Guidelines for Success


  • Learn about what NEF funds.
  • Understand what NEF doesn’t fund.
  • Review the characteristics of successful grant applications.
  • Secure a school-based partner if you are not an NPS employee.
  • Garner support for your idea from those who will authorize your application.
  • Review the NPS procurement requirements.
  • Understand the NEF grant review process and timeline.

What Does NEF Fund?

NEF-funded programs should enhance, but not duplicate, the standard public school curriculum. We look for creative ideas that fall outside the ordinary school budget and augment the curriculum or further the district priorities in a meaningful way.

NEF funds:

  • Projects that focus on traditional academic subjects, visual and performing arts, engineering and technology, social/emotional learning, equity issues, and more.
  • Programs for enrichment, interdisciplinary study, emerging technologies, and the promotion of multicultural and community learning experiences.
  • Programs that enhance the existing curriculum through visits from outside speakers, performers, or artists.
  • Projects that demonstrate partnerships between and among teachers, schools, and disciplines.
  • Replication of a successful program at a different school.
  • Books or equipment as a new addition to the curriculum or an innovative enhancement to existing programming.
  • Professional development (PD) for new programs or innovative teaching methods, including cost of tuition, registration, travel (economy), room and board (NPS rates), and the purchase of materials and supplies. Applicants must be NPS employees. Priority will be given to first-time PD applicants. 

What Doesn’t NEF Fund?

NEF does not fund any costs associated with the following:

  • A repeat of an NEF grant at the same school.
  • Basic school needs.
  • Books, technology, or equipment that replaces outdated materials for existing programs.
  • Expansion of the quantity of existing technology in the absence of a new innovative use or need.
  • Transportation for students or staff on school field trips. Performer, expert and professional development-related travel fees (economy only) will be considered.
  • Food for grant participants unless integral to the grant implementation.
  • Substitute teachers.
  • Out-of-town professional development opportunities if there is a local alternative.
  • Ongoing funding for existing programs.
  • Any expenses incurred before grants funds are available.

Note: If you are not sure if your project meets the NEF grant requirements, please contact your NEF school representative or the NEF Administrative Director before filling out an application.

Characteristics of Successful Grant Applications

When reviewing grant applications, NEF grant committees look for the following:

  • A clearly explained, meaningful connection to the curriculum and/or the district priorities.
  • A clearly explained, well-developed plan of action, including a detailed budget.
  • A clear description of the support for this grant by key stakeholders.
  • The extent to which each proposal is innovative, enriching, collaborative, impactful, and/or sustainable, as appropriate for the specific request. See Grant Evaluation Criteria for examples of how NEF uses these terms.
  • For Express grants, an explanation of how the project is a good fit for your school and how feedback from the original grant will impact your project.
  • For professional development (PD) related grants, a plan for how the lessons learned will be used and shared in order to have the greatest potential impact on students and/or staff. NEF recognizes that a group attending the same PD could have a greater impact. If a group seeks to attend the same PD opportunity, they should apply together on one application.

Parents, Students and Community Members Need an NPS School-Based Partner

All applicants who are not employed by the Needham Public Schools must have an NPS employee school-based partner before they submit a grant application. The partner may be a teacher, principal, specialist, or administrator at a school impacted by the grant. The partner should be involved in or impacted by the implementation of the grant, should it be awarded. Record the name of your school-based partner on the grant application.

Garner Support for Your Grant Proposal

All applicants should contact the principal at each targeted school to gain their support prior to completing an application. Before the grant committee can review the proposal, the application will be sent to the principal(s) for approval. If the applicant is a principal or from Central Administration, superintendent authorization will be required.

All applicants requesting funds for technology should contact Jean Tower, Director of Technology and Innovation, and Mark Messias, Administrator of Information Technology Services, prior to completing an application. Before the grant committee can review the proposal, the application will be sent to Jean and Mark for approval.  

All applicants requesting funds for professional development must discuss their proposal and secure a letter of support from their Curriculum Coordinator, Department Head or direct supervisor before applying for funding. Applicants should also notify Terry Duggan, Assistant Superintendent of Student Learning, of their plans. Before the grant committee can review the proposal, the application will be sent to Terry for approval. 

Vendor, Procurement, and Budget Requirements

All grant applications must include an uploaded budget with an itemized list of all expenses associated with the grant request. Applicants should provide specific details as to how grant funds will be used as NEF does not award lump sums. In addition, NEF is unable to add additional funds to a grant request after the grant has been awarded. Please ensure that all costs associated with your project (e.g. shipping) have been included in your grant budget.

All grant funds will be distributed through the Needham Public Schools Business Office; therefore, all itemized expenses should meet the procurement requirements of the Needham Public Schools for the current academic year (e.g. all grant materials and equipment will need to be purchased through approved NPS vendors). Questions about these procedures should be directed to the Business Office at 781-455-0400.

If you are receiving additional financial support for your project from other groups, such as the PTCs, the Needham Creative Arts Council, or another granting organization, please share that information in the budget section of your proposal. NEF encourages collaborative efforts.

Grant Review Process

NEF grant review committees are comprised of approximately 12 people, including NEF board members, Needham teachers, and at least one Needham community member.

The grant committee members discuss each application with regard to the NEF mission and grant evaluation criteria before making funding recommendations to the full NEF Board of Directors. They may seek additional information from the grant applicants during the deliberation process. While each application is evaluated based on its individual merit, the committee may recommend the deferral of an application if the number of approved grants exceeds the grant budget. The committee may also choose to offer partial funding for a grant at their discretion.

Once approved by the NEF Board of Directors, the recommended grants are presented to the Needham School Committee for final acceptance, after which time the awards are announced by NEF, approximately 4-5 weeks after the grant deadline.

Grant Award Process

All grant recipients are required to:

  • Attend a meeting with the NPS Business Office to receive instructions for accessing grant funds. It takes several weeks for this process to be completed, so grant recipients should not expect to have access to grant funds until approximately 2-3 weeks after award notification (6-8 weeks after the grant deadline).
  • Complete the Grant Implementation Form within 30 days of the grant award date.
  • Complete the Grant Reflection Form within 30 days of the completion of the grant project.
  • Publicize their grant within the school/Needham community, crediting the NEF’s sponsorship.
  • Complete their grant project within one year. If necessary, contact the NEF Administrative Director to seek approval for a grant extension.
  • Use their grant funds as described in the grant application and budget. If necessary, contact the NEF Administrative Director to seek approval for a grant amendment. Note: Grant funds can be reallocated for another purpose, but additional grant funds cannot be awarded.

Ready to Apply?