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 three "Es" - Education, Equity, and Empowerment. Through Education, our curriculum helps moms understand and invest in long-term assets, and build skills towards increased savings and income 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. Our in-person and virtual tools build self-efficacy among women to realize their full potential and ascend their socio-economic standing. The ripple effect of E3=Elevation will strengthen bonds among peers across multiple geographies, 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's 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 support their ability to reduce debt and increase savings, advance their career path and incomes, and bond through a cohort-based network. Many participants 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 knowledge onto their children. >80% talk to their children about money and are able to set financial, career and children's success goals. 83% save over the match and report incomes >150% than at start/during the program.

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 moms have significant, unique barriers to financial success including lack of confidence, time for career planning, access to mentoring, face psychological and emotional isolation, and often difficulties with children - all without knowing where to turn for help. Our holistic approach is uniquely focused on building a community of working savers who draw emotional strength, develop accountability, and build confidence through peer support. We target women < 70% of local AMI.

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=Elevation is scaling a peer-based model that provides a high-touch level of programming with real time access to training, tools, services, funds and peer networks. Strategic use of technology and social platforms will allow partners and clients to create 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, leads/earns a six figure income, is investing in her dream business, is happily married, and most importantly - she has grown tremendously into the woman she was meant to be. WANDA has served over 300 single mothers with ripple effects on their children. After just one year in the program, pre/post evaluations show consistent savings, annual increases in income up to $14,000 and increased credit scores of up to 100 points. 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?

The E3=Elevation model, inclusive of our Train the Trainer curriculum and new "=Elevate App," could reach millions of impoverished single mothers geographically through community-based partners licensed as Administrators. They will be able to engage and track clients though the program, and allow clients to keep each other accountable, share successes and resources, and create reward-based advocacy. Support is customized depending on partner capacity and the goal is that the only new 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
  • Large Scale Partnerships
  • Other

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

WANDA built a successful donor circle to include stable multi-year investors and is exploring both licensing App usage, fee for administration of accounts, and community-led open source opportunities. Once E3=Elevation is complete, cost will be geared towards program maintenance which is dependent on partner capacity and matching funds (more raised = more matched). WANDA's team of probono experts have already completed a number of projects related to our program standardization alleviating cost.

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 +15 years of experience through her past work with growth-based nonprofits. Our Program Manager (50% FTE) is responsible for partnership/case management, and client recruitment. Our Evaluation Consultant designs our survey, curriculum map and outcome analysis. Our Governance Council is a seven member (including three founders) oversight committee comprised of public and private sector experts. We have a team of pro-bono App experience designers.

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

Organization name

Women's Achievement Network and Development Alliance (WANDA)

Program Design Clarity

WANDA's offers monthly classes taught by experts at a partner site during the first year (childcare provided) focused on financial literacy, career development and life skills. Moms make monthly savings (minimum $20) in a designated account. We match up to $2k for a total of $6k to invest in an asset. Moms network with alumnae and access coaches throughout the duration of the program and will be able to track their experience through the App.

Approach to financial wellbeing: does your project focus on creating financial wellbeing through innovating on any of the following?

  • education / literacy
  • entrepreneurship
  • investments
  • money transfer
  • saving

Innovation type: Please select which of the following types of innovation best characterize your work

  • Product innovation (Introduction of a good or service or improvements made to existing products)
  • Process innovation (execution of a new or considerably improved production or delivery method)

Partnerships in detail: tell us about your partnerships that enhance your approach.

Adaptive Path/Capital One is creating/testing our "=Elevate App" pro-bono. Mid Pen Housing, our current site partner has over one hundred properties in 11 counties and is interested in embedding/co-funding the model which we then hope to scale through other subsidized housing agencies. Housing is especially critical in the high cost state of California and effects the majority of low income singe moms. We have met with United Way and other Bay Area agencies with reach interested in our model.

If you won the Unlocking ₵hange Challenge, how would you invest the prize money of $50,000?

The $50,000 will support maximizing the "=Elevate App" to create a custom experience for partners (research into community-based resources/funding), growing/branding our network of community partners interested in adapting E3=Elevation, and sourcing partners in California and across the nation.

Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions has the project received?

In 2018, WANDA was featured on the NBC evening news. In 2016, WANDA was profiled in the San Mateo Daily Journal and on NBC Bay Area. We received the Silicon Valley Chapter “Distinguished Volunteer Fundraisers Award," Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2009. We received Opportunity Fund’s Innovation Award in 2008. Recipients of the Bella Vista League and 100 Women Foundation grants.

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Overall, would you champion this entry as a excellent example to move forward to the next phase of the challenge and become a semifinalist?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Is this entry IMPACTFUL on financial wellbeing?

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry SUSTAINABLE?

Yes, absolutely! - 25%

Yes/maybe - 25%

Maybe - 25%

Maybe/no - 25%

No - 0%

5. What are some of the HIGHLIGHTS of strengths of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 100%

Clarity of Model - 75%

Clarity of Writing - 75%

Idea Originality - 25%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 50%

Impact measurement - 25%

Impact Potential - 75%

Financial Sustainability - 25%

Team - 75%

Partnerships - 25%

Potential to scale - 25%

6. What are some of the areas for IMPROVEMENT of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 0%

Clarity of Model - 0%

Clarity of Writing - 0%

Idea Originality - 0%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 0%

Impact measurement - 0%

Impact Potential - 0%

Financial Sustainability - 66.7%

Team - 0%

Partnerships - 33.3%

Potential to scale - 100%

1 comment

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