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CalMoneySmart Grant Program

The CalMoneySmart program provides annual grants of up to $200,000 to nonprofit organizations to provide financial education and financial empowerment programs and services for unbanked and underbanked Californians. Beginning this year, eligible nonprofit organizations may apply for funding for a two-year period.

CalMoneySmart began when Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 455 (Bradford) in October 2019, which created the Financial Empowerment Fund to fund a grant program for nonprofit organizations. The CalMoneySmart program was launched with an initial $4 million fund, and the program was authorized to award up to $1 million each year to nonprofits for financial empowerment programs focusing on unbanked and underbanked consumers in California. In 2021-22, Assembly Bill 137 expanded the Financial Empowerment Fund by an additional $10 million, increasing the annual amount available for grants to $2 million with a maximum grant award to $200,000 per fiscal year until the program sunsets on January 1, 2030.

Unbanked households, as defined by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), do not have a checking or savings account. Underbanked households, according to the FDIC, had a checking or savings account but also used an alternative financial services (AFS) provider in the 12 months preceding the survey. These services include money orders, check cashing, international remittances, payday loans, refund anticipation loans, rent- to-own services, pawn shop loans, or auto title loans.

In its 2021 National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households, the FDIC found that 4.5 percent of American households were unbanked, and an additional 14.1 percent of households were underbanked. The California unbanked rate is slightly higher than the national rate, at 5 percent.

Unbanked households have disproportionately lower incomes and levels of education than banked households. Black and Hispanic households, single mothers, working-age adults with a disability, and immigrants are also disproportionately represented among the unbanked. Due to their credit status, unbanked and underbanked households often pay high fees for everyday financial services and find it difficult to build savings, establish credit, and build wealth.

Financial education programs, like those funded by CalMoneySmart, are cost-effective means to improve both financial knowledge and financial behaviors that promote stability, protect consumers, and generate wealth (Kaiser, FINRA Foundation, 2022). Individualized counseling reinforces and empowers consumers to participate in financial services and build assets and financial security. Access to free financial products provides a pathway to mainstream financial services and helps to develop habits to increase financial well-being.

Community-based nonprofit organizations that have received CalMoneySmart funding over the past four years have implemented diverse and innovative approaches to reaching underserved communities by supporting and educating Californians about creating a better future for themselves and their families. Reports of previous CalMoneySmart cycles can be found at

Since the program’s inception, grant funds have been awarded on an annual basis through a competitive application process. Beginning in the 2024-25 fiscal year, applications will be accepted for a two-year period. Funding will be announced in advance for two consecutive fiscal years, with funds disbursed separately at the beginning of each year. This program change has been introduced to improve the sustainability of funding for community-based organizations, allowing them to recruit and retain qualified staff and build organizational capacity to meet program objectives.

Important Grant Information

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for a grant, an Applicant must meet the following criteria:

  • The Applicant is exempt from federal income taxes under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is organized and operated exclusively for one or more of the purposes described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; and
  • No part of the net earnings of the Applicant shall inure to the benefit of a private shareholder or individual.
  • The Applicant must be in good standing with the Secretary of State of California and the state of the Applicant’s incorporation, if applicable. 
  • Submission of a satisfactory final report for any and all prior grant funding awarded by DFPI.


Grant Funding Uses

CalMoneySmart offers qualifying nonprofit organizations grants of up to $200,000. The grants may be used to:

  • Design, develop, or offer free classroom- or web-based financial education and empowerment content intended to help unbanked and underbanked consumers achieve, identify, and access lower-cost financial products and services, establish or improve their credit, increase their savings, or lower their debt.
  • Provide individualized, free financial coaching to unbanked and underbanked consumers.
  • Design, develop, or offer a free financial product or service intended to help unbanked and underbanked consumers identify and access responsible financial products and financial services, establish or improve their credit, increase their savings, or lower their debt.

Every project funded with a CalMoneySmart grant must:

These five principles are:

  1. Know the individuals and families to be served
  2. Provide actionable, relevant and timely information
  3. Improve key financial skills
  4. Build on motivation and,
  5. Make it easy to make good decisions and follow through.

Grant recipients must demonstrate positive benefit for at-risk populations. To this end, grant recipients must provide the following:

  • Include an evaluation component designed to measure and document the extent to which the project achieves its intended outcomes and increases consumers’ financial well-being.
  • Include specific outcome targets for financial education workshops, one-on-one counseling, and/or financial products.

Other Grant Requirements

  • Grant awards will be announced for a two-year period covering two consecutive fiscal years. Funds for each fiscal year are disbursed separately and any unexpended funds for the first year must be returned to the DFPI. Disbursement of funding for the second fiscal year is contingent on submission of a satisfactory annual report.
  • A mandatory in-person training for CalMoneySmart grantees will be held during the grant cycle. Final details will be included in the grant agreement.
  • Grantees may use no more than 15 percent of the grant to cover administrative (indirect) costs. Failure to comply with this requirement shall render the Applicant ineligible for a grant during the subsequent fiscal year and until the noncompliance is corrected. Administrative costs proposed by each Applicant should be in proportion to the Applicant’s total grant amount requested. Administrative (indirect) costs may include, but are not limited to, costs of workforce overhead human resources, accounting, finance, business and facility operations, and information technology. General liability and auto insurances are required, but they are not an eligible expense.
  • A grantee may subcontract services that it has agreed to provide under the grant agreement, so long as those services are conducted on behalf of the grantee. Subcontract arrangements must be clearly described in the scope of work and budget.
  • Accepting grant funds with the intent of distributing those funds to other nonprofit organizations (e.g. sub-grants or fiscal sponsorship) is not allowed.
  • Grant funding may not be used for financial incentives for individuals. Prohibited incentives include, but are not limited to, match funding for savings accounts, participant stipends, or gift cards with a cash value.
  • Grantees are required to submit preliminary and final annual reports, in a form and by a date specified by the Commissioner of Financial Protection and Innovation, documenting:
      • The specific uses to which grant funds were allocated,
      • The number of individuals aided through use of funds,
      • Quantitative results regarding the impact of grant funding, and
      • Any other information requested by the Commissioner.

      Failure to submit satisfactory reports shall render the Applicant ineligible for any DFPI grant during the subsequent fiscal year and until the required report is submitted.

How to Apply

The application period for the CalMoneySmart program is now closed.

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For more information about the CalMoneySmart program, please email

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Last updated: May 7, 2024 @ 12:01 pm