Literary Arts Emergency Fund

The Literary Arts Emergency Fund (LAEF) is a historic collaboration between the Academy of American Poets, Community of Literary Magazine and Presses (CLMP), and the National Book Foundation established in 2020 to support and advocate for the nonprofit literary arts field.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation, over two cycles, the fund distributed an unprecedented $7,830,000 to 376 nonprofit literary arts organizations and publishers in 43 states across the U.S., as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, which were disastrously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In September 2020, regrants were made to 282 nonprofit literary arts organizations and publishers. In April 2022, regrants were made to 313 nonprofit literary arts organizations and publishers.

Across both funding cycles, data was collected from applicants, which included information about finances, programs and publications, and reach. In preparation for the second funding cycle, LAEF worked with WolfBrown, a consulting firm that assists cultural organizations with expertise in market research, program design, and evaluation, to strengthen and expand its data collection effort. WolfBrown then analyzed the data collected and produced, in partnership with LAEF, a first-of-its-kind report on the nonprofit literary arts field.

Download the 2022 Literary Arts Emergency Fund Impact Report
Credit: 2022 Literary Arts Emergency Fund Impact Report, Literary Arts Emergency Fund, established and administered by Academy of American Poets, Community of Literary Magazine & Presses, and National Book Foundation.

Watch an Information Session Hosted by the Literary Arts Emergency Fund About the Report

The report, which focuses on data collected from the 410 literary organizations and publishers that applied to the fund in 2021, offers a detailed and compelling look at the tremendous cultural impact of nonprofit literary organizations and publishers and, at the same time, the financial precarity they face.

While “literary culture” often brings to mind commercial publishing, bookstores, and libraries, the report demonstrates the unique contributions that nonprofit literary organizations and publishers make to literature and the larger arts and culture sector in the U.S. For example, in 2021 alone these organizations and publishers reached 220.3 million individuals through programs and publications; provided $22 million to writers; and employed 2,546 individuals, many of whom are writers.

The report also reveals that nonprofit literary arts organizations and publishers, to a large extent, exist with meager budgets, few staff, and little or no cash reserves. This is especially true for nonprofit publishers and those organizations that are led by BIPOC staff and serve historically underrepresented groups.

For additional information about funding challenges faced by the literary arts field, in 2021, Inside Philanthropy (independent and distinct from LAEF) produced the report “Giving for Writing & Literature” (behind a paywall), which notes that, “Philanthropic giving for writing and literature is minuscule relative to other artistic disciplines.”

In 2020 and 2022, LAEF awarded one-time, unrestricted emergency grants from $5,000 to $50,000. Grant amounts were determined by the following factors: financial need and projected loss due to COVID-19; budget size; diversity, equity, and inclusion as it relates to an organization’s staff and board; poets and writers contracted with; audiences served; geographic location; and an organization’s ability to continue offering programming.

Eligible applicants included:

  • Literary arts organizations and publishers* AND
  • Incorporated nonprofits with 501(c)3 status OR a fiscal agent AND
  • Based in the United States, U.S. territories, or Tribal lands
  • Organizations that promote poets and/or poetry;
  • Publishers (literary magazines and presses);
  • Literary or writers’ centers, book festivals, Writers in the Schools programs, literary presenting organizations, and other literary organizations.

*Because financial losses experienced by nonprofit literary arts organizations and publishers were substantial and emergency relief was limited, libraries, museums, book arts organizations, humanities councils, centers for the book, residencies, playwriting organizations, author’s homes, and organizations devoted to championing the legacy of an individual writer were ineligible.

Decisions about the eligibility of applications as determined by the three managing organizations were final.

Applications were reviewed by independent panelists who were named on the three administering organizations’ websites. Panel ratings formed the basis for funding. Award decisions were approved and finalized by members of the Board of Directors of the three managing organizations. 

Funding through LAEF has closed. All applicant organizations from the most recent round were notified whether or not they received funding via Submittable on Monday, April 11, 2022.

The Literary Arts Emergency Fund is made possible by the Mellon Foundation.