United Way of Salt Lake: Utilizing Collective Impact and Pay-For-Success

For nearly a century, United Way of Salt Lake has been helping members of its community achieve their highest potential through education, financial stability, and leading healthy lives.

Through its collective impact partnerships and pay-for-success contracts, one of the first in the country, the United Way of Salt Lake is changing the way we make real change happen here in Salt Lake City.

But what does it mean to be in a collective partnership? What are pay-for-success contracts? We hear these buzzwords often, but understanding what they mean can be challenging.

Collective Impact

Collective impact is a framework to attack and solve complex community issues. This innovative approach tackles problems leveraging collaborative efforts through business, non-profit, philanthropy, government and citizen activism communities to achieve lasting social change. The theory is no single policy, department, organization, or program can solve increasingly complex issues on their own. Collective Impact asks for a multipurpose approach to problem-solving by looking past an organization’s and individual’s needs, and to develop a common agenda for shared measurement, progress, and effort. The difference between collective impact and a general partnership is that collective impact utilizes a centralized infrastructure with dedicated staff to support participating organizations transition from working alone to acting in cooperation.


Pay-for-success (PFS), also called a “Social Impact Bond,” drives government and private resources toward social programs that produce results for those most in need of a particular service. PFS gives service providers - be it a non-profit, charity, or other organizations - access to sound, up-front resources to cover initial startup costs through a private loan. The United Way and government agencies guarantee the loan and repay it with cost savings achieved through a successful program.

For example, in 2010 United Way of Salt Lake partnered with Voices for Utah Children and Granite School District to research the impact of high-quality preschool programs for at-risk children.  The results were astounding, and in 2013 Salt Lake County and Goldman Sachs joined the partnership to run the program. Goldman Sachs provided a $1 million loan for early childhood education, and Salt Lake County and USWL would guarantee the loans repayment. The loan’ repayment will come through savings achieved by reducing the number of children in need of special education and ancillary services, private donations raised by the United Way, and government support.

To date, the initiative was a resounding success as all partners learned that high-quality preschool programs provided sustained improved outcomes for children. There is currently an effort to expand the program to additional school districts throughout Utah. The success of early childhood education at Granite School District is just one example of how UWSL is using a collective impact and pay-for-success approach to address real issues and provide practical solutions.

To learn more about United Way of Salt Lake, or to get involved, please visit their website at .