Compass started with a question: Is there a different way to do this work?

Is there a way that families with low income can reach the dreams and aspirations that they have for a better life, and make a real and permanent transition out of poverty?


For our founder, Sherry Riva, this was the question she found herself asking after a decade working in direct service organizations with low-income women and their families. While the work of providing emergency aid or transitional shelter was important and necessary, it revealed a troublesome reality in the ways that we address poverty in this country: even those we serve that might be deemed a success are still only one paycheck or one emergency away from being back in crisis.

And so, in 2005, Compass began as a humble undertaking to find an answer to that question.

After months of careful research, we launched our first program to provide financial coaching and a matched savings account to 10 families at a charter school in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Each week, Sherry sat down with mothers and fathers who shared the same dreams for their kids as she had for her own two young daughters, and worked with families to figure out how to garner the resources needed to make those dreams a reality.

By consistently listening to the families we serve and learning from them, our work has continued to grow. And all along the way, we’ve watched and researched carefully to drive towards an answer to that original question – to identify just what combination of knowledge, skills, and supports are necessary so that families with low income can build a pathway out of poverty.

In so doing, we’ve developed a reputation for focused, disciplined execution on what it is that we’ve learned how to do very well. And we’ve positioned ourselves to share what we’re learning in ways that can reshape how we address poverty in this country.