Individual Development Accounts (IDA)

What are IDAs?

Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) are a  promising tool that enables low-wealth American families to save, build assets, and enter the financial mainstream. IDAs encourage savings efforts among the poor by offering them 1:1, 2:1, or more generous matches for their own deposits. IDAs reward the monthly savings of working-poor families who are trying to buy their first home, pay for post-secondary education, or start a small business.

IDA programs are implemented by community-based organizations in partnership with a financial institution that holds the deposits, and funded by public and private sources. Similar to 401(k)s, IDAs make it easier for low-income families to build the financial assets they need to achieve the American dream.

IDA Program Funders

North Carolina Department of Labor

The North Carolina Department of Labor plays a major role in the North Carolina IDA movement and acts as the fiduciary for funds of two AFIA (Assets for Independence Act) grants. The Department’s IDAs/TANF & Special Projects Division is responsible for oversight of these contractor IDA sites. The division provides technical assistance and quarterly training throughout the state, bringing together knowledgeable people focusing on IDA implementation, best practices, effective outreach, and critical aspects of program development. The program currently consists of 21 sites that provide services to 45 counties across North Carolina.

For additional information and contacts, please visit the web site at

North Carolina Housing Finance Agency

The Individual Development Account (IDA) Loan Pool (IDALP) Pool offers gap financing and match for borrower savings to home buyers through local counseling agencies, community development corporations, and other nonprofit and governmental organizations that administer local IDA programs, provide home buyer counseling and education, and help coordinate financial assistance for buyers.  These organizations become eligible to reserve our financing on a household-by-household basis by becoming members of the IDA Loan Pool. Funding only comes through our Loan Pool Member partnerships and is only made available to homebuyers using the Agency’s FirstHome Mortgage program. The loans are interest-free, deferred second mortgages up to $25,000.

For more information visit

For more information about federally funded IDA’s, please visit


Following are lessons learned by existing IDA programs and recommendations for best practices in IDA Program design.

  • Be Sure Your Agency has the Capacity to Operate an IDA Program. IDA Programs are most effective when housed in agencies that have additional administrative and programmatic resources to support them. Also, since IDA Programs are long-term (Participants typically remain in IDA Programs for 3 to 5 years), your agency should be confident of its ability to sustain the IDA Program over time. Your agency’s Strategic Planning process, in which you analyze agency and community strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and challenges, will give you a clear idea of your capacity and help you decide if an IDA Program fits within your agency’s mission.
  • Spend Adequate Time Designing Your IDA Program. An IDA Program must be designed to ensure that Participants have the ability and sufficient time to reach their savings goal. The match rate must be adequate to allow an asset purchase in your geographical area. This requires careful Program planning and design. Be sure to include potential Participants in the IDA Program design process, so that you can be clear on the expectations and requirements of your target population.
  • Choose Program Partners Carefully. Strong partners are important to IDA Program success. Few, if any, community organizations have the capacity to operate an IDA Program alone. Financial institution partners can hold accounts, assist with Financial Education, and provide financial and other resources. Other community partners can refer Participants, offer training and counseling, and provide funding. Look for partners that prioritize the IDA Program by dedicating resources and staff time to it and then carefully define the parameters of your collaboration in writing.
  • Recruitment of Participants May be Harder Than You Expect. IDA Programs have typically found that recruitment can be difficult, especially when a Program is just starting up. You are asking individuals and families to change their behavior around saving and spending, and to make a long-term commitment to participate in the Program. Not everyone is ready to make this commitment. Marketing through your agency’s existing programs is a good way to recruit, since your agency has already built up a solid foundation of trust with customers. Recruitment will pick up when word-of-mouth spreads to the family and friends of your first IDA participants.
  • Include Proven Program Components. Best practices in IDA Program operation have shown that IDA Programs are most successful if they are made up of the following components: Orientation, Assessment, Financial Education Training, IDA Accounts, Case Management/Crisis Intervention, Asset-Specific Training/Savings Clubs, Purchase of Assets, Post-Purchase Follow-Up and Support.
  • Plan for at Least One Full-Time Staff Person in Mid-Sized Programs. To operate IDA Programs effectively, a good rule-of-thumb is one full-time staff person for each 50 Participants. Tasks that must be performed by this staff person will include recruitment, assessment, development of a Savings Plan with each Participant, operating or arranging for Financial Education and Asset-Specific training, Case Management, monitoring Participants’ savings, crisis intervention, referrals to outside agencies for services, arranging for withdrawals and asset purchases, and follow-up.
  • Carefully Design Financial Education Classes and Asset-Specific Training. Financial Education classes are critical to a Participant’s successful start on their road to an asset purchase. Completion of Financial Education training (usually 6 to 10 classes) is a requirement for remaining in the Program. There are several good Financial Education curricula available which cover topics such as budgeting, responsible credit use, savings, investments, taxes, etc. Asset-Specific Training is provided monthly for the duration of the Program. Its purpose is to ensure that Participants receive training on resources needed to purchase specific assets and on how to maintain their assets after purchase. Schedule classes at times convenient for participants and, if possible, offer childcare and transportation to make it easier for participants to attend the classes.
  • Closely Track and Support Participants’ Progress. Regular Case Management is critical to success. IDA Programs should closely monitor Participants’ deposits and withdrawals and attendance at training and case management sessions. Be sure to use an effective Management Information System. Encourage Participants by acknowledging and reinforcing positive behavior change.
  • Systematically Evaluate Your IDA Program. Build an evaluation component into your IDA Program. By evaluating your Program against specific, measurable Goals and Objectives you will be able to judge the effectiveness of your Program, as well as contribute to the body of knowledge growing nationwide on the usefulness of IDA Programs in moving families to self-sufficiency.
  • Communicate Regularly with Other IDA Programs. The IDA field is still new and growing rapidly. Our knowledge of what works best is also quickly increasing. Use IDA resources, such as the IDA list serve and the IDA Learning Network to find the latest information on state and federal IDA Policy and to share what you are learning.

The information contained on this page was adapted from material published by the Connecticut Department of Labor and the Corporation for Enterprise Development

How to Give

First - be educated about financial security. Read and learn from our FaceBook pages and websites: North Carolina Saves and NC Assets.

Next - share your time. We can use your talents to encourage others with their financial goals, to join your voices with others in speaking up for our families, and to help lead us into our future. Check out Get Involved/Volunteer for current listings.

Finally - make a contribution. Visit Get Involved/Donate Now.

Who Supports Us

Bank of America Foundation
Citi Foundation
City of Raleigh
Corporation for National and Community Service
C.S. Mott Foundation
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
First Carolina Bank
First Citizens Bank
Gateway Bank and Trust
JPMorgan Chase
Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
North Carolina Cooperative Extension
North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities
North Carolina Credit Union League
North Carolina Department of Commerce
North Carolina Department of Labor
North Carolina Electric Cooperatives
North Carolina Housing Finance Agency
North Carolina Institute for Minority Economic Development
Prosperity Now
SunTrust Bank
UNC Center for Community Capital
UNC School of Social Work
Wells Fargo Foundation
Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation

Why Give

Your gift helps break the cycle of poverty in North Carolina and creates a state where all have the opportunity to move up the economic ladder. Income is important, but it is not enough. Individuals and households can build assets when financial education is available in communities across the state - we all need to know how to choose consumer friendly financial products and steer clear of high cost, predatory services. You can move more people toward economic security by investing in The Collaborative.

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