Frequently Asked Questions

United Way's CORE Approach

What is United Way of Snohomish County’s direction?

United Way of Snohomish County is more than a fundraiser. We catalyze, support, and invest in groups of partners with shared goals to create more equitable systems for families with young children trapped in poverty. 

Poverty is a complex issue that requires collaborative solutions. Our new CORE Approach adopts two promising national models—Collective Impact and a 2-Generational Approach—to help families with children prenatal to age 8 escape the traps of poverty.

Why did you change your approach and role in the community?

United Way of Snohomish County is evolving in response to the demands of a changing community. Our work is at the beginning of an exciting, new chapter and is focused on cross-sector Collaboratives (groups of cross-sector partners with shared goals) creating long-term solutions for families with young children.

Many United Ways around the country have moved or are moving toward a Collective Impact model because it creates a focused, measured way to demonstrate progress towards improved long-term outcomes.

We believe collaborative solutions for both children and the adults in their lives has the greatest potential to not only meet the needs of families today, but will support the success of the whole family for generations to come.

What is the 2-Generational Approach?

The 2-Generational Approach provides opportunities and support for children and their families, together. This approach, out of Ascend at the Aspen Institute, focuses on outcomes around early childhood education; postsecondary and employment pathways; economic assets like stable housing and savings; health and well-being; and social connections like friends, family, and other support groups for both the child and the adult.

Learn more about the 2-Generational Approach.

What is Collective Impact?

Collective Impact fundamentally changes the way community partners work together by focusing on intentional, measurable collaboration.

The five conditions of Collective Impact are:

  • shared understanding of the work (common agenda);
  • common progress measures (shared measurement plan);
  • coordinated plan of strategies/activities (mutually reinforcing activities);
  • communication plan between partners (continuous communication);
  • and supporting infrastructure of staff or a central organization (backbone support).

Learn more about Collective Impact.

What are some examples of Collective Impact and 2-Generational work?

In the United Way system, Salt Lake City and Lorain County are two examples of others also doing Collective Impact work.

Momentum toward Collective Impact is building across the nation. Hundreds of initiatives are using this approach, including several federal programs such as the 2014 Social Innovation Fund and programs of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Source: The Collective Impact Forum, 2015). You can read more about Collective Impact at

National conversation is also building around the successful outcomes of surrounding both a child and their family with solutions-based work, or the 2-Generational Approach. Ascend at The Aspen Institute is the leading voice on this approach. Learn more at

United Way of Snohomish County has adopted both models, combining them to create CORE: Creating Open Roads to Equity, a collaborative approach that removes barriers to help families escape the traps of poverty.


Creating Open Roads to Equity (CORE)

What is CORE?

Creating Open Roads to Equity (CORE) is a collaborative approach of United Way of Snohomish County that removes barriers to help families escape the traps of poverty. CORE combines two promising national models: Collective Impact, which is intentional, measured collaboration and a 2-Generational Approach, which focuses on the well-being of the whole family. CORE places the whole family at the center of CORE Collaboratives—groups of cross-sector partners with shared goals for both the child and the adults in their lives, working to create more equitable systems and long-term solutions for the whole family.

Learn more about CORE.

Why focus on families with young children?

The learning, development, and stability of a child’s early years is crucial to their success in life. Our CORE work is focused on children birth to age 8 because of the profound benefits of early learning and development in young children. We know that families experiencing poverty are more likely to have Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which can change the development of a child’s brain. This makes early experiences when the brain is developing most rapidly so crucial, and why focusing our CORE work on young children is so important. 

Learn more about how CORE helps families with children 0-8.

What is a Collaborative?

A collaborative partnership, or “Collaborative,” is a formalized group of cross-sector partners utilizing a 2-Generational Approach and the conditions of Collective Impact.

In January 2018, United Way awarded grants to 5 CORE Collaboratives, which include a total of 68 cross-sector partners. Each Collaborative project will receive up to $210,000 annually over the next three years (2018-2020).

What did you do to prepare the community and partners for this change?

Since March 2017, United Way has been in constant communication with our community partners. We shared our new direction and worked closely with cross-sector partners across Snohomish County to help facilitate the development of intentional Collaboratives. In April 2017, we awarded Collaborative Planning Grants to 26 groups of cross-sector partners who were having conversations about collaborative approaches for families with young children. After receiving input from community partners on new grant funding guidelines, we released a Request of Proposal (RFP) in June 2017. Included in this RFP were two funding opportunities that reflected the organization’s priorities: 1) intentional Collaboratives (minimum of five cross-sector partners with shared impact plans) focused on long-term outcomes for children birth to age eight and their families with low income and 2) single programs that provide basic need services and/or access to services like housing, food, and healthcare. Leading up to this announcement, United Way provided planning grants to groups interested in exploring a collaborative, systems-oriented approach to placing families at the center of a service delivery. United Way volunteers, which included parents with young children and local experts in the areas of early childhood education, mental health, post-secondary education, employment, and housing, along with United Way staff, participated in numerous deliberation sessions, in-person meet and greets, financial statement reviews, and executive leadership calls. In November of 2017, our board of directors culminated this tremendous effort by awarding five Collaborative projects with up to $210,000 annually over the next three years (2018-2020) and 18 Basic Needs programs with up to $50,000 for the 2018 calendar year. Download our press release with more details.

What happens to programs that no longer fit your birth to age 8 and families with low income population?

We understand that some previously funded programs no longer fit our focus on children birth to age 8 and their families experiencing low income. We communicated with these partners, specifically, to make sure they were aware of our new eligibility criteria and timing. We are also in routine conversations with other Snohomish County funders to discuss possible funding gaps with our new CORE approach, helping to facilitate conversations between those who may not receive United Way funding and other local funders to help fill those potential gaps.

What about senior programs or programs addressing the needs of people with disabilities? How do they fit into the CORE approach?

The new, Collaborative grant funding holds new opportunities for all partners. The 2-Generational Approach allows for many new possibilities as the adults of children birth to age 8 can include many populations, including seniors and persons with disabilities. Two of our five funded Collaboratives include partners focused on senior services. Learn more about each of our Collaboratives. United Way of Snohomish County requires that the focus of both our Collaborative funding and basic needs funding be children birth to age 8 and their families with very to extremely low-income, but the Collaboratives and basic needs investments are open to all agencies, including senior- and disability-focused.

Could a Collaborative that serves older children or individuals without young children be eligible?

Yes, if 100% of the funding from United Way is used for the purpose of supporting young children (0-8 years, including prenatal) and their families with very to extremely low-income.

Tell me more about the fiscal sponsor criteria.

Fiscal sponsors are 501(c)(3)s or public entities that serve in this capacity. There is no limit to the number of proposals an agency may submit for the Basic Needs program grant funding nor is there a limit to the number of Collaboratives an agency may serve as fiscal sponsor for.

Must all 5 partners (min. allowed) in a Collaborative be non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations?

No. Collaboratives are encouraged to seek out cross-sector partners such as government, public entities like schools, businesses/private sector, faith community, community members, and neighborhood groups.

Can one agency be a part of multiple collaborations?