Women’s Initiative

What We Do

With 1 in 3 adolescent girls in the United States falling victim to physical, emotional or verbal abuse (www.futureswithoutviolence.org), and 1 in 5 middle school aged girls living in Worcester reporting they feel unsafe in school and in their community (www.investingingirls.org), the Women’s Initiative is filling a gap in the availability of gender-specific philanthropy to address these issues.

Community Impact


The Women’s Initiative works with volunteer committees of community leaders engaging hundreds of members and donors annually to raise Community Impact funds for programs that empower adolescent girls and improve their lives.


Funds raised support programs that aim to reduce the incidence of violence affecting girls ages 10-14 in central Massachusetts, through mentoring, educational opportunities, and financial literacy. Volunteer members of the Community Impact Committee review and make recommendations for program funding. The Committee’s recommendations are approved by the Women’s Leadership Council with final funding decisions made by the United Way Board of Directors.


Grants are awarded to organizations which build, strengthen and support the development of healthy, safe and confident girls.

The 2022-2024 funding cycle awarded $237,885 annually in grants to 9 girls’ programs in Central Massachusetts:


Boys and Girls Club of WorcesterGirls Voice
Girls Inc. of WorcesterCommunity-Based Programs
Girl Scouts of Central and Western MAAll About MEdia
LUK Crisis Center, Inc.Project Shine
Seven Hills Foundation, Inc.Just Us Girls
Southeast Asian Coalition of Central MAGirls Youth Effect
Worcester Jewish Community CenterGirls United: Empowering Girls
Worcester State Foundation-Latino Education InstituteLatina Achievers in Search of Success (LASOS)
YWCA Central Massachusetts & Girls, Inc. of WorcesterGirls Promoting Safety (GPS)



Jeanne Y. Curtis Professional Development Grant

The Women’s Initiative created the Jeanne Y. Curtis Professional Development Grant in remembrance of Jeanne Curtis, a founding supporter of the group. Grants provide funding to enhance the career and skills development of women currently employed by an agency supporting adolescent girls in a Women’s Initiative funded program. Eligible applicants will have the opportunity to apply for financial support (up to $1,500 per fiscal year per organization) for professional development training and continuing education classes. To learn more, please contact kerry.conaghan@unitedwaycm.org.

Financial Literacy


The Women’s Initiative created the Dollar $cholar program in 2006 to empower girls to be financially independent and promote their safety and well-being. Lack of financial independence is a major barrier girls and women must overcome in leaving an abusive relationship.


The Dollar $cholar program brings together professional women from the community to mentor middle school girls and introduce them to the basic concepts of financial literacy. Girls not only learn about budgeting, credit, and savings, but meet successful women leaders and explore their college and career plans.


Dollar $cholar is offered to partner schools and youth agencies at no cost. In-person and virtual sessions are held with support from local colleges and women volunteers who commit to mentor for a day. Register today to be a Dollar $cholar mentor!


Download the WI Financial Literacy Guide for Girls to access free, online resources for adolescent girls and their families.

Dollar $cholar Program 16-Year Impact

  • 4,500 teen girls participated
  • 1,500 women mentors volunteered
  • 21 school and agency partners in 6 Central Massachusetts towns


2021 Virtual Participant Survey Results

  • 89% of girls said they enjoyed the program
  • 81% of girls said the program will impact how they spend and save money
  • 100% of mentors said they enjoyed the program
  • 94% of mentors said they would volunteer again

2022 Dollar $cholar Supporters


Avidia Bank


Savers Bank

North Brookfield Savings Bank

Workers Credit Union

The Fred Harris Daniels Foundation

Dollar $cholar Program Partners

Abby Kelley Charter School, Worcester
Assumption Sisters Girls with DREAMS Program, Worcester
Auburn Middle School, Auburn

Boys and Girls Club, Worcester

Burncoat Middle School, Worcester
Claremont Academy/University Park, Worcester
Forest Grove Middle School, Worcester

Girl Scouts – Geek is Glam, Worcester

Girls Inc, Worcester
Grafton Middle School, Grafton
Knox Trail Middle School, Spencer

Latino Education Institute – LASOS, Worcester

Learning First Charter School, Worcester
Leicester Middle School, Leicester

Notre Dame Academy, Worcester
Oak Middle School, Shrewsbury

St. Paul’s Catholic School, Worcester
Sullivan Middle School, Worcester
Worcester East Middle School, Worcester
Worcester Polytechnic Institute – Camp Reach Program, Worcester

Worcester Polytechnic Institute – Women in STEM Leadership Academy, Worcester

YWCA – Girls Choice, Worcester

Investing in Girls AllianInvesting-In-Girls-Alliance-Logoce

The Women’s Initiative is a founding partner of Investing in Girls Alliance, an outcome of the Mayor’s Task Force on Youth at Risk in the City of Worcester in 2007. The group’s mission is to improve services for middle school girls in Central Massachusetts through research, public education, advocacy, and collaboration among girl serving organizations and funding partners. Women’s Initiative serves on the Steering Committee and participates in research and collaboration efforts to help inform our funding strategy. Learn more

Sponsorship Opportunities


The Women’s Initiative offers sponsorships of up to $5,000 for activities that meet the following criteria:


  • Must be for an activity or an event that is aligned with and addresses the mission of the Women’s Initiative to ignite positive change for girls through philanthropy and women’s leadership.
  • Must be located in and serve the residents of the United Way of Central Massachusetts’s service area.
  • Must be a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization or have a partnership with a fiscal agent who does.
  • Must provide visibility to the Women’s Initiative and its focus.
  • May not be requested for an agency’s annual meeting.


Sponsorships are reviewed on a rolling basis and typically decided within 30 days.
Download application and guidelines: WI Sponsorship Request Form