Community Investment Process

Bringing together a diverse and committed network of partners to create innovative programs,  collaborations, and initiatives that have the greatest impact on our communities.

United Way of Southern Maine’s Community Investment Process is currently closed. Please check back in late November 2024 for an updated timeline for our next investment cycle. Applications are expected to open in early December and close in late January or early February.  A link to the application will be posted on this page when the process opens. Applicants will be notified of decisions at the end of May. The funding period is July 1 through June 30 of the following year. 

For general investment questions, please email Karen Stephenson, Director of Community Investments ( If you would like to contact another UWSM community impact team member, please find a listing here  

The information below details the primary investment process of United Way of Southern Maine. For funding opportunities through United Way of Southern Maine’s Giving Circles, Women United and the Brick & Beam Society, please visit their individual websites.   


UWSM funding opportunities are each designed to achieve Thrive2027 Goals across our Southern Maine communities with equitable outcomes for all populations. Each opportunity approaches this aim from a different perspective. Please review these options to see which is the best fit for your organization, coalition, or collaboration. An ‘at a glance’ comparison of these opportunities is available here.

This is our traditional community investment process that has been in place since the launch of Thrive2027. Applicants demonstrate how they are working to advance at least one Thrive2027 strategy within the broader Thrive2027 Goals Framework. From here, they must also select at least one shared outcome measure to demonstrate their impact in the community.

Our volunteer-led Goal Cabinets select priority strategies each year that are deemed the most timely and effective ways to achieve our Thrive2027 goals – these are the open priority strategies available for new applicants each year. New applicants to this work must apply under a priority strategy. Identified strategies are in bold in the Thrive2027 Goals Framework.

New this year, the Goal 1 and Goal 2 Cabinets have identified priority populations. These are not required populations, but will received priority consideration. The Goal 3 Cabinet did not choose a priority population for this year.

  • Goal 1: Children and families from historically marginalized populations
  • Goal 2: Renters

Additional eligibility and evaluation criteria are listed below.

This investment opportunity is very similar to the goal-specific opportunity above. However, applicants identify their work across two or more goal areas. Strategies and their corresponding shared outcome measures are selected from the Thrive2027 Goals Framework under each of the selected goals.

This investment opportunity specifically invites community collaborations to apply for work that advances at least one identified priority strategy within the Thrive2027 Goals Framework. This is focused work to move Thrive2027 strategies through collaborative community efforts. These should be true collaborations with all partners providing a meaningful contribution to the work. (Individual organizations not applying on behalf of a collaboration are not eligible for this funding opportunity.)

Thrive2027 calls for the community to come together across sectors, to break down silos, and to align our work in deep collaboration and coordination to achieve its lofty goals. This investment opportunity is designed to catalyze collaboration in support of achieving Thrive2027 goals; reinforcing the call for us to work differently, together.

Recognizing that we continue to see disparities both in outcomes and in those who are given the resources to bring solutions to their community; we prioritize racial equity in this work – both in how the group will bring action to a strategy in the Thrive2027 Goals Framework and in bringing organizations and community leaders to the table who may have historically been excluded.

In prioritizing the focus on racial equity, we are leaving the eligibility for multi-year funding applicants open to collaborations working to advance specific Thrive2027 strategies in Southern Maine, while incorporating scoring preference for collaborations reflecting one or more of the following attributes:

  • The work of the collaboration is serving people of color.
  • At least one collaborating partner is an organization led by and serving people of color.
  • At least one collaborating partner has an annual budget under $750,000.

All priority strategies will be available for multi-year funding applications. Identified strategies are in bold in the Thrive2027 Goals Framework.

If an application is not selected for multi-year funding, it will be considered for single-year funding. Multi-year funding will continue for a second year.*

* First year progress must be demonstrated in an interim report to ensure year-two funding. All UWSM community investments are dependent upon year-to-year fundraising levels.

This funding opportunity is designed to enable smaller organizations or coalitions to develop their internal capacity to advance Thrive2027 through these two specific areas of work:

  • developing program measurement and evaluation tools and plans; and/or,
  • advancing racial equity initiatives.

Applicants will demonstrate how their proposed work will support an identified Thrive2027 strategy. However, they will not be asked to achieve shared outcomes during this funding period. This funding is designed to support applicants in working towards demonstrating shared outcomes in future years. Similar to multi-year funding, applicants will receive scoring preference for organizations or coalitions led by and serving people of color, though not a requirement.

Applicants must apply under a priority strategy (our volunteer-led Goal Cabinets select priority strategies each year that are deemed the most timely and effective ways to achieve our Thrive2027 goals – these are the open strategies available for new applicants each year). Applicants may apply for a second year of Capacity Building funding if they are applying under a new focus (between program measurement and evaluation or racial equity) or are continuing on to the next phase of currently funded work.

Applicants must have an annual budget in the preceding year of under $750,000.

Eligibility Requirements

NOTE: In order to be eligible, your organization must be able to say “yes” to all of the following questions.

  • Our organization is a non-profit 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt organization, public school, municipal entity, Indian Tribal government or can demonstrate a legal relationship with an established 501(c)(3) acting as our fiscal agent.
  • Our organization certifies that all United Way funds and donations will be used in compliance with all applicable anti-terrorist financing and asset control laws, statutes, and executive orders.
  • Our organization operates consistent with applicable federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and ordinances. Compliance with this policy by agencies shall be a pre-condition of United Way funding.
  • Our organization is able to provide the required financial documents as listed below.
  • Our organization and all partners represented in the application confirm endorsement of Thrive2027’s three, ten-year goals.
  • Our organization is requesting at least $10,000 (unless applying for a capacity building grant – then, the organization must be requesting up to $10,000).
  • For capacity building applicants, there is an additional eligibility requirement that the organization’s annual budget in the preceding year be no more than $750,000.
  • For multi-year funding applicants, there is an additional eligibility requirement that the application be made on behalf of a collaboration.
  • The program for which we are seeking funding serves Southern Maine, defined as residents of York County and Cumberland County minus Brunswick and Harpswell. Applicants must use any funding received to serve the community in these areas.
  • Organizations previously funded by UWSM must have submitted the final grant report for their funding.

What we do not fund:

  • Expenses already incurred
  • Capital campaigns
  • General operating support
  • Political campaigns
  • Lobbying in the form of calls to action on a specific candidate (advocacy in support of legislation aligned with the Thrive2027 goals is allowed)
  • Religious activities, including, but not limited to, religious services, promotion of religious beliefs, or activities that are restricted to church or religious group membership.

Financial Requirements

  • Applicants with revenue that exceeds $750,000 in the preceding year are required to submit an annual independent audit and financial statements prepared in conformance with the Standards of Accounting and Financial Reporting for Voluntary Health and Welfare Organizations.
  • Applicants with revenue between $250,000 and $750,000 in the preceding year are required to submit an audit, OR a Review of Financial Statements, OR answer a series of questions detailing their financial processes.
  • Applicants with revenue below $250,000 in the preceding year may submit an Internal Revenue Service Form 990 in lieu of an audit or Review of Financial Statements.

Application Evaluation

Investments are driven by our community; with each investment opportunity having a dedicated and diverse team of volunteer reviewers that represent community voice across our full service area of Southern Maine. Volunteer investment reviewers score and discuss applications based on the following criteria:

  • Specific impact on Thrive2027 Goals
  • Tracking and evaluation of program implementation
  • Dedication to advancing racial equity
  • Commitment to collaboration
  • Solid management and fiscal soundness

The Community Investment process is a volunteer-led review process. Volunteers are involved in each step of the grant cycle timeline from identifying priority strategies, to reviews and recommendations, and all the way through to final Board approval. United Way staff support this process, but do not make funding recommendations. 

I had a great experience. I loved getting to hear other people’s perspectives on applications and seeing the difference this funding can make in our communities.

Grant cycle timeline

  • Prescreening: UWSM staff review each proposal to determine if it meets the required eligibility criteria, all required documents are uploaded, and that the selected shared outcome measure(s) match with the chosen strategy(ies).
  • Review: UWSM staff assign proposals to volunteer investment reviewers who read proposals and score them based on the criteria above, as well as financial reviewers who review all provided financial documentation to ensure fiscal soundness.
  • Investment Recommendation and Decision Meetings: Volunteer reviewers discuss proposals and make recommendations to board-level committees. The UWSM Board of Directors approves the final investment decisions.
  • Communication and Contracting: UWSM staff communicate the resulting investment decisions and send the applicant’s CEO/Executive Director and Board Chairperson the investment contract to finalize the process.

United Way of Southern Maine (UWSM) Diversity & Inclusion Commitment:

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are vital to achieving our mission, living our values, and advancing the common good. United Way of Southern Maine fosters and promotes an inclusive environment that leverages the unique contributions of diverse individuals and organizations in all aspects of our work. We know that by bringing diverse individuals and viewpoints together we can more effectively create opportunities for a better life for all. Our full Diversity and Inclusion statement can be found here.

Additional Resources

The information above details the primary investment process of United Way of Southern Maine. For funding opportunities through United Way of Southern Maine’s Giving Circles, Women United and the Brick & Beam Society, please visit their individual websites.

Thank You for Your Commitment to a Thriving Southern Maine

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Picture of Karen Stephenson

Karen Stephenson

Director, Community Investments