Early Success Request for Proposals

Early Success Request for Proposals  a young boy colors with markers

United Way is working to bring an end to inequity in Olmsted County and help people reach their potential. Ensuring success for children by supporting their development early in life is one of the strongest levers available for communities to truly make a difference. By helping children and families build and grow strong foundations, our community can create the conditions for a strong future for everyone.  

United Way sees a particular need to provide access to high quality childcare and early childhood education in Olmsted County. There are well-documented capacity  concerns that impact families across economic strata but disproportionately impact low-income residents. We are issuing this Request for Proposals to establish partnerships and offer support for programs that increase the community’s ability to serve children in childcare and early childhood education settings.  

We welcome proposals from organizations of all sizes serving Olmsted County’s diverse communities. Organizations serving and led by people of color, immigrants/refugees, people with disabilities, or other underrepresented communities are strongly encouraged to apply.  

The proposal period begins immediately. We invite you to review our Request for Proposals below and consider applying.  

What We’re Funding: 

We seek to invest in local non-profit programs that provide access to high-quality early childhood education or regular childcare for young children in Olmsted County. High-quality programs should serve children from low-income households and use current best practices in early childhood education or childcare.  

Childcare programs should provide routine childcare (i.e., daily, nightly) for young children between birth-kindergarten (approximately 5-years-old.) Funding is not available for child enrichment programs and activities such as special interest clubs, after school programs or educational events. See our supporting research for more information and examples of high-quality education and childcare

Additional investment details: 

  • We anticipate making awards to 4-6 programs that provide access to early childhood education or childcare for children ages birth-kindergarten  

  • Early Success grants provide unrestricted program-level funding. Funds are intended to be used for general program operations in alignment with your proposal. Funds are not restricted to any specific line item or program activity  

  • This is a three-year grant to be paid in monthly installments between July 2023 and June 2026 

  • There is no minimum or maximum award amount. In recent grant cycles, the average annual program award has been about $35,000 


  • Public information session: September 12 

  • Initial proposals due: October 3 

  • Full proposals due (by invitation): December 1  

  • Program meetings (by invitation): January 9-13, 2023 

  • Finalists notified: January 18, 2023 

  • Funding begins: July 2023 

We would be happy to talk with you about your proposal ideas! To schedule a time to meet with our team, you may contact Zeni Aly, Impact & Engagement Administrative Assistant, at 507-287-7877 or ZeniA@uwolmsted.org

How to Apply: 

Proposals are accepted through United Way of Olmsted County’s online grants portal. The grants portal works best in Google Chrome.  

We strongly encourage you to review the grant application materials carefully before beginning your application. The following documents may help you as you prepare your application:   

Certain organizations may also request the support of a Grant Guide to assist in developing their application.  

Our team is eager to assist you if you have questions about your proposal or are experiencing technical difficulties with your application. For technical support with the proposal process, or to schedule a time to meet with our team to discuss a proposal idea, you may contact Zeni Aly, Community Impact Administrative Assistant, at 507-287-7877 or ZeniA@uwolmsted.org

Proposals will be evaluated by a team of community volunteers, in coordination with United Way of Olmsted County staff. Reviewers will evaluate proposals on the following criteria: 

  • Eligibility: Proposal meets all eligibility requirements and includes all required information 

  • Impact: Proposed program demonstrates strong impact or potential for impact, as demonstrated through program outcomes, continuous improvement, and effective collaboration 

  • Equity: Proposed program effectively serves residents who disproportionately experience barriers to affordable and high-quality early childhood education and childcare  

  • Budget: Budget is complete and appropriate for program plans. 

We take a holistic approach to review grant applications. This means reviewers consider how the overall application meets the criteria outlined above. To assist you in understanding how proposals will be reviewed, we are making available our complete evaluation rubric and a sample application

To be considered for an Early Success grant, programs must meet the following eligibility criteria:  

  • Serve primarily low-income children and families of Olmsted County (We generally define low-income as those who live at or below 185% of federal poverty level

  • Improve access to high-quality early childhood education or childcare as described above  

  • Be a program of an eligible nonprofit agency 

Eligible nonprofit agencies include: 

  • Agencies designated as a 501c3 

  • Government agencies/units 

  • Faith-based organizations, provided they can demonstrate that there will be no explicitly faith-related content included in their programming and that there are no discriminatory restrictions on service recipients 

  • Community organizations without 501c3 status, provided they can document their relationship with a fiscal sponsor with 501c3 status. 

Funding will not be provided for: 

  • Individuals  

  • For-profit entities 

  • Political campaigns, candidates, parties, or partisan activities 

  • Programming that includes theological functions or requires religious participation. 

We enter partnerships with our grantees with a spirit of service, mutual respect, and transparency. Where our expectations do not align with those of our partners, our team will work with grantees to develop mutually beneficial solutions. If you have questions or concerns about the expectations outlined here, we invite you to speak with our staff at any point during the proposal process. 

United Way of Olmsted County holds the following expectations of our grantees: 

  • Meet with United Way staff at least annually to touch base on your program operations, community needs, and our relationship. 

  • Report annually on program performance measures, including: 

    • Total number of program participants 

    • Participant demographics (including race, gender, income, disability status, and city of residence, where such information is available)  

    • Number of children achieving developmental milestones, disaggregated by race and income level where possible (we are available to assist programs in determining how to measure this outcome) 

    • Additional performance measures to be co-developed by program staff and United Way 

If you do not currently collect all of this information, our team is available to support you in building your data collection routines to facilitate shared learning about your program and its participants.

  • Submit updated organizational information at least annually, including: 
    • Organization and program budgets 

    • Board of Directors roster 

    • Financial documents, in accordance with United Way’s financial reporting policy 

    • Demographic information about your organization’s staff and Board of Directors, where your data collection and privacy practices allow. 

  • Support United Way’s fundraising and community change efforts; for example, by sharing our program information with your participants, helping us to develop client stories for marketing materials, or hosting an employee giving campaign.

  • Funded program partners and United Way sign a funding agreement annually throughout the grant period. You can find a sample agreement here.

We will review proposals in three stages: 1) a brief written proposal, 2) by invitation, a second written submission with additional program narrative and organizational documents, and 3) by invitation, a meeting with United Way staff and volunteers to discuss the program being proposed. Prospective partners will be notified after each stage whether their proposal is advancing in the review process. 

  • Public information session - September 12, 12-1 pm via Zoom 

An optional public session held via Zoom. United Way staff will provide an overview of the investment opportunity, the program requirements, and the proposal and review process. There will be time for questions and answers. The session has been recorded and can be found on here. Staff are also available for individual follow-up discussions upon request.

  • Initial proposal due – October 3 at 5:00 pm 

All proposals must be completed by 5 pm on October 3, 2022. Proposals are intended to be brief. We encourage you to review the proposal questions in advance. All proposals should be submitted through UWOC’s online grants portal. For assistance with the online tool, please contact Zeni Aly at 507-287-7877 or ZeniA@uwolmsted.org. Applicants will be notified about the status of their proposal on or around November 4. 

  • Full proposal due (by invitation) – December 1 at 5:00 pm 

Programs invited to submit additional materials should submit their completed proposal by 5 pm on December 1, 2022. The full proposal will request further details of your program design and impact. We encourage you to review the proposal questions in advance. At this time, we will also request organizational documents, including financial documents and budgets. Budgets may be submitted in your own preferred format; if you do not have a budget template of your own, a sample can be found on our website (Budget Help Page). Applicants will be notified about the status of their proposal on or around December 21. 

  • Program meetings (by invitation) – January 9-13, 2023 

Those continuing in the application process will be invited to have further dialogue with United Way volunteers and staff. This meeting is an organic conversation intended to clarify any remaining questions our reviewers have about your program and address any questions your organization has about partnership with United Way of Olmsted County. Applicants will be notified about the status of their proposal on or around January 18, 2023. Final partnership commitments are subject to approval by United Way of Olmsted County’s Board of Directors.  

  • Development of performance measures – February 2023 

Finalists will work together with United Way staff to develop the performance measures to be reported during the funding cycle. These measurements will be co-created and specific to the program. United Way of Olmsted County uses the Results-Based Accountability (RBA) framework and will support programs in developing RBA measurement plans. 

  • Final awards announced - February 24, 2023 

Partners can anticipate being notified of the final status of their proposal on or before February 24, 2023, after United Way’s Board of Directors has approved its final decision. 

  • Funding begins - July 2023 

First disbursements of Early Success grants will be made in July 2023. Awards are disbursed in monthly installments. Prior to the first disbursement of funds, UWOC will execute funding agreements with all partners.