Guidelines and Eligibility for NEFE Grants and Research Program

The grants program seeks innovative research that can make a profound contribution to the field of financial literacy. Inquiries are encouraged from disciplines in fields as diverse as:

  • behavior 
  • marketing 
  • economics
  • finance
  • neuroscience
  • education
  • sociology         
  • change theory
  • psychology
  • decision sciences and others

Project outcomes should be actionable in the field of financial literacy, directly relevant to the financial well-being of the public, and able to be applied broadly.

Potential applicants are offered several ways to understand NEFE’s Research Funding Program, including the following:

Please note: NEFE does not give advice or offer suggestions regarding project ideas. Potential applicants who believe they have a project idea that fits with NEFE’s funding priorities are required to submit a Letter of Inquiry.

Submittal Requirements: How to Apply for a NEFE Grant -

All applicants must submit a completed Letter of Inquiry (LOI) using our new online system as the first step in being considered for funding. The LOI was developed to assist the applicant in providing basic and necessary information for NEFE to assess whether the applicant meets eligibility requirements and the likelihood that a project is a strong fit with NEFE’s funding priorities. Solely at NEFE’s discretion, projects appearing to have strong potential will move to a proposal phase; applicants for those selected projects will be given further instruction at that time.

NEFE conducts two grant processes per year. Please refer to the table below for deadlines for each of the two annual processes:

Process*  Submission Deadline
Spring First Tuesday in December
Fall First Tuesday in June

Please note: Submittals must be received by 11:59 p.m. MST on the deadline date. Letters of Inquiry may be submitted at any time.

Funding Priorities -

NEFE seeks projects whose outcomes can improve the public’s ability to achieve personal and household financial well-being. Of particular interest are proactive research projects initiated from one of a broad spectrum of scholarly disciplines whose findings may cultivate critical thinking in the financial literacy community. Also of interest are development projects that put research recommendations into action. Project outcomes must be capable of achieving traction and measurable impact with audiences such as financial education intermediaries, researchers, practitioners, decision makers, and others who can achieve effective outreach to a target population with an unmet financial literacy need or to the general public.

NEFE Grants and Research Program Themes
Funding requests are assessed within the parameters of the following three key grant themes:

  1. Understand Financial Behavior: A fundamental element in all projects is the necessity to address optimal financial behaviors. Projects should include outcomes relevant to understanding or improving financial behaviors of specific segments of the American public or the public in general. NEFE encourages inquiry within the physical, social, and psychological sciences to facilitate the public’s ability to improve personal financial well-being. Findings must be presented in a manner that engages educators, policy makers, segments of the public, and/or individuals to adopt policies, practices, attitudes, and skills that result in positive public and personal outcomes.
  2. Advance Innovative Thinking: NEFE encourages projects that spawn rigorous, proactive research initiated from a broad spectrum of scholarly disciplines where potential findings indicate strong possibilities to advance critical thinking, cultivate vigorous debate, challenge the status quo, and/or illuminate trends likely to affect the personal financial well-being of the American public.
  3. Assure Significance to Society: Projects should provide evidence that outcomes are likely to produce practical benefit for primary stakeholders such as financial education intermediaries, researchers, practitioners, decision makers, and/or entities who can achieve effective educational outreach to a population segment with an unmet financial literacy need or the public in general. Consideration is paid to research that pertains to solutions with traction and scale sufficient to make a measurable difference in financial responsibility, stability, and/or well-being.

Research findings are expected to result in actionable recommendations or make a profound and credible contribution to the financial literacy body of knowledge.

Of interest to NEFE:

While we welcome all original research concepts that align with the priorities listed above, we are especially interested in:

  • Best practices for financial education interventions that demonstrate the highest impact in behavior change
  • The relationship between financial education and college success (e.g., community colleges)
  • Studies that bring insight into underserved populations, such as those with low socioeconomic background or those without a college degree
  • Young adult behaviors/emerging households
  • Retirement age/Diminishing capacity
  • Technology and education

Basic Eligibility Requirements -

  1. NEFE considers projects that strongly support its mission and philanthropic objectives.
  2. NEFE only considers requests that specifically and substantially address NEFE funding priorities.

Applicants whose projects include any of the following elements are encouraged to seek other sources of funding.

NEFE will NOT award grants to:

  • Fund programs or the evaluation of a single program
  • Individuals
  • Organizations that have not been designated tax-exempt status according to Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) or its equivalent for colleges and universities (Note: Pending status is not sufficient)
  • Organizations that discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status
  • Organizations and/or Project Principals and team members who fail to meet requirements of the USA Patriot Act and related regulations
  • Foreign organizations
  • International programs or projects
  • Organizations whose projects include re-grant of NEFE funding.
  • Expenses that are not directly related to the project for which funding is sought
  • An organization’s operating and administrative expenses. This includes general as well as program costs even if the costs are associated with an organization’s delivery of a financial literacy program for current or prospective constituents
  • Salaries of permanent staff, such as prorated salaries of executive and administrative personnel whose work does not have direct and significant bearing on the project’s outcome. (Note that release time of university professors is acceptable when their work is devoted to research and/or development activities directly related to the project.)
  • Capital costs, such as building and construction, or equipment, such as computer hardware and office furniture, or basic infrastructure costs, including rent, telephone, copy machines, software, etc
  • Pass-through funding—for example, if the 501(c)(3) organization plans to turn over the funding to a proprietary organization or consultant; or use NEFE funds either to award scholarships to individuals or re-grant to other nonprofit organizations
  • Budget deficits
  • Projects with a potential conflict of interest (for example, when a board member of the applicant organization will serve as a consultant or vendor)
  • Conferences, workshops, seminars and similar activities that fail to provide a long-term solution, or sufficiently broad outreach
  • Distribution methodologies that require ongoing maintenance when the ability to perform upkeep without continued funding is questionable—for example, print materials or websites with a short "shelf life" that would require ongoing funding, or timely or continuous updates
  • Projects with commercial or proprietary elements, such as for-profit activities, use or purchase of copyrighted or trademarked materials, and proprietary research
  • Lobbying, political contributions, fund-raising events, or other similar activities designed to influence legislation or intervene in political campaigns
  • Donations, endowments, challenge grants, matching funds, sponsorships, and other similar programs
  • Direct or matching payments to members of the public, such as scholarships, tuition, assistance with personal and family financial difficulties, registration fees for conferences and training, or similar activities

Characteristics of Successful Grant Projects -

Within the limits of its available funding, and at its sole discretion, NEFE awards grants to organizations that have tax-exempt status according to Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) or its equivalent for colleges and universities.

Once the basic eligibility requirements are satisfied, projects are considered in relation to the strength of the project’s compatibility with NEFE’s organizational and philanthropic goals, and the opportunities to achieve actionable outcomes.

Organizational goals refer to NEFE’s long-term strategies to create demand, build or sustain partnerships, and increase awareness of NEFE for the purpose of generating an expansive community of individuals and entities who can address or resolve issues of broad concern to the financial literacy field.

Philanthropic goals reflect NEFE’s core values as embodied in its mission, initiatives, program action areas, and any funding directives that may be announced from time to time.

Achieving actionable outcomes is a defining attribute of NEFE’s funding priorities. Research projects must result in actionable recommendations or make a profound contribution to the financial literacy body of knowledge. 

Find a list of key questions that guide assessment of a project’s merits and potential for success.

Grant Amounts and Durations -

The merits of the proposed project are the primary focus of consideration. However, many applicants express interest in the grant amounts NEFE has awarded. Recent grant awards for research projects have ranged from $100,000 to $185,000. Grant durations generally range from 12 to 36 months.

Grant Process -

In awarding grants, NEFE adheres to an established process as described below. All applicants are asked to read this material in its entirety, familiarize themselves with the process, and follow all of the requirements indicated for application.

  1. Applicants submit a Letter of Inquiry by the deadline for one of the two annual processes.
  2. Receipt of inquiries is acknowledged via e-mail on the submission deadline.
  3. Inquiries are reviewed for eligibility and assessed relative to funding priorities.
  4. Applicants may be asked to provide further information, and discussions may be undertaken for projects of interest.
  5. Solely at NEFE’s discretion, projects appearing to have strong potential will be asked to submit a full application.
  6. Letters of Inquiry and full applications will be referred to the Board committee for a decision.
  7. Staff communicates the decision via e-mail within 10 business days after the decision.
  8. Grant agreement negotiations are undertaken for approved proposals (Note: Funding is not released until a grant agreement is fully executed).
  9. Payments are made in installments according to a performance and drawdown plan.
  10. Project outcomes are disseminated as appropriate to a broad audience.

NEFE will not consider grant requests that fall outside the established application process.

Grant Awards -

NEFE awards grants each year in varying amounts, depending on the number and type of requests received, the size and scope of the projects for which funding is requested, and the financial commitments needed to support activities in other areas of NEFE. All grants are made at the sole discretion of NEFE. Grants are awarded only to organizations that have been designated tax-exempt status according to Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) or its equivalent for colleges and universities. View grants NEFE has awarded in the past.

Types of Projects Funded -

NEFE funds research projects and research-based development projects whose outcomes strongly correlate to its funding priorities. Applicants are discouraged from submitting Letters of Inquiry that fail to meet basic eligibility criteria.

Approved Projects -

Once a project is approved by the Board committee, negotiation of a grant agreement is the next step. Funds are not awarded until an agreement is executed. Funds are disbursed in installments, based on mutually agreed upon performance milestones. Generally, each installment is disbursed prior to the subsequent milestone.

  • Availability of project outcomes to the public (or an intended audience) is of particular importance to NEFE; such access is to be free of cost or limited to the actual cost of making it available. In general, copyrights would be retained by the grant recipient with NEFE having license to use and distribute the intellectual property created or developed in the course of the project.
  • NEFE values and supports the need for independence in conducting research projects. However, in addition to being a funding source, NEFE enters grant agreements in a spirit of collaboration with the grantee and will take an active interest in the project’s progress and project outreach at its conclusion.