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 2020-2022 grant opportunity has closed. Our next grant cycle will open in 2022.

The 2019-2020 funding cycle awarded $213,593 in grants to 10 girls’ programs serving an estimated 574 girls:


Organization Program
African Community Education Program Express Yourself Program
Boys and Girls Club of Worcester Girls Voice
Family Health Center Girls on the Run @ Sullivan Middle
Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts BOSS Girls
Girls Inc. of Worcester Dear World: Voices of Worcester Girls
Girls Inc. of Worcester #GirlsWorld
LUK Crisis Center, Inc. Project Shine
Seven Hills Family Services Just Us Girls
Worcester State Foundation LASOS
YWCA Central Massachusetts & Girls, Inc. of Worcester Girls Promoting Safety



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 will 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 emily.mccann@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 helps young women understand basic money management skills and how practical finance savvy can improve their lives. Women mentors lead 8th grade girls in small groups through a day of engaging activities, games, and role-plays around the concepts of budgeting, credit, saving, and effective decision-making.


The program also exposes girls to successful women leaders, who serve as mentors for the day, and lets them experience a college campus – many for the first time. Dollar $cholar helps girls imagine their own possibilities and provides valuable knowledge for their future.


Dollar $cholar Conferences are held twice a year (Spring and Fall) in partnership with local middle schools and with support from local colleges and women volunteers who commit to mentor for a day.


Register to mentor at our next Dollar $cholar Conference. Details about our next Conference coming soon!


Download the Women’s Initiative Financial Literacy Guide for Girls to access free, online resources for adolescent girls and their families.

Dollar $cholar Program 13-Year Impact

  • 3,800 teen girls participated
  • 1,200 women mentors volunteered
  • 12 middle schools served in 6 Central Massachusetts towns


2019 Participant Survey Results

  • 98% of girls said they enjoyed the program
  • 88% of girls said the program will impact how they spend and save money
  • 100% of girls said they enjoyed time with their woman mentor
  • 100% of mentors said they enjoyed the program
  • 92% of mentors said they were prepared to be a Dollar $cholar mentor
  • 100% of mentors said they would volunteer again

2020 Dollar $cholar Supporters

Assumption College
Avidia Bank
Bay State Savings Bank
Country Bank
DCU Digital Federal Credit Union
Savers Bank
Webster Five

Dollar $cholar School Partners

Abby Kelley Charter School, Worcester
Assumption Sisters Girls with DREAMS Program, Worcester
Auburn Middle School, Auburn
Burncoat Middle School, Worcester
Claremont Academy/University Park, Worcester
Forest Grove Middle School, Worcester
Grafton Middle School, Grafton
Knox Trail Middle School, Spencer
Leicester Middle School, Leicester
Oak Middle School, Shrewsbury
Sullivan Middle School, Worcester
Worcester East Middle School, Worcester
Worcester Polytechnic Institute Summer Program, 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