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Frequently Asked Questions

United Way's Direction and Approach

What is United Way of Snohomish County’s new direction?

United Way of Snohomish County is moving beyond its traditional role of simply being a fundraiser to being a funder, partner, convener, and catalyst for positive, lasting community change.

We are embarking on new methods to solve some of Snohomish County’s toughest social problems, adopting two promising national models: Collective Impact and a 2-Generational Approach.

Why are you changing your approach and role in the community?

Many United Ways around the country have moved or are moving toward a Collective Impact model because it creates a more focused, measured way to collaborate and produce long-term outcomes.

United Way of Snohomish County is growing 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 community partners working together) creating long-term solutions for families with young children.

We believe providing children birth to age 8 and their families with low income coordinated access to early childhood education, postsecondary and employment pathways, economic assets, health and well-being, and community connections has the greatest potential for long-term outcomes and will create access to opportunity for generations to come.

What is the 2-Generational Approach?

The 2-Generational approach provides opportunities for, and meets the needs of children and their families, together. This approach focuses on outcomes around early childhood education, postsecondary and employment pathways, economic assets, health and well-being, and community connections for both the child and the adults in each family.

What is Collective Impact?

Collective Impact brings partners together to significantly shift the needle on social issues through intentional, measurable collaboration. It fundamentally changes the way community partners collaborate by utilizing five conditions: 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).

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

In the United Way system, Salt Lake City and Cincinnati are two examples of those farthest along in their 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

Creating Open Roads to Equity (CORE)

What is CORE?

Creating Open Roads to Equity (CORE) is about placing the whole family at the center of a collaborative partnership where multiple nonprofit, public, and private partners are working to meet the needs of both the child and the adults in their life, together.

How will CORE help families with young children?

CORE is about addressing complex root causes that are as unique as each family. It’s about moving families with young children toward successful long-term outcomes, and effectively changing the lives of their children and generations to come.

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.

Why focus on children birth to age 8?

The learning, development, and stability of a child’s early years is crucial to their success in life. The profound benefits of early learning and development in young children helped us to narrow our focus to children birth to age 8 and their families as the first step into our new work. 

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 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 with 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. United Way of Snohomish County is requiring 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?