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Our Process

How We Work

The primary mission of the Nancy Lurie Marks (NLM) Family Foundation is to help people with autism lead fulfilling and rewarding lives. The Foundation is committed to understanding autism from a scientific perspective, increasing opportunities and services available to the autism community and educating the public about autism. In pursuit of its mission, the Foundation develops and provides grants to programs in research, clinical care, policy, advocacy and education with the overarching aim of enhancing the lives of autistic individuals.

The NLM Family Foundation has a proactive strategy to identify organizations that fit funding criteria and have the greatest potential to help the Foundation achieve its goals. All grant inquiries and applications for funding are by invitation only. Due to the high volume of requests that the Foundation receives annually, the Foundation is unable to respond to unsolicited requests.

General Criteria for NLMFF Funding:

  • 501(c)3 public charities or the international equivalent
  • Project goals must be closely aligned with the mission of the NLMFF
  • Programs must have the potential for significant impact on those with autism
  • Organizations must have a proven track record of success and the capacity to carry out a transformative program related to autism
  • Clear and substantive fit within one or more of the Foundation’s grant categories
  • Community & Recreation grants should focus on serving those in the Greater Boston area
  • Innovative and effective model programs with the potential for replication
  • Pilot projects should have the potential to be leveraged into greater funding opportunities
  • Opportunities to encourage philanthropy by leveraging Foundation resources to stimulate giving from other sources and help build a global philanthropic community
  • Existing or potential for strong organizational leadership/governance
  • Organizations must have a proven track record of fiscal responsibility

The NLMFF Generally Does Not Fund:

  • Direct grants to individuals or individual families
  • Organizations that discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, race, ethnicity, political beliefs, or disabilities.
  • Lobbying or political activities or campaigns
  • Federal, state, or municipal agencies
  • Commercial business purposes
  • Any litigation that is underway, contemplated, or completed, or organizations that use litigation as a primary tool to carry out its mission
  • Organizations that do not comply with all laws and regulations

Our Grant Process

All of our programs and goals have emerged through a careful and deliberate strategic planning process of identifying what we wish to accomplish for people on the spectrum and where we can have the greatest, most positive impact on their health and quality of life.  We first identify our primary goals in each program area of interest. Then, led by our Chief Scientific Officer, Foundation staff work proactively to identify potential grantees and organizations that meet our funding goals and strategic priorities, in consultation with other organizations, researchers, and funding partners in the field.

During the next phase, the Foundation might invite researchers to come to the Foundation’s headquarters in Wellesley, Massachusetts and present about their research at a NLMFF-sponsored symposium in which invited professionals from various areas of expertise (from neuroimaging researchers, neurologists, and pediatricians to special educators, psychiatrists, and speech and language pathologists) convene to discuss novel ideas for the advancement of autism research and treatment. The purpose of these symposia is to develop networks of people who can contribute to achieving the aims of the Foundation. NLM Family Foundation symposia are meant to stimulate the creative exchange of ideas that will enrich the field of autism research, education and service delivery. Importantly, they introduce influential thinkers in a format conducive to the development of productive relationships that will lead to positive changes in the lives of autistic individuals and their families.

After this stage, we may directly solicit a letter of intent. On occasion, we may invite one or more organizations of interest to submit a proposal regarding a specific concept and explore their capacity to undertake the work. Rarely, when we wish to broaden our network even further, we may issue a public request for proposals (RFP). Public RFPs are posted on our website and announced through our various social media outlets.

After careful review of the proposal, including input from outside experts, discussion will take place between applicants and program staff to refine the objectives and budget. The Foundation is firmly committed to protecting human and animal subjects.

Applicants whose projects will involve animal subjects must present evidence that the proposal has been reviewed and approved by the institution’s Animal Care and Use Committee.

Applicants whose projects will involve human subjects must present evidence that the proposal has been reviewed and approved by an established institutional review board (IRB). Documentation of final IRB approval along with sample informed consent forms and process details must be submitted before funds are dispersed.

We engage in ongoing dialogue and open communication with our grantees and funding partners, and monitor, reflect on, and review grant progress in each of our program areas. Progress summaries, financial updates, and final reports are required on a periodic basis from all grantees.

The NLM Family Foundation strongly believes that the results and accomplishments of the activities that it funds should be made available to the research community and the public at large. The wide dissemination of data expedites translation of research results into knowledge, products, and procedures holding the promise for improving human health and well-being.


The NLMFF Small Grants Program

The Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation (NLMFF) Small Grants Program is for discrete, short-term projects that seek to improve quality of life for autistic individuals. Proposals must focus on serving children, adults and families impacted by autism or related conditions and on ensuring that their needs for social services, education, housing, and community inclusion and engagement are met. These projects are typically completed within six months to one year and the maximum request considered is $10,000.

Through the Small Grants Program, the NLMFF supports a broad range of projects dedicated to advancing the cause of autism in the public arena: from capacity-building of public organizations; to nourishing progressive advocacy networks; to educating the public; to expanding community opportunities inclusive of individuals on the spectrum; and to examining public policy issues related to autism. The Foundation also supports the production and dissemination of films and other media to help increase society’s awareness and understanding of autism.

Successful Small Grant requests are often those which seek initial seed money to launch new projects and/or are presented as challenge grants. Special consideration will be given to investigators new to autism and ideas being applied to the field for the first time. Postdoctoral research focused on autism and related conditions will be considered.

Priority will be given to small grants that:

  • Encourage community inclusion of individuals with autism spectrum disorders
  • Support services to individuals with autism or related conditions
  • Encourage innovative approaches to addressing autism community needs
  • Encourage collaborative ventures that will strengthen the autism community
  • Provide increased access to community opportunities and resources for individuals on the spectrum.

The Foundation does not award small grants for:

  • Individuals
  • Individual scholarships
  • Travel
  • Costs incurred before grant decisions are released

Grants are not usually made to support operating expenses of well-established organizations or in response to annual fund drives. On occasion, the Foundation may provide such support on a short-term basis when it is critical to the survival of a key program which has been placed in jeopardy by changes in funding patterns.

Small Grant Eligibility

The NLM Family Foundation has a proactive strategy to identify organizations that fit funding criteria and have the greatest potential to help the Foundation achieve its goals. All grant proposals, including small grant requests, and applications for funding are by invitation only.

Organizations and agencies applying for funds must serve autistic individuals or related conditions. Grants are restricted to nonprofit organizations which have a 501(c) 3 tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service.

The NLM Family Foundation’s small grants are generally made to organizations that serve autistic individuals and communities in the Greater Boston area.

The Foundation operates without discrimination as to race, age, religion, sex or national origin in consideration of grant requests, and will award grants only to organizations and agencies who do not discriminate as to race, age, religion, sex or national origin.

Small Grant Applications

Please note that due to the high volume of proposals received, the Foundation requests that proposals be limited to two pages in length.  Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Proposals must be submitted in MS Word via email to The Foundation does not accept hand-delivered applications.

Grant applications should include the following:

  • A detailed description of the project including its purpose and main objectives.
  • A description of the specific purpose of the funds requested.
  • An explanation of why the project is needed in the community. Include its significance and an estimate of the number of individuals who will benefit.
  • Provide a CV or biosketch for each key staff member assigned to the project. Describe their experience or qualifications in relation to the project’s purpose.
  • A statement advising how the grant, if made, can be evaluated with regard to the effectiveness of the project.
  • A detailed budget. If possible, include plans for continued funding of the project.