What kind of organizations can apply?

The Detroit Financial Well-Being Innovation Challenge welcomes organizations of all shapes and sizes: nonprofits, neighborhood-based or faith-based organizations, financial institutions, government entities, private corporations, and anything outside or in between. The type of organization you are does not limit you from being able to help Detroiters thrive financially through this challenge.

The first step to applying is to fill out an Expression of Interest form. If your organization doesn’t have its own big idea but is eager to collaborate and support other organizations in realizing their big ideas, that’s ok too! Fill out an Expression of Interest form to get connected to potential partners. If you still aren’t sure if your organization should fill out an Expression of Interest, please contact the challenge project manager at Financial.Wellbeing@UnitedWaySEM.org for assistance.

How do collaborative applications work in this challenge?

A collaborative is two or more organizations that apply with a single application. There is no limit to the number of organizations in a collaborative, but all organizations within the collaborative must fill out basic information about their organization when submitting the concept proposal. One organization must be designated the lead applicant. That organization will serve as the primary contact for the challenge and be the recipient of any funds awarded through the challenge. It is up to the organizations within the collaborative to determine their roles and contributions throughout the challenge and distribute funding within the collaborative.

I’m not sure if my idea is big enough, can I talk about it with someone?

Don’t count your idea out! Check out our guide to what makes a big idea for more information — but don’t worry if you feel like your idea could be bigger. The concept stage is specifically designed to support applicant organizations in developing and refining their ideas. No matter what your idea is — or even if you don’t have one yet — we encourage you to go ahead and submit an Expression of Interest form as soon as possible, which will give you access to workshops, collaboration events, and other opportunities. Still not sure or have questions? Contact the challenge project manager at Financial.Wellbeing@UnitedWaySEM.org.

Why do I have to fill out an Expression of Interest form if I want to apply?

The Expression of Interest form is the first step in the challenge application process. This simple form asks for basic information about your organization, its relationship to the community and other organizations, and your early thoughts about the big idea you want to pursue. This information allows us to invite you to the collaboration events, workshops, and other supports we’re offering during the concept stage of the challenge. The form also helps us understand how we can help you make the most of the concept stage and give your idea the best chance of becoming a reality. We can help connect you with other applicant organizations interested in potential collaboration or supporting your idea, workshop your idea with you prior to submitting your concept proposal, and curate opportunities specific to your organization and idea. Potential applicant organizations are required to complete the Expression of Interest form to gain access to all the concept stage supports. These supports are designed to help you build your idea so that it has the best chance of moving on to the planning stage.

Why should I apply if I don’t think I’ll make it through all of the stages of the challenge?

Don’t count your idea out! The challenge is designed to help advance ideas to improve financial well-being for Detroiters from concept to reality. While not every idea will make it through to the final stage, the experience of participating at any stage will help you refine your idea and bring it closer to reality. As soon as you submit your Expression of Interest form, you will have access to workshops, collaboration events and other opportunities designed to help you build and refine your idea. Through these idea-development opportunities, you’ll give your idea the best chance of success. Participating in the challenge will give your organization or collaborative the time, space, funding, technical assistance and more to test, develop and refine your idea. Each successive stage provides more support to implement your idea and will help build your organizational capacity for future opportunities. Participating in this challenge will help you move your idea towards reality — regardless of whether your idea is selected to move forward at any given stage. Participating in the challenge puts you in a better position to develop partnerships, request funding and take part in opportunities within and beyond the scope of this challenge.

How will United Way respond if I experience unexpected issues that slow my progress through the challenge?

United Way is committed to the purpose of this challenge: To drive big changes that will make it easier for Detroiters to thrive financially. If unexpected issues arise that might slow progress, we’re happy to discuss the situation with you. Contact the challenge project manager at Financial.Wellbeing@UnitedWaySEM.org and we’ll do the best we can to solve the problem together.

Are there ways for my organization to be a part of this challenge without becoming an applicant?

If your organization is interested in supporting the challenge in some way, we encourage you to fill out an Expression of Interest form. By filling out the form, you will have access to collaboration events where you can connect with applicant organizations and explore ways to support their ideas. United Way will offer significant technical assistance to applicant organizations throughout every stage of this challenge so that every organization has the support needed to turn their big idea into reality. We encourage all organizations interested in helping Detroiters reach financial well-being to complete an Expression of Interest form, regardless of size, sector, grant application experience or other possible limitations. Please contact the challenge project manager at Financial.Wellbeing@UnitedWaySEM.org if you would like to talk through any concerns you may have.

If your organization is interested in supporting the challenge financially, we are still fundraising and would welcome a conversation! Please contact Todd.Davis@UnitedWaySEM.org.

I want feedback on my idea, but I don’t want another organization to take up that idea themselves. How will I know that another organization won’t use my idea as their own?

We believe that good ideas get even better with feedback and collaboration. Feedback and collaboration only work in an environment of mutual respect. We’ll set ground rules in our concept stage events that organizations are expected to honor the contributions and experience of their fellow participants and not co-opt another organization’s idea as their own. However, the challenges we are seeking to address are complex and long-standing, so it’s very possible that multiple individuals or organizations may come up with somewhat similar ideas independently. If multiple organizations are interested in working on a similar idea, we’ll suggest that those organizations explore a collaborative partnership rather than submitting two separate and competing concept stage proposals. However, organizations will be free to decide whether to partner.

How do I adopt a resident-submitted idea for my concept proposal?

All resident-submitted ideas are open to the public on our Facebook page. We’ll also sort and group those ideas into themes and make a curated version available to organizations that have completed an Expression of Interest form. Any organization is free to adopt or incorporate elements of a resident-submitted idea into their concept proposal.

Who owns the rights to my organization’s idea?

United Way is launching this Innovation Challenge to create a supportive structure and funding that will help move good ideas from concept to reality. The Challenge values public transparency and open collaboration. Each applicant receiving funding will retain ownership in any intellectual property that applicant developed but will be required to grant, free of charge, to any person in the world, permission to deal in that intellectual property without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the intellectual property. United Way will not claim any exclusive proprietary rights to any applicant’s intellectual property developed through the Challenge. Any intellectual property developed through the Challenge will be retained by the applicant or may be assigned, at the applicant’s option, to United Way. Regardless of ownership, all intellectual property developed through the challenge is subject to an “open source” principle and must be shared openly for the purposes of expansion and replication.

My organization is a for-profit company. We’ve never participated in a grant process before. What should we know?

For-profit companies are invited to participate in the challenge to support the creation and testing of new programs, products, services, features, etc., that improve financial well-being for Detroiters but for which profitability is uncertain or which the company might not otherwise pursue. These items do not have to be offered to the public for free (this is also true for nonprofit organizations). The challenge will support the development of financial well-being-enhancing products and services offered at an affordable cost. Organizations that receive funding in the planning stage and beyond will need to submit a grant budget prior to receiving funding and will need to submit periodic financial reports on spend-down of the granted funds and narrative reports on what they have accomplished through the challenge. Grant funds can be used to cover the expenses of developing and delivering the idea in excess of what its revenue can initially support, but any revenues from the program/product/service/feature received during the grant term must be reinvested in delivery costs before expensing to the grant. Additional supporting documents on expenses, revenues and outcomes may be requested.

For Detroit residents

How can I participate in this challenge as a community member?

There are lots of opportunities for Detroit residents to participate in the challenge. You can submit an idea for applicant organizations to consider and provide feedback on the ideas as they move forward. Click here to learn more about these opportunities. You can also contact the challenge project manager at Financial.Wellbeing@UnitedWaySEM.org to let us know about your interest and any questions.

How can I receive updates about this challenge?

Sign up here to receive updates on the progress of the challenge, its applicants and the programs and initiatives they’re building. If you have any questions or concerns about the challenge, please contact the challenge project manager at Financial.Wellbeing@UnitedWaySEM.org.

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