The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) is encouraging credit unions to submit grant proposals to the Financial Capability Innovation Fund II (FCIF II), an initiative led by the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), the nation’s leading authority on underserved consumers. FCIF II will provide valuable financial and technical assistance to innovative nonprofit-led interventions designed to promote financial capability among low-income and underserved consumers. Credit unions are able to submit applications in response to CFSI’s recently released Request for Proposals that outlines the competitive process for distribution of $2.5 million of grant funding.
NCUF’s board recently voted to refresh its annual grant program in order to make a bigger impact with its philanthropy. Instead of making a number of smaller grants for different projects, NCUF will now make one large grant to a single project with national reach and relevance to the credit union system. NCUF is working closely with CFSI to find and fund a compelling project that not only promotes financial capability among low-income consumers but also has significant impact to the credit union movement.
“CFSI receives a plethora of groundbreaking proposals and we want to elevate the number of ideas proposed by our community,” said Bucky Sebastian, NCUF Executive Director. “We hope that a significant amount of proposals will stem from credit unions - working on their own or in concert with other organizations. There is a strong connection between the member centric, community based mission of credit unions and the goals of CFSI and the Financial Capability Innovation Fund II.”
CFSI’s mission is to transform the U.S. financial services marketplace to help underserved consumers achieve financial prosperity. Since the organization’s inception in 2004, CFSI has provided $3.75 million in grants to support 16 innovative strategies to improve access to high-quality financial products and services and improve consumers’ financial capability.
“We received many interesting project ideas from credit unions in our previous grant-making rounds, and we are confident that credit unions will present even more innovative concepts this time,” remarked Sarah Gordon, Vice President, Advisory Services and Nonprofit Investments at CFSI. “Credit unions are well-positioned to apply to the Fund given the focus on projects that couple new or improved tools for education, guidance, or advice with well-designed financial products.”
As described in CFSI’s Request for Proposals, some examples of recent CFSI funded projects include:
● PiggyMojo, a New York-based start-up, is partnering with financial institutions to develop a tool that will help low-income couples capitalize on “impulse savings” moments by using their mobile phone. By sending text messages, customers will be able to move money from their prepaid card to a savings account whenever they make decisions to spend less in their everyday lives;
● Co-Opportunity, Inc., a financial coaching and counseling program based in Connecticut, is developing an online platform, MyBudgetCoach.org, to help volunteer budget coaches coordinate with their clients. By using technology in the online channel, the coaches are able to serve a greater number of clients, increasing the scale of the program;
● Filene Research Institute, a “think and do” tank based in Wisconsin is conducting the Lower Interest for Timeliness (LIFT) program, offering reductions in APR on subprime auto loans for borrowers to make on-time payments. The program is currently being implemented at a number of Filene’s partnering credit unions across the United States.
“CFSI’s Request for Proposals document details their funding criteria very clearly,” noted Sebastian. “One key component is that the project must ‘break new ground,’ meaning that it represents a new or improved model in the nonprofit field or financial services industry for promoting financial capability. We are enthusiastic about the prospects for innovative, high-impact programs submitted to FCIF II by credit unions and their collaborative partners.”
How to Apply
Credit union executives are encouraged to review the Request for Proposals at http://cfsinnovation.com/content/financial-capability-innovation-fund-ii and participate in one of the Bidder’s Meetings to gain more information about the process. NCUF is encouraging credit unions with 501(c)(3) affiliates to apply and other credit unions to apply in partnership with a 501(c)(3) organization. Grant applicants should complete and send proposals to CFSI, not NCUF. The deadline to submit proposals to CFSI is November 2, 2012. For inquiries about CFSI’s Request for Proposals, please use firstname.lastname@example.org.