Changemaker Grants

Do you have an idea for changing the world — or at least your corner of it?

For more than 25 years, the United Way has been providing small grants — up to $2,500 — to help ordinary people accomplish extraordinary things to help their neighborhoods and their community.

Since 1995, United Way has provided grant money for 825 different projects that help to build stronger connections between people and that fill an important need — from starting a neighborhood cleanup program to establishing a community garden to providing hygiene items for the region’s homeless.

You don’t have to be part of an established non-profit organization to apply for a Changemaker Grant (formerly the Community Building Mini-Grants Program). These grants go to all-volunteer groups with annual budgets of less than $40,000 that have one thing in common: they have great ideas for building and helping their community. So if you are a member of a neighborhood association, a group of concerned parents, or a small group looking to do big things for your community, we urge you to contact us and apply. The United Way team will help you get started.


Grant Criteria

Projects should be engaging, community driven, solutions-focused, and foster unity through community action. Volunteer groups should identify creative solutions to problems in our communities. Projects should also have the potential for long-term impact.
Changemaker projects should be working towards supporting one of the following (with rare exceptions):

  • Family Resilience - Supporting families in building a healthy environment for children by honing their skills to withstand and rebound from inevitable life challenges.
  • Health Access - Increasing access to basic needs and strengthening physical, mental and social wellbeing to support safe and healthy communities.
  • Economic Mobility - Advancing pathways to financial stability and improved quality of life  by empowering people to make informed financial decisions.
  • Educational Opportunity - Promoting stable learning and enriching environments that contribute to lifelong success.

To be eligible for Changemaker Grants, groups and organizations must:

  • Be all-volunteer
  • Have an annual budget/income of $40,000 or less
  • Offer projects that are specific, small in scale and with a realistic plan to improve our local community
  • Have an all-inclusive membership and mission, i.e., does not exclude people on the basis of gender, race, religious differences, etc.
  • Be based in New Bedford, Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Freetown, Mattapoisett, Marion, Rochester, or Wareham

How we define a group

  • An established group made up of 3 or more people
  • A newly formed group made up of 3 or more people
  • Groups can be made up of children and youth, but must have at least 1 adult member
  • Can be  a “Friends of” group as long as the group can make the case for the need and the distinction is clear
  • Groups should not be a committee or task force of a larger coalition, initiative, collaboration, or project at another non-profit organization or business

Projects should...

  • Provide creative solutions to issues that are engaging, community driven, and foster unity through action
  • Raise awareness for a specific area of concern
  • Be small in scale, but have the potential for long-term impact
  • Be specific, innovative and achievable within 1 year
  • Engage citizens to address a need or issue of concern aligned with a United Way focus area

 All funds are disbursed on a reimbursement only basis. Legal incorporation 501(c)(3) is NOT required.

Beyond the Grant

United Way of Greater New Bedford is a leader in promoting volunteerism throughout the region. Through Changemaker Grants, all-volunteer groups are empowered to create positive change by identifying needs in their communities. In addition to the grants, Changemaker groups are further supported with skill-building workshops, networking opportunities, and the ability to recruit new volunteers to assist with their projects through Volunteer SouthCoast.


Applications are accepted at the beginning of each year. Check back in January for more information.

No, you don’t. You can be a member of a neighborhood association, a group of concerned parents, or a small group looking to do big things in Greater New Bedford. As long as you have at least 3 members and are fully volunteer run, you can apply.

There are some things we are not able to fund through Changemaker Grants. These include:  

  • Salaried or stipends for group members
  • Rent or utilities
  • Food – for sale or nonessential to the project
  • T-shirts and other promotional items that you plan to sell for fundraising purposes
  • Office equipment- computers, printers, laptops, etc.
  • Paid advertising
  • Insurance, Security, Police/Fire Detail
  • Application/Registration/Membership Dues/Fees
  • Scholarships, Pageants, Contests etc.
  • School-based field trips
  • Projects that are in and of themselves fundraising
  • Capital Improvements
  • All funds are disbursed on a reimbursement only basis. Groups must submit reimbursement requests via United Way’s CommunityForce platform over the course of the funding cycle.
  • Funded projects/events must begin after the date of award decision and reach completion in 1 year
  • Approved funds will be made available for reimbursement once grant agreements are signed
  • If you applied for funding from United Way of Greater New Bedford the previous year(s), you are eligible to submit a new application as long as you completed your previous project and submit a final progress report to United Way. Your group must have an all-inclusive membership, i.e., does not exclude people on the basis of gender, race, religious differences, etc.


Current Grantees

This year, $18,000 was awarded to 10 all-volunteer groups to complete projects encouraging preservation of the environment, addressing car safety for children, providing accessibility for all, promoting women in politics, and more.

The following groups were awarded funding this year:

Be the Solution to Pollution supports efforts to keep our community clean and maintain our shorelines from litter.

Cleanup of Agawam Mill Pond will purchase equipment necessary to monitor the water quality within the pond. 

ELECT SouthCoast provides three to four educational workshops a year as well as a "Meet the Candidates" networking event for women interested in politics. 

A collaborative project to grow healthy produce for the guests, residents, and neighbors of the Sister Rose Shelter. 

During the holidays, Ginger Girls will donate gingerbread kits to families in our community. 

Pinnacle Auto Sales will ensure the safety of children by providing car seats to avoid injury and health risks that can occur if a child is in an outdated or improperly installed car seat. 

Friends of the Mattapoisett Bicycle and Recreation Path refurbishes bikes available to children, adults, and families.

The Swifts Beach Improvement Association is rehabilitating a park so that it is a modern, all inclusive, ADA handicap accessible, multigenerational playground that also includes outdoor fitness equipment.

Walt's Mobile Closet partners with agencies and organizations in the Greater New Bedford area to provide free clothing, shoes, and essentials to anyone in need. 

If you are a current grantee needing to submit for reimbursement, you can submit reimbursement forms through the CommunityForce portal at


For more information about Changemaker Grants please contact Sarah Rose at 508-994-9625, ext. 218 or