WANDA: Education Equity Empowerment E3= Elevation

Building self efficacy and economic advancement for low income single mothers and beyond

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  • I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
  • I am over 18 years of age
  • My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
  • I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
  • My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States


  • Woman

Where are you making a difference?

California: San Mateo 94401, 94402, 94403, 94404, 94497
California: Santa Clara County

Focus Areas (required)

  • Development & Prosperity

Date Started

April 14, 2007

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)


  • $250k - $500k

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)


Twitter URL


Facebook URL


1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.

WANDA was founded in 2007 by three friends who combined their individual philanthropic and volunteer efforts to launch an initiative designed to assist single mothers to achieve financial self-sufficiency. They believed that supporting the single mother community would have the largest ripple effect on alleviating poverty across future generations. Based on this common mission, the three founders enlisted friends and colleagues to join them and form a Leadership Circle of donors. A number of early donors were single mothers themselves or raised in female-led households. WANDA has since become one of the only economic mobility programs dedicated exclusively to single mothers.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

6.6 million mothers in the US are poor and another 3.6 million live between 100-150 percent of the poverty line. The challenges of unequal pay and low wages that many women face is compounded by the additional responsibilities many mothers bear, particularly single mothers. Economic stability increases the chances for the children of single mothers to have a better education, better health and an opportunity to positively contribute to society.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

WANDA provides low income single mothers with a path towards self-sufficiency and a springboard for success through a program focused on “3Es” - Education, Equity, and Empowerment. Through Education, WANDA helps single moms build skills in understanding and investing in long-term assets and increased savings that will support their future. Through Equity, WANDA provides a 2:1 financial match towards investment in an asset such as: 1) home purchase; 2) retirement savings; 3) or college education for themselves or their children. Through Empowerment, WANDA offers coaching and access to resources through our faculty and extensive partner network. We provide opportunities for peer-based networking with successful women who have faced the same challenges. By supporting single mothers, we are helping to create opportunity for the most historically impoverished individuals within all populations. Most importantly, WANDA is providing tools for building self-efficacy among women to realize their full potential and ascend their socio-economic standing. The ripple effect of WANDA's E3=Elevate partner network will strengthen bonds among peers and influence the next generation of savers.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

WANDA evidence-based model influences positive, long-term behavior change among clients by establishing a monthly savings habit. We require in-person attendance to classes focused on financial literacy, career advancement and life skills that will support their ability to reduce debt and increase savings, advance their career path and incomes, and bond through a cohort-based network of success minded women facing the same challenges. Many women in the program not only change their economic behaviors, but they seek opportunity to advance their careers by asking for raises, investing in their education to support career transitions and achieve higher level positions, and pass those skills onto their children. Most moms open savings accounts for their kids, learn to navigate the financial aid/scholarship system and provide support for their children's education.

5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?

Low income single mothers have significant and unique barriers to financial success that include lack of confidence, time for career planning, access to mentoring and tech tools, face psychological and emotional isolation, and often times difficulties with children - all without knowing where to turn for help. Our holistic approach is uniquely focused on building a community of working single mother savers who draw emotional strength and build their confidence through peer support.

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • geography
  • work status
  • race/ethnicity
  • gender
  • socio-economic class

6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Other organizations may dedicate a component of their programming to supporting low income individuals but rarely focus on single mothers and many do not offer WANDA’s client-centered, holistic approach which underpins the success of our graduates. The core innovation of E3=Elevate is scalability of a peer-based model that provides a high-touch level of programming resulting in real time access to training, services, funds and peer networks. Strategic use of technology and social platforms will allow clients to create peer networks, share best practices, and customize their program journey.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

"Jane" was a homeless, single mother in a spiral of abusive relationships. Since joining WANDA, she now has a 732 point credit score, is in a six figure income household, is investing in her dream business, is happily married, and most importantly - she has grown tremendously into the woman she was meant to be. To date, WANDA has served over 300 single mothers. After just one year in the program, evaluations show consistent savings, increases in income of up to $14,000 annually and increased credit scores of up to 100 points among our participants. With over $1 million saved/invested among our graduates, 72% invested in college education, 41% opened retirement accounts, 13% started new businesses, and 13% purchased homes. Graduates all talk about the confidence they build as part of the peer network and how building that confidence continues to improve all areas of their lives.

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

WANDA will scale impact through partnerships with service providers in other geographies through a combination of licensing and open source of the E3=Elevate model inclusive of our curriculum, mobile app, and network building tools that will enable participants keep each other accountable, share successes and resources, and reward-based advocacy. E3=Elevate could be customized for each partner depending on their unique infrastructure and access to funds. The goals is that the only funds to be raised are matching funds while the rest of the program is easily embedded in existing programming.

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Organizational Growth
  • Franchising, Licensing, Accreditation

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Through our partnership network, WANDA has maintained low overhead focusing funds where it counts - on program and talent. We have built a very successful Leadership Circle to include stable multi-year investors. Once our partner innovation package is complete, cost will be geared towards program maintenance which is dependent on partner capacity and budget. We have a team of probono experts who have already completed a number of projects related to WANDA's program standardization.

10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

WANDA's Executive Director (70% FTE) brings more than fifteen years of experience to her role through her past work with growth-based nonprofits. Our Program Manager (50% FTE) is responsible for partnership and case management, and client recruitment. Our Evaluation Consultant created our survey, curriculum map and is conducting our outcome analysis. WANDA's Governance Council is a seven member (including the three founders) oversight committee comprised of public and private sector experts.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French)
  • Hispanic, Latino/a, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian)
  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian, etc)
  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Participated in previous Ashoka challenges
  • Ashoka page or contact


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