Venture Fund

In a time of unprecedented uncertainty, innovation in the social sector is critically important. With needs growing by the day, creative solutions to address the entrenched issues this crisis has brought to light are more important than ever.  In this year’s Venture Fund competition, eight nonprofits will pitch their innovative initiatives to tackle challenges faced by the most vulnerable members of our community. These eight pitches will address some of those needs and are the best of the best – jury-selected over a 2,000-hour process from a field of more than 50 proposals. Only four will be chosen for an award of up to $75,000 each to bring their ideas to life and scale. Check out the game-changing ideas our finalists have in mind. 



Compass Working Capital will partner with WinnCompanies and four community development corporations to bring the powerful federal Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) program to families who are FSS-eligible but live at privately owned properties too small to operate their own FSS program. FSS allows families to build assets like savings while living in subsidized housing. The goal is to enroll 85 families in the first year and grow to serve 250 families by the end of the third.

Home for All, a collaboration of nonprofits, housing providers, and government agencies will expand their Affordable Housing Incentive Program (AHIP) which will reduce the current shelter bottleneck by half and waitlists by a third. AHIP is a comprehensive set of tools for landlords to incentivize making rental units affordable and to prevent eviction. These efforts will lead to 30 new units of affordable housing for at least 70 individuals and family members in its first year.


The Malden YMCA will partner with Deep Why Design to design a “digital pantry.” The new “digital pantry” will provide scalable technology for individuals and pantries to track clients, track inventory in real-time, provide a system for homebound individuals to order food, provide pantries a way to allow families to select their own food, as well as allow pantries to access other digital food inventory systems. The ultimate goal is for all food pantries in Eastern Massachusetts to have access to this computer system and to expand “digital pantries” to other locations where brick and mortar pantries are not available.

More Than Words (MTW) will partner with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office (Suffolk County DA’s Office) and the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) to develop a shared understanding of how to best serve justice-involved youth. They will establish training about trauma, brain development, and the needs of young people to create formal policies for both offices that support these needs. The training will be delivered jointly to defense attorneys and prosecutors to build working relationships and enable conversations centered on problem-solving and positive outcomes. The goal is to drive systemic change and reroute young adults facing adult criminal charges out of the justice system as early as possible.

NECAT is proposing a new approach in partnership with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department that will train incarcerated individuals to help them move directly into career-ladder culinary jobs upon release. Low-risk prisoners will be transported to NECAT for culinary, social-emotional and financial training, case management and support, and career coaching and job placement services for several months prior to their release. Pre-identified partner employers will offer program graduates solid starting wages and pathways to advancement. NECAT plans to graduate 30 students, across three cohorts, in the first year.

Roca will launch the Roca Impact Institute, a new training arm of Roca to coach other nonprofit professionals and public officials across the country to work with high-risk young people. In this pilot, Suffolk and Essex County Houses of Corrections will receive 6 months of comprehensive training to allow them to offer real-time cognitive-behavioral-therapy to high-risk incarcerated youth. The goal is to help these kids overcome trauma, recover the power of choice over their actions, and ultimately allow them to become economically mobile.

South Shore Stars, in partnership with Brockton Area Multi-Services (BAMSI) will launch PRISM (Preschool Integrated Supports and Modeling) to better meet the needs of children with developmental delays. Stars has created a multidisciplinary team approach composed of speech, occupational, physical and mental health therapists, including a Stars’ Social Worker. This team will provide extensive training and coaching to Stars’ 40 preschool teachers and parents, developing individual plans to support different children and help them successfully transition to Kindergarten. PRISM will develop 75 plans to support children and their families in its first year.

The Neighborhood Developers (TND) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) will address the social determinants of health to prevent financial crises and homelessness and improve the health of low-income families through an expansion of their Chelsea Health Starts at Home (HSAH) program. Patients at MGH’s clinics in Everett and Revere will receive an upstream “prescription” for TND’s financial capability services when they are in a financially vulnerable position to help them become more resilient in the face of unexpected challenges. In the first year of this expansion, 50 MGH patients will access TND’s services. This number will increase to 200 by the end of the second year.

About Venture Fund

United Way’s Venture Fund is a catalyst for getting promising new ideas for driving population-level change into practice. A competitive, juried selection process results in four awards of up to $75,000 each to nonprofits that have the experience, community presence, and relationships to approach a big problem in a new way, but need funding and a thought partner to bring that idea to life.

Community organizations in our service area are asked to submit innovative, collaborative approaches to achieving any of the following impact goals:

  • All individuals have safe, permanent, affordable housing
  • All adults have jobs that allow them to support themselves and their families
  • All adults are able to meet their basic needs and achieve a state of financial wellbeing
  • All children enter kindergarten ready to learn
  • All youth graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and/or careers


Agencies submitted a Letter of Intent by December 31, 2019. Applications were due February 28, 2020.

Dozens of volunteers reviewed applications and provided United Way with critical support in selecting up to eight finalists to pitch their ideas.

For more information about the Venture Fund, please contact Karley Ausiello at