National Credit Union Foundation Opens New Grant Opportunities

Credit Unions Can Apply for “Innovation Grants” by June 29

Credit unions and their service partners are eligible to apply for new “Innovation Grants” through June 29 from the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF).

The new Innovation Grants criteria are aligned with NCUF’s new signature program: REAL Solutions aims to help credit unions attract members with “low wealth” and move them up the credit path in five steps. While participation in REAL Solutions is not a requirement to apply for a grant, NCUF is seeking grant applications for innovative programs in any of these five steps:
  • Education: Innovation Grants can assist credit unions participating in national financial education programs including the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), Junior Achievement, and JA’s BizKid$ (the new PBS-TV series sponsored by America’s Credit Unions). Innovation Grants can also support other initiatives consistent with the education components of REAL Solutions: financial counseling, product awareness, and staff training.
  • Transaction Services: Innovation Grants can support credit unions with programs to provide check-cashing, money orders, remittances, fee-free checking, tax preparation, and other services to attract underserved consumers.
  • Savings: Innovation Grants can support credit unions with programs that promote savings awareness; offer low membership fees; provide safe accounts for new immigrants; and help members with low wealth establish long-term savings.
  • Credit: Innovation Grants can support credit unions offering small loans including payday loan alternatives; used car loans that help low-wealth members reach better jobs or higher education; and internal projects such as revising loan policies and building staff awareness in order to better serve people of modest means.
  • Homeownership: Innovation Grants can support credit unions offering Home Loan Payment Reduction (HLPR) loans, homeownership counseling, and other services that help members with lower credit scores become first-time homebuyers.
Grant Dollars Depend on CIF

The amount of grant funds available will largely depend on the dollars that credit unions invest in the Community Investment Fund (CIF). Credit unions interested in investing can check with their corporate credit union, or go to www.ncuf.coop and click “Community Investment Fund” for more information.

"Innovation grants are made possible by the Community Investment Fund as well as corporate sponsors and individual donors,” explains NCUF Grants Committee Chairman Francois Henriquez, senior VP and general counsel of U.S. Central in Lenexa, Kan. “Through a partnership between the Corporate Credit Union Network, the National Credit Union Foundation, state foundations and leagues, the CIF now offers more investment options than ever before.”

“The Community Investment Fund returns more than dollars,” emphasizes CIF investor Gary Oakland, president/CEO of BECU in Seattle. “It returns hope to communities served by credit unions in every state. The more credit unions invest in the CIF, the more credit unions can offer innovative programs that are needed in their communities.”

New Grant-Writing Resources Online

Potential applicants can use grant-writing resources posted on the Foundation’s website (www.ncuf.coop). Among the resources: Project Planning, Funding Strategies, Grant-writing Tips, and a complete Grant Application Tutorial. To view the grant criteria and fill out the application form, applicants can log on to www.ncuf.coop and click “Apply for a Grant.”

Questions can be directed to: Application Review Process

Grant applications will first be evaluated in July and August by panels of NCUF staff and qualified Credit Union Development Educators (CUDEs) using the posted Review Criteria. Applications, scores, and panel comments will be sent to the NCUF Grants Committee. After another intensive round of meetings, rankings, and Q&As, applicants will be notified of the Grants Committee’s funding decisions by Sept. 30.

Annual Grant Cycle

This application and evaluation process completes the Foundation’s two-year transition from three shorter grant cycles to one extended grant cycle.

“The annual grant cycle affords more time between the grant applications and final decisions,” notes NCUF Executive Director Steve Delfin. “This empowers applicants with opportunities to gain feedback and answer questions from the grant reviewers during the evaluation process. The end result is more well-rounded applications and more high-impact grants.”

Delfin also has authority to approve discretionary grants up to $25,000 at any time throughout the year. “And of course, the Foundation will always remain flexible and responsive to immediate unanticipated needs within the credit union movement.”