Unity Care

Fall-Winter 2020
Project Type
Full team
Project Focus
Strategic Planning
Organization Type
Children, Youth & Families,
Human Services


For more than 27 years Unity Care has fought for equality and justice for youth and families in the foster care and juvenile justice systems throughout Northern California. Unity Care’s housing programs provide current and former foster youth, including probation youth, ages 16–21 with safe, secure, and affordable housing while the youth focus on their emotional, education, and employment goals. Unity Care integrates resources and support services to ensure the well-being of those it serves, creating a home-like environment where youth feel protected.


The housing crisis hits foster youth hard, with high rental costs facing youth aging out of foster care with already little in their pockets. Unity Care, like many nonprofits on the frontlines providing safety-net services, is experiencing challenges from unplanned expenses associated with the preparations for and addressing the COVID-19 outbreak. At the same time, demand for services is increasing and the program has grown 30% already this year. Unity Care would like to understand how best to dramatically increase its impact in the coming years.

Project Objectives

Unity Care enlisted ACT to help it create a strategic plan to guide its efforts over the next five years. This work included identifying best practices, considering whether to expand its scope to serve more homeless youth and young adults, evaluating the types of housing offered and the potential to add new geographies, and understanding funding requirements and sources.

Project Overview

Phase I – Discovery: The ACT team conducted over 40 in-depth interviews with key stakeholders, including the Unity Care executive staff, board members, and advisors, and with others in the Bay Area including peer organizations providing similar services, philanthropic funders, and government officials. The ACT team also conducted an online survey of all Unity Care staff members.

Phase II – Strategic Plan Development: The ACT team worked with Unity Care to designate a Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) made up of selected Unity Care executive staff and board members. ACT team members facilitated regular planning meetings to discuss key issues and define key components of the plan.

With ACT team support, the Strategic Planning Committee defined or redefined:

  • Unity Care mission, vision, and values;
  • Unity Care SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats);
  • Key Unity Care markets and services, with explicit mission and margin considerations;
  • Implications for the organizational structure.

Key Recommendations

With ACT team support, the Strategic Planning Committee decided to:

  • Focus on housing for youth transitioning out of foster care or the criminal justice system
  • Develop partnerships to deliver wrap-around services
  • Be mission-first and do the margin math on every program
  • Implement initiatives relating to talent, consistent program delivery, and funding

Final Report Outline

  • Mission, vision, values and SWOT
  • Key research findings
  • Initiatives, strategies and milestones
  • Accountability and roadmap