Small Grants for Big Ideas

All cities, towns and villages, regardless of size, have the authority to impact the upward economic mobility of residents. They can promote equity and opportunity through their day-to-day operations, programs and services. They can tap into unique municipal roles and levers to build lasting outcomes for all residents – such as community partner, model employer, funder, priority setter and equity leader.

Advancing the upward economic mobility of residents has a direct positive impact on the financial health and long-term viability of municipalities. Economically secure families are better able to weather the ebbs and flows of income drops and unexpected expenses. They are less likely to rely on municipal services and support and more likely to maintain housing and utility payments and provide revenue for cities via sales, property or income taxes.

Small Grants for Big Ideas in Economic Mobility

Through the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, NLC launched the Advancing Economic Mobility Rapid Grant program in 2023, a unique opportunity that provides small grants through a competitive application process to cities, towns and villages seeking to support the advancement of economic mobility.

Deadline extended! Apply for the Advancing Economic Mobility Rapid Grant by June 26, 2024.

In 2024, NLC is launching a second cohort of the Advancing Economic Mobility Rapid Grant program. This year, NLC is able to offer municipalities up to $20,000 to those that are committed to boosting the economic mobility of residents. The funding is available to members of NLC’s Economic Mobility Peer Network (EMPN), which all municipalities can join at no cost. Download the application guide (PDF) before starting your application.

In addition to receiving grant funding, municipalities selected for the grant opportunity will benefit from a comprehensive support package. This includes participating in monthly coaching calls with NLC staff, engaging with the EMPN, and receiving training on how to use key economic mobility resources, including Opportunity Insights’ Opportunity Atlas, Results for America’s Economic Mobility Catalog and the Urban Institute’s Upward Mobility Framework.

Municipalities that apply for the rapid grant opportunity should demonstrate that their efforts are focused on one of the following areas:

  1. Creating quality employment opportunities for residents;
  2. Equitable support to strengthen or start small businesses;
  3. Helping residents connect with services or public benefits such as government-sponsored residential services, SNAP, the Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, or free tax preparation services.

If you have any questions about this opportunity, email

2023 Cohort

In 2023, 36 municipalities applied for grants of between $10,000 to $15,000 designed to spark new ideas to promote economic mobility and equity. Grants were used to test ideas and begin to plan projects that respond to community needs.

After careful consideration, eight municipalities were selected to participate in the program: City of Dallas, TX; City of Gaithersburg, MD; City and County of Honolulu, HI; City of Nashua, NH; City of New Haven, CT; City of Redmond, WA; City of Redwood City, CA; and City of South Bend, IN.

Selected municipalities actively engaged in coaching calls with NLC staff, participated in EMPN calls, and attended an in-person convening fostering peer learning with other cities. Overall, the program has empowered municipalities to implement innovative initiatives and drive inclusive economic growth, with plans for sustainability extending beyond the grant period.

Though the grant program came with a limited timeframe, cities have seen tangible impacts of their efforts, such as increased benefit redemptions and financial counseling sessions in Dallas, TX, and improvements in digital equity and job readiness skills among COFA citizens in Honolulu, HI.

“This grant will be remembered as the catalyst for a transformational shift in equitable entrepreneurship and small businesses program design for Redmond and our region. Our community organizations have been exhausted from the pandemic, but this concept has been instrumental in infusing energy and enabling collaborative and constructive conversations for an ideal future state.”

Staff from the City of Redmond, WA

“Although the time frame of this grant period was short, the NLC coaching did impact our work as it provided the opportunity to gain ideas from other cities that were part of this cohort and troubleshoot situations. The NLC coaches made themselves readily available and provided multiple opportunities to engage in this process.”

– Staff from the City of Dallas, TX