United Way of Central Indiana Awards $750,000 in Grants for Innovative Solutions to Solving Poverty

14 community-based organizations will receive funds ranging from $10,000-75,000 to support innovative programs, concepts and methods to help individuals and families reach their full potential
INDIANAPOLIS – United Way of Central Indiana today announced the grant recipients of the new Social Innovation Fund, one of three impact initiatives announced earlier this year that focus on addressing the significant needs of the Central Indiana community.

The Social Innovation Fund is an opportunity for community-based organizations to propose new ideas and scale successful programs that could lead to better possibilities for thousands of individuals and families who are living in or one step away from poverty. The Fund specifically targets initiatives that can accelerate positive outcomes for individuals needing safe and affordable housing; access to healthy food, transportation or education; pathways to better-paying jobs; and improved physical, mental and behavioral health.

United Way’s 12-member Social Innovation Fund workgroup of staff, board and community volunteers was encouraged to have received 80 letters of interest from a highly diverse and broad mix of United Way accredited and non-accredited community-based organizations. From those letters of interest, 34 organizations were formally invited to participate, and 14 proposals were approved for unrestricted funding totaling $750,000. Each grant ranged from $10,000-$75,000 per organization.

“The human services sector is ripe for innovation,” said Alan Bacon, senior director of the Social Innovation Fund at United Way. “Community-based organizations work tirelessly to serve families and individuals in need, which hasn’t allowed enough time or resources to create or scale programs that could make a greater and faster impact. That’s where United Way’s Social Innovation Fund comes in – making innovation a priority and sourcing for initiatives that may not have gotten a chance to scale operations before this opportunity.”


Aimed to “catch Indy’s youth before they fall,” B4U FALL’s Pathway to Success program will provide relevant curriculum along with experiential learning to youth primarily in near-west side neighborhoods that lead to internships and permanent employment opportunities. The innovation behind this program comes from Shane Shepard, a United Way 100 Heroes recipient in 2018, who has created a program located in the heart of an ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) populated neighborhood that combines technology, mental health access, and entrepreneurship in a singular program strategy.

Bosma Enterprises
Bosma Enterprises seeks to empower youth, helping them grow in independence and confidence as they prepare to leave their structured, supportive high school environment and eventually their family homes as they reach adulthood. This program focuses on the Two-Generation Approach, a new focus of United Way’s work and strategy, that complements the interaction and relationship between parent/guardian and youth.

Crossroads Education
Crossroads Education’s Ubuntu Project will expand the learning common program to its own building design that will holistically support schools, families, and communities to support raising children. Disrupting the traditional model of teaching, the learning common program introduces a student to student-peer to peer teaching method that utilizes peer sharing and mentoring as its key delivery.

Dress for Success
Dress for Success’ transportation program will implement mobility services to hundreds of individuals in the community. Although other Dress for Success national affiliates have mobile units, this will be a first for Dress for Success Indianapolis. Eliminating the transportation barrier for constituents, this program allows clients to better access clothing options, career services and programming opportunities facilitated by Dress for Success.

Easterseals Crossroads
In a bold effort to tackle equity in the disability sector, Easterseals Crossroads works to help individuals gain greater independence for everyday living. The new Easterseals’ employment program will introduce a self-supported social enterprise that acquires small businesses, audit’s the company’s equity practices and hires more people with disabilities to work in traditional environments. With high-quality, innovative services tailored to meet the needs of individuals, this program will open a pathway for persons with disabilities to greater employment options.

Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc.
Exodus Refugee has helped thousands of families establish new lives in central Indiana. The organization’s youth program tailors its traditional offerings to the unique needs of refugee children and teenagers with family case management, school tours, cultural orientation, employment training and more. The youth program is the only program of its kind to comprehensively address the challenges Central Indiana refugee youth face related to culture, language and legal needs.

Flanner House of Indianapolis
Flanner House of Indianapolis’ program, Urban Farm and Food Co-op, will serve families through an urban farm/greenhouse expansion that will create jobs and provide food security for residents with low incomes in the community. The innovation behind the Urban Farm and Food Co-op centers on greenhouse aeroponics – a plant-cultivation technique eliminating the need for soil – that produces a more efficient approach to growing food when compared to traditional farming. This method works to better connect and educate individuals served to the process and origins of their food toward enhanced sustainability practices

Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis
Girls Inc. inspires all girls to be strong, smart and bold. Their new in-school center, EmpowerHub, now allows participating girls to experience the entire portfolio of programming throughout the school year, as opposed to a one-and-done program participation that has been previously offered. The EmpowerHub program will integrate cutting-edge cognitive development research and an emotional intelligence design that will revolutionize current programming as the organization advocates for girls on their journey to womanhood.

The Kheprw Institute’s Entrepreneurial Accelerator Incubator lowers the barriers for entrepreneurs of color and entrepreneurs with low incomes and directly supports their professional and product development. Through culturally relevant training, relationship building and mentor matching, the Incubator will provide marketing, sales, technical and administrative support to budding entrepreneurs. With a specific focus on building community wealth and social capital, this program will take twenty entrepreneurs through a 2-year program with an innovative focus on building community wealth and social capital.

Public Advocates in Community Re-Entry (PACE)
PACE’s program, the Pre-Release Project, will deploy a Two-Generation Approach to help currently incarcerated and recently released women access support for employment, education, mental health, and transportation. The innovation behind this program will address the unique needs of women as PACE will begin working with them inside the jail prior to release to ensure that they have secured housing and other services from their very first day of re-entry.

Indiana Black Expo
Indiana Black Expo’s program, Performing Arts Academy, will address the opportunity gap for students in low-income households and provide artistic programming free of charge. The Performing Arts Academy is an academic intervention tool that uses art as empowerment to engage students so that Indiana Black Expo can provide needed academic support to booster academic success.

Trinity Haven, Inc
Trinity’s Transitional Living Program for LGBTQ Youth will serve young adults between the ages of 16-21 who are at risk for homelessness. This program is innovative because it’s the first home in the State of Indiana to provide safe, affirming housing focused on LGBTQ youth at risk for homelessness.

Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana
Volunteers of America’s program, Recovery Coach-App, will serve individuals through a smartphone application that will increase engagement and efficacy for substance abuse treatment. The innovation behind this idea focuses on the intersection of technology and addiction treatment.

You Yes You! Project
The You Yes You program connects incarcerated fathers with services to assist in their re-entry while providing child-friendly activities for their children to continue to bond and build their relationship during the incarceration period. This program uses a Two-Generation Approach to support both the parent and child as they navigate the challenges associated with incarceration and re-entry.

Social Innovation Fund grant recipients are expected to regularly report and update United Way of Central Indiana on progress toward meeting the goals of the fund to achieve maximum impact for the individuals and families they serve. United Way expects an estimated 2,200 individuals and families to be served through this first grant opportunity through the Social Innovation Fund.

United Way Community Investments for 2019-2020
For the 2019-2020 fiscal year, United Way plans to invest more than $52 million in the community, through programs, grants and services, which include unrestricted grants to community-based organizations and donor designations to nonprofits. Also included are programmatic investments in the Centers for Working Families, the Indy Preschool Scholarship Program, and targeted homelessness initiatives as well as grants from the Energy Assistance Program, the Winter Assistance Fund, the Capital Projects Fund and the Facilities Maintenance Fund.


About United Way of Central Indiana: United Way is a community of donors, advocates, volunteers, and partners who fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community. United Way invites all members of our community to LIVE UNITED by giving, advocating and volunteering to improve lives in Central Indiana. Visit uwci.org to learn more.



Jessica DiSanto | Senior Director of Communications

office: 317-921-1224 | cell: 317-292-5608


Jennifer Hashem | Public Relations Manager

office: 317-921-1313 | cell: 563-271-4385


*Alan Bacon, United Way senior director of the Social Innovation Fund, is available for interviews.