Challenge Overview

The Detroit Financial Well-Being Innovation Challenge will provide seed funding and technical assistance to refine, test, pilot and scale Big Ideas to improve the financial lives of Detroiters. Our goal is to help organizations, and coalitions of organizations, drive big changes that will make it easier for Detroiters to thrive financially. This challenge process is structured very differently than other grant processes and will provide support to build new, unconventional and robust partnerships across sectors to turn big ideas into a reality.

We are committed to centering the experience of Detroiters who know first-hand what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet. Throughout the challenge, there will be multiple opportunities for community involvement and feedback. To learn more about community involvement opportunities, click here.

The Detroit Financial Well-Being Innovation Challenge is now closed to new applicants. Read on to learn more about the process that applicant organizations will follow. Interested in potentially supporting an existing applicant achieve their Big Idea? Contact the Challenge Manager at

Challenge Stages

The Innovation Challenge will occur in four stages over the next several years. The Challenge is designed to support applicants through the process of developing their ideas from concept all the way to fully-operational program or initiative. Each stage has a distinct focus and United Way will provide technical assistance at each stage.


There are four stages to the challenge:

Download a summary of the challenge process here.

After each stage, there will be a selection process to move on to the next stage. This overview of the challenge process is tentative and subject to change. We will be learning alongside the challenge applicants and participating community members as we embark on this challenge together. In response to lessons learned along the way, United Way may make changes to the challenge timeline and stage-specific details in order to better support applicants and achieve the goals of the challenge. The number of awards at each stage and the dollar amount of those awards is tentative and subject to change based on total funding, the nature of the ideas submitted in the challenge, and other lessons learned.

Concept Stage (4 months, Feb. – May)

The purpose of the Concept Stage is to gather as many ideas as possible, nurture those ideas, and foster cross-sector collaborations. Since February, participating organizations have had opportunities to connect with organizations from multiple sectors and work together to brainstorm how big ideas could be bigger, find out what each other needs, and develop partnerships to turn these big ideas into a reality together.

Participants have refined their initial ideas and Detroit residents will review their ideas and provide their input.
Learn more about the Big Ideas submitted by over 30 Challenge participants!

At the conclusion of the Concept Stage, applicant organizations/collaborations will submit a clear concept proposal to the challenge.

Planning Stage (6 months, Fall 2022 – Spring 2023)

During the Planning Stage, selected grantees will do the hard work of figuring out how to turn their big idea into reality. Planning work will look different depending on the specific idea, but may include testing critical assumptions; developing partnerships; gathering feedback from community members and potential participants; designing program workflows, materials, and job descriptions; prototyping elements of the idea; and more. We anticipate awarding up to 20 planning grants of approximately $20,000 each plus significant in-kind technical assistance. At the conclusion of the Planning Stage, grantees should have completed all the preparation work necessary to hit the ground running on a pilot implementation of their idea.

Successful Planning Stage grantees will be invited to submit a proposal for a Pilot Stage grant.

Pilot Stage (12 months, Summer 2023 – Summer 2024)

During the Pilot Stage, selected grantees will implement their ideas as a functioning pilot. Selected grantees are expected to have completed necessary preparatory work during the Planning Stage and be ready to begin implementation within a few weeks of receiving funding notification. Pilot Stage grantees will participate in a community of practice to learn from other grantees and will continue to receive technical assistance to incorporate feedback and lessons learned into the pilot design and troubleshoot challenges. We anticipate awarding approximately seven pilot grants of up to $200,000 each.

At the conclusion of the Pilot Stage, grantees should have operated a functioning pilot for 12 months and generated lessons learned. Successful Pilot Stage grantees will be invited to submit a proposal for a Scale Stage grant.

Scale Stage (24 months, 2025 – 2026)

During the Scale Stage, selected grantees will expand the scope and scale of their pilot implementations to achieve greater impact. Scale Stage grantees will continue to receive technical assistance to further refine their implementation, troubleshoot challenges, and develop plans to continue the initiative beyond the term of the Scale Grant. We anticipate awarding at least one (potentially more depending on funding) Scale Stage grant of up to $1 million.

Concept Stage Details

Note: the Challenge is now closed to new applicants. Challenge applicants are currently partway through the below process.

Beginning Feb. 2: Submit expression of interest form

The first step to participating in the Concept Stage is to submit your Expression of I interest form. This will let us know that you’re interested in being a part of this challenge, and how we can help! Submit your form as early as possible to make the most of collaboration and idea-building workshops, technical assistance, and other supports we’re offering.

February and March: Collaboration events

Once you submit an Expression of Interest form, your organization will be invited to events and opportunities to find other organizations to collaborate with, build and refine your ideas, and get support from technical assistance workshops and office hours. Participation in these events and supports is optional but strongly encouraged.

April 4: Submit video pitch

A core value of the challenge is that it is essential to gather feedback from community residents who have first-hand experience with the challenges your idea is seeking to resolve. As part of the Concept Stage submission process, your organization/collaboration will create a 2-minute video pitch of your idea. Community residents will review your video pitch and provide feedback.

May 9: Submit concept proposal

After receiving feedback on your video pitch, you’ll refine your idea based on the feedback received. Once you’ve finalized your idea, you will officially submit your Concept Proposal for review.

Mid-May: Concept proposal review

Your Concept Proposal will be reviewed by a team that includes Detroit residents with lived experience navigating financial instability. Learn more about what the review panel will be looking for.

Late May: Invitation to planning stage

Successful applicants will be invited to the Planning Stage. If your organization/collaboration is invited to participate in the Planning Stage, you will build on your Concept Proposal to develop a workplan to test the feasibility of your idea and apply for a Planning Grant.

How to apply

The Detroit Financial Well-Being Innovation Challenge is now closed to new applicants. Organizations interested in joining a collaboration to contribute to existing ideas are encouraged to reach out to the Challenge Manager at

Click here to return to the main page of the Detroit Financial Well-being Innovation Challenge.