Our Model

The Social Innovation Fund (SIF) awards grants to identify, validate, and grow promising approaches to challenges facing local communities. The SIF works with and through community-based organizations, or “grantmakers,” to direct resources to nonprofits, and state and local government entities, or “subgrantees”  focused on youth development, economic opportunity, and healthy futures.

The operating model of the Social Innovation Fund has been explicitly designed to advance these objectives and is distinguished by the following six key elements:


SIF Innovation Icon

The Social Innovation Fund (SIF) is committed to investing in innovative solutions that displace stale, ineffective programs. For the SIF, “social innovation” means “new ways to solve old problems that are faster, cost-effective, data-driven and lead to better results for the public good.”  Although the practice of social innovation is commonly understood to be the invention and testing of new ideas, the SIF seeks to support innovations that have advanced beyond the beginning stages, are showing signs of effectiveness, and have the potential for greater scale.


SIF Evidence Icon

Too often, effective nonprofits lack the expertise, resources, or infrastructure to conduct meaningful evaluation that demonstrates impact and can take their programs from promising to proven. In fact, many grant programs do not adequately support program assessments. However, the SIF provides both technical assistance and funding for required evaluations of the Classic programs and the evaluation of the Pay for Success model. These evaluations will provide robust information about which programs and models works more effectively, costs less, or leads to better results for our country’s communities. To learn more, visit the SIF’s Evidence and Evaluation page.

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The SIF’s intermediaries not only help fund and implement nonprofit organizations and state and local government entities programs, they grow those programs to make a deeper or broader impact in communities.  To ensure the successful expansion of awarded programs, the SIF selects intermediaries that have expertise in assisting organizations in building their capacity to reach more people and change more lives, and provides training and technical assistance to support the process.


SIF Grantmakers Icon

Recognizing that Washington does not have all the answers, Through the SIF's Classic program, awards are made to experienced grantmakers with strong skills and track records of success in competitively selecting, validating, and growing high-performing programs. Grantmakers, who themselves are selected through an open nationwide competition, run their own open competitions to identify innovative nonprofit organizations and state and local government entities. Partnering with these grantmakers saves time and taxpayer dollars, as it leverages the significant on-the-ground knowledge and experience of philanthropic organizations and the nonprofit sector.

To view a list of the SIF's grantmakers and the organizations they selected, visit the Funded Organizations page.


SIF Match Icon

Through the SIF, limited federal investments mobilize considerable private cash resources and collaborations. Across both SIF's Classic and Pay for Success programs, intermediaries must match every federal dollar one-to-one. Intermediaries then select and award nonprofit organizations and state and local government entities or “subgrantees.” These grant awards to subgrantees must also be matched one-to-one in the Classic program. This match requirement triples the federal investment, augments working capital and sparks new collaborations, helping intermediaries and their subgrantees more effectively transform lives beyond the initial grant period.

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Knowledge Sharing

The SIF is committed to improving the effectiveness of nonprofits, grantmakers, and government agencies by rigorously documenting and sharing best practices and lessons learned. The lessons shared include the promise and challenges of programs, both in execution and scaling of SIF's Classic programs and the implementation of Pay for Success projects. To learn more on how the SIF shares these learnings, visit the Knowledge Intitiative page.


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