Following years of research, family-informed feedback and stakeholder collaboration, United Way of Dane County launched a new investment process for 2019 and beyond as a first step toward multi-generational, holistic strategies that support families with young children.

United Way has been committed to investing in opportunities for families through comprehensive programs in education, income and health since our community’s Agenda for Change began nearly 20 years ago. While we remain committed to serving families through our Agenda for Change goals, we hope to create more coordination across programs and systems and reduce barriers to economic opportunity.

Moving in the right direction

Over the last decade, a 2-Generational (2Gen) approach to increasing economic stability and decreasing poverty in families with young children has become a national best practice. United Way of Dane County’s foray into 2Gen with the redesigned investment process is the first step toward providing a structure for better coordination and systems-level change.


Conversations about the investment process redesign began in late 2017, with the community impact oversight committee (“Vision Council”) and United Way staff. In spring 2018, the first of multiple agency executive engagements began with open houses, presentation and focus group sessions to gather insight and feedback. Eight United Way volunteer committees also discussed and debated research, best practices and next steps throughout the year. United Way also engaged with city and county staff to better understand how respective funding processes differ and potential opportunities for alignment. A final package of recommendations was presented to the United Way of Dane County Board of Directors in late November 2018 and approved for launch in 2019.

Through the Agenda for Change, United Way aims to increase economic stability and decrease racial disparity for local families in poverty.

Every two years, United Way of Dane County solicits proposals to complete the work of the Agenda for Change and move our community towards greater success in school, work, and life for all. The investment process is the tool that will ensure our funding is delivering effective programs and services aligned with the Agenda for Change. United Way of Dane County will invest in programs and collaborations that enhance the strengths of families living in challenging conditions to help them meet their goals in the areas of education, income, and health.

Scholars and community leaders consistently point to similar strategies for family stability and mobility from poverty: coordinated holistic programs and policies that support and empower a multi-generational family to focus on high-quality employment, early childhood education, and housing, among other strategies including public policies that support benefits and thoughtful data use and tracking. We need to invest in these strategies in a more substantial level if we are going to focus on family stability and mobility from poverty.

The research-based and community-informed strategies of the Agenda for Change help families in Dane County achieve their education, health, and economic goals. In addition, families with young children have complex challenges that are not always served by one agency or program. While agencies are already collaborating with each other, they often are not given funds or dedicated time and space to strengthen these collaborations to work collectively together on large-scale initiatives that will reduce the number of families experiencing poverty.  

The process is built on four investment categories: 2Gen Investments (two or more organizations working across multiple areas of education, income and health), Single-System Investments (two or more organizations working within one area of education, income or health), Program-Specific Investments (one organization delivering one program within education, income or health) and Community Innovation Investments (micro grants that advance the work of community-based innovators aligned with the Agenda for Change).

This change, and particularly the new 2Gen investment category will allow for United Way to support families to reach their full potential.

If you only have a second, here’s how to sum it up. 

  • Underemployment, homelessness, school readiness, and health –
    these things are all related.
  • United Way understands that reducing poverty in Dane County can only be done
    through collaboration across multiple programs targeting each of these areas –
    a holistic approach to family stability.
  • We’re changing how we invest to make our dollars go farther and our results go further.
  • If you want to support this innovation, give to United Way so that we an achieve
    a Dane County where everyone can succeed in school, work and life.

Thank you for your interest in United Way of Dane County’s investment process. Our Request for Proposals (RFP) for 2020 is now closed.

Letters have now been sent to agencies who are invited to complete a Proposal as of June 5, 2019, and the Proposal website is now available here. You may also access the questions in the .pdf above labeled “Proposal Information.”