Social Innovation Fund
The Social Innovation Fund (SIF) was a program of the U.S. Government’s Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) that received federal funding from 2010 to 2016 to identify, validate, and grow innovative, promising solutions to challenges faced by local communities while also strengthening the nonprofit sector’s capacities. Through a competitive application process, CNCS awarded SIF grants to intermediary organizations—experienced grantmaking institutions with strong skills, infrastructure, and records of success in selecting, validating, and growing high-performing programs that serve low-income communities. The intermediaries, which matched the federal funds dollar for dollar, held open competitions to identify community-based organizations that operated innovative programs with evidence of success. The intermediaries subgranted at least 80 percent of the federal and matched funds to these nonprofits, which were required to match the funds they received and participate in rigorous evaluations of their programs. Although CNCS awarded its last SIF grants in FY2016, the intermediaries continued to administer their subgrants until the end of the awarded grant period.
Greater Twin Cities United Way was the first Twin Cities-based intermediary to receive a Social Innovation Fund Grant directly. In 2012, GTCUW, in partnership with a newly created organization, Generation Next, became the intermediary for a $5 million, five-year SIF grant intended to improve educational outcomes for 1,500 to 2,000 low-income children and youth annually. Project planners were motivated by opportunities to address economic and racial disparities in outcomes, scale good programs and build evidence of their effectiveness, as well as support the collective impact model exemplified by Generation Next.