Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation

Social Innovation Fund

Solutions to America's challenges are being developed every day at the grass roots -- and government shouldn't be supplanting those efforts, it should be supporting those efforts.

- President Barack Obama, June 30, 2009


Our nation is experiencing some of the greatest challenges in a generation, but it is also a time of great opportunity.   We all know that progress on our social challenges has been too slow and limited resources have been spent on approaches that do not work. President Obama is committed to supporting innovation that will help achieve faster, more lasting progress, as opposed to marginal or incremental progress on our social problems.  At the same time, we recognize that limited taxpayer dollars need to be directed at efforts that have evidence that they work and are ready to scale.


The Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), combines public and private resources to grow promising community-based solutions that have evidence of results in any of three priority areas: economic opportunity, healthy futures, and youth development.

The SIF makes grants to experienced grantmaking “intermediaries” that are well-positioned within communities to identify the most promising programs and guide them towards greater impact and stronger evidence of success.  These grants typically range from $1-5 million annually for up to five years.  The intermediaries then match the federal funds dollar-for-dollar and hold open competitions to identify the most promising nonprofit organizations working in low-income communities that have evidence of compelling results.  Once selected, these nonprofits must also match the funds they receive, and participate in rigorous evaluations of the impact of their programs. 

In addition to funding, Social Innovation Fund grantees receive significant technical assistance from CNCS to support implementation of their innovative programs.  Participation in the Social Innovation Fund gives grantmakers greater visibility and plugs them into a national network of funders and nonprofits that are committed to fostering social innovation to improve lives in low-income communities throughout the U.S.

 The Social Innovation Fund model is distinguished by four key characteristics:

  • Reliance on outstanding existing grantmaking “intermediaries” to select high-impact community organizations rather than building new government infrastructure;
  • The requirement that each federal dollar granted be matched 1:1 by the grantees and again by their subgrantees with money from private and other non-federal sources, thereby increasing the return on taxpayer dollars and strengthening local support;
  • Emphasis on rigorous evaluations of program results not only to improve accountability but also to build a stronger marketplace of organizations with evidence of impact; and
  • Effective leverage of the grant program through supplementary initiatives that advance social innovation more generally in the nonprofit sector.


  • On April 22nd, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which created the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), housed at CNCS, a Federal agency.
  • The Social Innovation Fund launched its first competition in April of 2010 and selected 11 intermediary grantees. These 2010 grantees have made awards to more than 150 subgrantees serving low-income communities across the country.
  • The Social Innovation Fund began its second competition in February of 2011, and selected five additional grantees.
  • The Social Innovation Fund initiated its third competition in February of 2012, and will engage between three and five new grantees.
  • As of February 2012, $95 million in federal funds have been awarded, and $250 million in additional private funds have been leveraged through the program.
  • Over 150 private philanthropic funders have partnered with the Social Innovation Fund including private foundations, community foundations, corporations, and individual donors.
  • More than 100 cities in 33 states and the District of Columbia are being directly impacted by the Social Innovation Fund.

Further Information

For more information on SIF, please visit the SIF website at CNCS.