United Way Financial Well-Being Challenge Looks To Expand Financial Opportunity for Detroiters

Seventeen organizations move forward in grant process/receive $20,000 each

DETROIT — August 30, 2022 — United Way for Southeastern Michigan, partnering with Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, is awarding $340,000 in grants to 17 innovative projects as part of the next phase of their Detroit Financial Well-Being Innovation Challenge. From an initial group of more than 30 applicants, 17 innovation projects have been selected to advance to the planning stage of the initiative and receive a $20,000 grant, along with extensive technical assistance over the next seven months. The objective of the planning stage grants and technical assistance supports is to help teams engage in the necessary pre-work to turn their idea into a launchable pilot.

“We know that Detroit residents face unfair and systemic barriers to financial stability, including unaffordable costs of living, low and volatile incomes, and inaccessible credit” says Megan Thibos, director of economic mobility, United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “These grants will support the development of 17 innovative, sustainable solutions to increase financial opportunity for Detroiters.”

The Detroit Financial Well-being Innovation Challenge was created in response to a 2020 University of Michigan Poverty Solutions report, The Financial Well-Being of Detroit Residents: What Do We Know?, which found that a combination of low and volatile incomes and disproportionately high costs makes it challenging for Detroiters to maintain positive cash flow, build savings, and manage debt.

The study builds on United Way’s ALICE report that shows that nearly 40 percent of families statewide and more than 70 percent of Detroit families struggle to meet their basic needs. The financial well-being report, written by researchers at University of Michigan Poverty Solutions, works to identify the underlying reasons behind why some Detroit families consistently have issues making ends meet – more so than in suburban towns and peer cities.

Importantly, these financial disadvantages are largely the result of systemic forces and the legacy of discriminatory policies and market practices – not individual bad financial choices. The Detroit Financial Well-being Innovation Challenge’s focus on “game-changing” ideas supports the development of systemic solutions to these systemic problems.

“Our goal is to fundamentally change the set of options available to Detroiters experiencing financial instability,” says Afton Branche-Wilson, assistant director of community initiative, Poverty Solutions. “We have designed the Challenge to not only build grantee’s capacity to achieve this goal, but to ensure community members play an integral role at all stages of the process.”

United Way for Southeastern Michigan launched the Detroit Financial Well-being Innovation Challenge in February 2022. More than 60 organizations expressed interest in participating in the Challenge and 31 submitted a concept proposal. The 17 organizations and collaborative teams chosen to receive grants during the planning stage submitted strong concept proposals that met the Challenge criteria of being new, game-changing, informed, doable, scalable, and equitable. They built on these concept proposals to develop robust plans for their work during the planning stage, which includes checking critical assumptions, developing partnerships, gathering feedback from Detroit residents, and solidifying implementation plans.


  • Passport to Self Sufficiency: Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS)
  • Family Mobility Savings Program: Communities First Inc.
  • Bikes4Employees: Detroit Greenways Coalition
  • Home Repair Clearinghouse: Doing Development Differently in Metro Detroit
  • Community Investment Trusts: Doing Development Differently in Metro Detroit
  • Partnership for Economic Independence 3.0: Eastside Community Network
  • Shared Equity Homeownership: Genesis HOPE
  • Credit Escalator: GreenPath Financial Wellness
  • Collective Homeownership: Higher Ground Abodes
  • Warrendale Equity Investment Fund: International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit
  • Solar Power for Detroiters: Manistique Community Treehouse Center
  • Black Worker Center – Detroit: National Black Worker Center (NBWC)
  • Pitchtape for Small Business & Underrepresented Entrepreneurs: PitchTape
  • Safe Returns for Detroiters: Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency
  • East Chadsey Condon Alliance: Southwest Economic Solutions Corporation
  • Functional Sentencing: Street Democracy
  • Sure:D (Safe Upgrades and Renovations for Efficiency: Detroit): The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW)

The Detroit Financial Well-being Innovation Challenge will continue through 2026. Pilot Stage grants, expected to be awarded in summer 2023, will distribute up to $200K to selected recipient organizations based on the progress demonstrated during the Planning Stage. Scale stage grants, expected to be awarded in late 2024, will fund selected projects up to $1 million based on the results of the Pilot Stage. The Detroit Financial Well-Being Innovation Challenge is made possible through funding from JPMorgan Chase, Comerica Bank, General Motors, and United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

For more information about the Detroit Financial Well-Being Innovation Challenge, please visit: UnitedWaySEM.org/FWBIC.

For more information about United Way for Southeastern Michigan, their commitment to serving the community or to donate, please visit: UnitedWaySEM.org.


United Way for Southeastern Michigan, a member of the United Way Worldwide network and an independently governed 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, works to help households become stable and ensure children have the support they need to thrive. For more than one hundred years, United Way has been a leader in creating positive, measurable, and sustainable change in communities throughout southeast Michigan. United Way works in partnership with donors, agencies, corporate and municipal partners to help families meet their basic needs of housing, food, health care and family finances, and ensure children start school ready to learn and graduate ready for life. To give, advocate, volunteer or learn more, visit UnitedWaySEM.org.


Poverty Solutions is a university-wide initiative that aims to prevent and alleviate poverty through action-based research that informs policymakers, community organizations, government entities, and practitioners about what works in confronting poverty.