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United Way of the Ozarks Launches Innovation Fund

A New Model to Drive Positive Change in Southwest Missouri

United Way of the Ozarks is laser-focused on making our community better. The organization plays an important role in our local nonprofit community and is committed to cultivating positive change. United Way leaders know that now, even more than ever before, the challenges facing our region will require new and innovative approaches.

Starting this year, ten percent of the undesignated funds collected during United Way’s annual fundraising campaign will be placed in a new Innovation Fund, designed to encourage United Way’s current nonprofit partners, as well as potential new partners to think outside the box, try something new, and propose innovative solutions to community issues.

The Innovation Fund has created an invitation for nonprofits that are ready to pair their desire to create change with an entrepreneurial and competitive spirit. The new fund will allow agencies to explore new means of generating the best conditions for our community. These proposals will be creative, scalable solutions that may address either a new and emerging need in our community or present a new method for addressing an existing need. 

Extending Innovation to Our Region's Nonprofits

Turning traditional funding models on their head is no small task. United Way of the Ozarks knew regional nonprofits and community investment leaders would need training and a framework to make the most of the new Innovation Fund.

That’s where the efactory comes in. Our staff team worked closely with United Way of the Ozarks, regional nonprofit leaders, and community investment panelists to bring the Innovation Fund to life. Over the course of two days in November and December efactory and United Way of the Ozarks staff facilitated customized training sessions to cover all the essentials.

Leaders from more than 20 regional nonprofits gathered in November to learn about the initiative, build mock proposals, and receive feedback from a panel of experts to strengthen their future applications. These nonprofit agencies were empowered to think about new programs or delivery models and encouraged to dream big!

We know our region’s nonprofits will submit amazing proposals – and it’s because of that that we included additional training for the volunteers who will help review and score applications. In December members of the Community Investment Panel took a deep dive into what makes a strong application for this new funding, important questions to consider when reviewing, and more. These leaders will play an important role not only in evaluating applications, but in encouraging innovative thinking amongst United Way’s partner organizations and supporting the new initiative.

About United Way of the Ozarks

United Way of the Ozarks works every day to improve lives in our community. Their efforts center on uniting community support and focusing on the health, education, and financial stability of every person in their communities served. The organization’s work impacts the lives of thousands of children, adults, and families annually across 14 counties in Southwest Missouri.

Last year United Way of the Ozarks reinvested $2.4 million across 14 counties in southwest Missouri, partnered with 22 nonprofit organizations, and led more than 200 workplace fundraising campaigns.