The National Credit Union Foundation has teamed up with one of the largest financial think tanks in the country, the Center for Financial Services Innovation, to find a big idea to fund this year.
The foundation partnered with the CFSI after deciding earlier this year to move from a model where it funded a variety of ideas with smaller grants to one where it might fund an idea with potential applicability to many credit unions with one large grant.
The CFSI will help NCUF identify that proposed idea.
“What we wanted to do was to refocus our grant making on ideas with true industry-wide or national scope,” explained NCUF Executive Director Bucky Sebastian. “It seemed to us that the state foundations had the expertise and resources to fund the smaller grant proposals as well being closer to them. We should handle the larger proposals.”
Sebastian said NCUF chose CFSI because the organization already had a history of supporting some innovative credit union grant proposals, such as the effort to establish credit union branches that resemble check cashers as a way to make them more accessible to the unbanked, as well as PiggyMojo, an idea which pairs social networking and technology to get people to change their savings habits.
“CFSI receives a plethora of groundbreaking proposals and we want to elevate the number of ideas proposed by our community,” Sebastian said. “We hope that a significant amount of proposals will stem from credit unions – working on their own or in concert with other organizations.”
The Financial Capability Innovation Fund is the specific funding vehicle the CFSI is using for this round of grant making. Sebastian said the organizations would consider grant applications and the Foundation may fund worthwhile proposals that CFSI cannot fund.
“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,” said Sarah Gordon, vice president of advisory services and nonprofit investments at the CFSI.
Gordon said the CFSI has always taken an interest in credit unions and has even funded some successful ideas with credit unions where the organization's role is little recognized, including such as the Save to Win program where credit unions in Michigan tied sweepstakes participation to deposits in savings accounts.