NEFA has been a significant cultural force since 1976, when it was created as one of six regional arts agencies nationwide, with funding through the National Endowment for the Arts and New England state arts agencies. Today's NEFA has evolved considerably from the original regional model; as a 501(c)(3) public charity with additional funding from corporations, foundations, and individuals, NEFA operates with an annual budget of $7 million (FY11) to develop and manage arts initiatives on local, regional, national and international levels.
NEFA’s mission is to creatively support the movement of people, ideas, and resources in the arts within New England and beyond, make vital connections between artists and communities, and build the strength, knowledge, and leadership of the region's creative sector. Each program and project that is brought to life at NEFA is created with the underlying goal of building a stronger and more dynamic infrastructure for the arts. Through research, documentation, and evaluation, NEFA works to demonstrate the economic impact of the arts, and to enhance public understanding of how the arts contribute to the vitality of communities.