Social Finance and Five Philanthropic Funders Launch Pay It Forward Fund to Prepare Coloradans for Good Jobs
Colorado Gives Foundation, The Colorado Health Foundation, Gary Community Ventures, the Walton Family Foundation, and other local donors invest to help CO workers land in-demand jobs in IT, skilled trades, health care, and more.
DENVER and BOSTON — Today, the national nonprofit Social Finance announced the launch of the Colorado Pay It Forward Fund, a philanthropy-backed job training initiative preparing Coloradans for in-demand jobs in the state’s high-growth industries. The Fund is supported by Colorado Gives Foundation, The Colorado Health Foundation, Gary Community Ventures, Walton Family Foundation, and other local funders.
Colorado has two job openings for every unemployed worker. Many of these are good jobs in growing sectors—like IT, health care, and the skilled trades—that do not require a college degree for upward mobility. For the 27% of Coloradan workers who are STARs (Skilled Through Alternative Routes, rather than four-year degrees), these jobs offer a pathway to livable wages and increased economic opportunity.
The Colorado Pay It Forward Fund seeks to prepare more Coloradans for good jobs by identifying and growing the state’s ecosystem of high-quality training providers and removing financial barriers that prevent Coloradans—especially those from historically disadvantaged communities and people of color—from enrolling in training.
Like other Pay It Forward Funds across the nation, this revolving workforce fund provides outcomes-based loans for learners to enroll in high-quality training or to cover living expenses during training. In addition to offering zero-interest loans to learners, Colorado is the first Pay It Forward Fund by Social Finance to provide zero-interest working capital loans to training providers. All loan repayments are recycled back into the fund, or ‘paid forward,’ to support future learners, sustaining the impact of the invested funds.
The Colorado Pay It Forward Fund aims to leverage philanthropic, public, and private capital to demonstrate a more effective approach to workforce development—one that multiplies the impact of traditional grantmaking and serves as a model for future outcomes-based public workforce initiatives.
“We’re excited to work alongside Colorado’s leading philanthropists and training providers to more sustainably invest in upskilling Colorado’s workers,” said Michael Grossman, Managing Director of Impact Investments at Social Finance, the nonprofit designing and managing the fund. “By partnering with high-quality training programs, the Fund will support learners as they enter well-paying fields, provide a pipeline of skilled talent to Colorado employers, and accelerate the state’s economic growth.”
Seeded with $8 million, the Fund has already deployed capital to three inaugural training providers—Cross Purpose, ActivateWork, and CareerDash—who aim to collectively increase economic mobility and enable long-term career growth for more than 1,000 Coloradans.
CrossPurpose upskills Coloradans for high-growth jobs in a variety of fields, including health care, technology, and commercial truck driving. ActivateWork prepares Coloradans for in-demand jobs in IT that pay a living wage, ranging from IT support to DevOps to cybersecurity. CareerDash prepares Coloradans for attractive careers in business development and recruiting. Ascent Funding is originating zero-percent loans to learners in the CareerDash program.
“The [living expense] loan helped me be able to focus on my studies and not have to work full time to pay my bills,” said Tieran, a member of the Software Engineer Cohort at ActivateWork supported by the Colorado Pay It Forward Fund.
The Colorado Pay It Forward Program plans to partner with additional training providers in the coming months.
“We are enthusiastic about the Colorado Pay it Forward Fund because we firmly believe that fostering a conducive environment for talent to flourish is essential for the future of our economy. This work aligns closely with our B.O.L.D. 2026 Talent initiative, in which we aim to assist businesses in enhancing the talent pool in our area. We eagerly anticipate contributing to this endeavor and contributing to the community’s prosperity.” — Kami Welch, President & CEO, Arvada Chamber of Commerce
“It’s incredibly exciting to see Colorado launch an innovative new fund that pays for workforce programs, not based on the number of learners who enroll, but based on whether they subsequently secure a job with a livable wage. The Colorado Pay It Forward Fund has a strong commitment to equity, evidence, and proven impact. We are hopeful this will build momentum for broader outcomes-driven change across Colorado’s job training ecosystem.” — Roger Low, CEO & Co-Founder of the Colorado Equitable Economic Mobility Initiative
“We firmly believe in providing an inclusive opportunity for everyone to succeed, which is why we support free training until participants successfully graduate and find employment. We have also established financial incentives for training providers, encouraging them to assist learners not only in securing jobs but in finding positions that offer competitive wages. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the repayment of training costs does not become a financial burden for participants. If, unfortunately, someone is unable to find a well-paying job, they will not be burdened with the responsibility of repaying the loan. This approach not only benefits individuals but also has a positive impact on our society and community as a whole. By investing in professional skill development, we foster an environment where everyone has an equal chance to thrive and contribute meaningfully to our shared prosperity. Together, we can create a stronger, more inclusive society that uplifts and supports one another.” — Kelly Dunkin, President & CEO, Colorado Gives Foundation
“In the past, the student had to assume 100% of the risk of their education upfront, regardless of the post-education employment outcome,” said Ben L. Bynum, M.D., Senior Director, Impact Investing at The Colorado Health Foundation. “With the Colorado Pay It Forward Fund, philanthropy, employers, and training partners all share in the upfront education risk on a student’s behalf. If and only if a student succeeds in obtaining an agreed upon and successful employment outcome, then they/she/he must then repay their student loan back to the statewide fund.” — Dr. Ben L. Bynum, M.D., Senior Director of Impact Investing at the Colorado Health Foundation
“We’re committed to Colorado students and families leading choice-filled lives. This requires a new systems-level approach that shields students from risk and long-term debt while they pursue economic mobility. We can no longer afford to simply fund enrollment; we must instead fund the results students deserve and employers need.” — Julie Stone, Director, Family Economic Mobility, Gary Community Ventures
“We’re so honored and excited to have been chosen by Social Finance and the Pay It Forward Fund as a top training program in Colorado and to have the opportunity to provide our students access to these incredible loan options. There are hundreds of thousands of individuals in Colorado who want more from their careers but don’t know where to start. We believe through these partnerships and amazing finance options we can create real and sustainable paths for Coloradans to improve their lives and achieve family-supporting incomes.” — Bob Sherriff, CEO of CareerDash
“Our continued success as an organization is dependent upon deep partnerships with our employers. Thanks to the support of the Colorado Pay It Forward Fund, we have seen a significant increase in employer engagement and a surge in employer investment into our mission.” — Steve Steele, Vice President of Admissions, Recruitment, & Career Advancement at CrossPurpose
About Social Finance
Social Finance is a national nonprofit and registered investment advisor (SF Advisors, LLC). We work with the public, private, and social sectors to create partnerships and investments that measurably improve lives. Our Impact Investment team designs, launches, and manages impact-first investments. Our Advisory team partners with government and philanthropy leaders to implement data-driven programs for social impact. And through the Social Finance Institute, we aim to build the field and change systems through actionable research, communities of practice, and educational outreach. Since our founding in 2011, we have mobilized more than $350 million in new investments designed to help people and communities realize improved outcomes in workforce and economic mobility, health, and housing. Learn more at socialfinance.org.
Director of Media and Communications, Social Finance