 23, 2019
Aug 31, 2019
Executive, Director
Full Time


NEH is an independent grant-making agency of the government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities.

Learn more about this agency


  • The Office of Challenge Programs provides national leadership and support for institutional development in the humanities. By offering matching funds, challenge grants and cooperative agreements help local, state, and national institutions secure their humanities resources and activities for the long term. The "multiplier effect" is crucial to achieving this goal: recipients of a challenge grant must match every federal dollar with three (in some cases, one or four) nonfederal dollars. Additionally, Challenge grants and cooperative agreements may also support long-term humanities projects with funds invested in a restricted, short-term endowment or other investment fund (or spend-down fund) that generate expendable earnings to support and enhance ongoing humanities activities. Eligible activities include the preservation and conservation of humanities materials, and the sustaining of digital infrastructure for the humanities.
  • The incumbent oversees a program which provides awards to organizations which enables them to increase their humanities capacity through capital expenditures to support the design, purchase, construction, restoration, or renovation of facilities for humanities activities, the purchase of equipment and software and performs the following:
  • Ensures that all grant and cooperative agreement applications are thoroughly and fairly evaluated in accordance with agency procedures.
  • Ensures that the Office's staff follows agency procedures for selecting review panels, conducting panel discussions, and preparing summary review materials with funding recommendations.
  • Identifies budget priorities and manages complex budgets for the Office.
  • Works closely with the Office of the Chairman of NEH to implement agency policy and ensure that Office staff follow such policies.
  • Stays abreast of developments in the humanities that may affect the operations of the Office.
  • Conveys information about the Office's programs to the public.
  • Supervises the preparation of notice of funding opportunities and other publications.
  • Supervises the work performed by a small professional staff by assigning duties and responsibilities; recommending recruitment, promotion, and reassignment; providing instructions, supervision, and coordination of assignments as necessary, and appraising performance.
  • Collaborates closely with the NEH Office of Grant Management in post-award oversight of the Office's grants and cooperative agreements

Travel Required

Occasional travel - You are expected to travel for this position. (Approximately five (5) annual trips)

Supervisory status

Promotion Potential


Conditions of Employment

  • U.S. Citizen
  • Relevant experience and/or education
  • Favorable background investigation
  • Males born after 12/31/1959 must be registered with the Selective Service


As part of the online application process you will need to respond to a series of questions designed to assess your possession of the following knowledge, skills, abilities, and/or competencies:
  • Budget Administration
  • Managing Human Resources
  • Oral Communication
  • Technical Competence
  • Writing

At the GS-14 level, Qualified candidates must possess:
1 year of specialized experience equivalent to at least the GS-13 level or equivalent experience.
Specialized experience includes review of applications and programmatic oversight of active grants and cooperative agreements, oversight of humanities programs and management of complex budgets, program evaluation, humanities outreach, and creation and administration of collaborative partnerships or other professional humanities work of equal importance, difficulty, and responsibility. All related experience must be performed in a leadership or senior specialized capacity.

At the GS-15 level Qualified candidates must possess:
1 year of specialized experience equivalent to at least the GS-14 level or equivalent experience.
Specialized experience includes review of applications and programmatic oversight of active grants and cooperative agreements, management of complex budgets, program evaluation, humanities outreach, creation and administration of collaborative partnerships, planning and directing humanities programs, conducting high-level meetings and making presentations on the humanities, working with humanities organizations, allocating work and setting priorities for a professional staff, determining short- or long-term goals and strategies to achieve them - or other professional humanities work of equal importance, difficulty, and responsibility. All related experience must be performed in a leadership/supervisory capacity.


An advanced degree in historic preservation or another discipline of the humanities is required.

Additional information

1. If you are an eligible Interagency Career Transition Assistance Program (ICTAP) applicant you may apply for special selection over other candidates for this position. To be well-qualified and exercise selection priority for this vacancy, displaced Federal employees must be rated at 85 or above on the rating criteria for this position. ICTAP eligibles must submit one of the following as proof of eligibility for the special selection priority: a separation notice; a "Notice of Personnel Action" (SF-50) documenting separation; an agency certification that you cannot be placed after injury compensation has been terminated; an OPM notification that your disability annuity has been terminated; OR a Military Department or National Guard Bureau notification that you are retired under 5 U.S.C. 8337(h) or 8456.

2. If you are a veteran with preference eligibility and you are claiming 5-point veterans' preference, you must attach a copy of your DD-214 or other proof of eligibility. If you are claiming 10-point veterans' preference, you must attach an SF-15, "Application for 10-Point Veterans' Preference" plus the proof required by that form.

3. If you are a male applicant who was born after 12/31/59 and are required to register under the Military Selective Service Act, the Defense Authorization Act of 1986 requires that you be registered or you are not eligible for appointment in this agency.

4. You can apply for a non-competitive appointment if you meet the basic eligibility requirements and you are eligible for special appointment such as those authorized for the severely disabled; certain Vietnam era and disabled veterans; returned volunteers from the Peace Corps or Vista, etc. Please indicate the type of special appointment you are seeking, if any, on your application and follow all other instructions for applying shown in this announcement.

5. All qualification requirements must be met by the closing date of this announcement. Additional information on the qualification requirements is outlined in the OPM Qualifications Standards Handbook of General Schedule Positions. It is available for your review in our office, in other Federal agency personnel offices, and on OPM's web site at

6. This position may require completion of a 1-year trial period.

How You Will Be Evaluated

You will be evaluated for this job based on how well you meet the qualifications above.

We will review your résumé and supporting documentation and compare this information to your responses on the occupational questionnaire to determine if you meet the minimum qualifications for this position. You will be further evaluated against job-related criteria and placed in one of three pre-defined categories:
  • Best Category - Meets the basic qualification requirements for the vacancy announcement and has successful experience in the same or similar job that has demonstrated outstanding proficiency in applying knowledge, skill, and ability in the critical competencies for this position.
  • Better Category - Meets the basic qualification requirements for the vacancy announcement and demonstrates proficiency in the critical competencies for this position.
  • Qualified Category - Meets the specialized experience outlined in the minimum qualifications requirements section of the vacancy announcement.
Any exaggeration of an applicant's experience, false statements, or attempts to conceal information may be grounds for rating an applicant ineligible, not hiring the applicant, or for termination after he/she begins work. If a determination is made that in responding to the competency-based question an applicant has rated themselves higher than is evident in their resume, experience, and/or education, the applicant's score may be manually adjusted by a Human Resource Specialist.

INCOMPLETE APPLICATIONS will receive a rating of IFM (ineligible due to missing forms). Requests for reconsideration will not be considered for applicants who fail to submit a complete application package. We cannot be held responsible for incompatible software, fax transmissions, etc.

Only send documentation as requested/required by this announcement and that directly supports your qualifications for this position.

Background checks and security clearance

Security clearance

Drug test required

Position sensitivity and risk
Non-sensitive (NS)/Low Risk

Trust determination process

Required Documents

All applicants are required to submit the following supporting document type(s):
  • Cover Letter
  • Resume
  • Transcript
  • Writing Sample

NOTE: A writing sample related to a humanities theme topic is required and must be submitted in addition to the online application process described above. (Please upload this document through application manager in the area of the document section labeled Writing Sample). Failure to submit this document may disqualify you from further consideration.

Unofficial transcripts are accepted at time of application, however, official transcripts are required for selection.

If you are relying on your education to meet qualification requirements:

Education must be accredited by an accrediting institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Education in order for it to be credited towards qualifications. Therefore, provide only the attendance and/or degrees from schools accredited by accrediting institutions recognized by the U.S. Department of Education .

Failure to provide all of the required information as stated in this vacancy announcement may result in an ineligible rating or may affect the overall rating.

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