How does an organization with a proven model determine how best to spread its impact in a sustainable, deliberate way?


uAspire is a Boston-based nonprofit that partners with schools and community organizations to provide free financial aid advice and advocacy to young people and families to help them overcome the financial barriers to higher education. This model has proven effective: uAspire has helped students and their families secure over $220M in financial aid over the last five years. Like many other organizations with an innovative model that produces strong results in a localized area, uAspire wanted to explore options for growth and determine how best to scale its impact across the country. After being named a Root Cause Social Innovator in 2009 and working with us in 2010 to define and articulate its goals for growth, uAspire realized it needed more in-depth assistance in order to develop a rigorous plan for how to achieve these goals.

Project Overview

Working closely with both senior staff and board members, Root Cause helped uAspire develop a plan to achieve national impact by first using a branch office approach to expand its model to additional cities, and then using its increased stature and structure to influence other college access leaders to further spread its work. To ensure success of the plan, our consultants developed a framework for spreading the model as well as a staffing and board plan for the national office and for local sites in order to support this framework, along with the corresponding financial projections. Root Cause also defined a model for the lifecycle of a uAspire city, defining how each site would be developed as well as the relationship between local sites and the national office and the key implications for the national organization.


uAspire has used Root Cause's work as a roadmap throughout its growth process and has secured significant new funding to support its work, including $700,000 from the Kresge Foundation to seed its growth. Today, uAspire has five sites in Massachusetts and Florida, with a new site in the San Francisco Bay Area scheduled to launch in January of 2014, and has started providing training and technical assistance to school districts, nonprofits, and college access organizations. The organization continues to produce strong results: uAspire leverages $62 in financial aid for every dollar invested in one-on-one senior college affordability advising, amounting to more than $85M for the class of 2012. In addition, uAspire recently influenced the creation of a financial aid “shopping sheet,” produced by the United States Department of Education, that will provide more clarity for students and families to compare their financial aid options. By working toward its growth goals, uAspire is making rapid progress toward making it possible for countless young people to afford college in this country.

Relevant expertise and smart problem solving tools.


College Access

This report includes an overview of the social issue, an investment recommendation, information on the return on investment, and ways to take further action. READ MORE

Root Cause understands that sustainable growth and scaling is best achieved with a rigorous plan backed by collective decisions, market evidence, and stakeholder support. If you are looking for help scaling your organization’s impact, fill out the form below.

Like what you see? Contact us

To schedule an initial phone conversation about your project, fill out
this form.

Or contact Louisa Jacquinto at
or 617.294.6801.