Model & Strategy

Compass Working Capital provides incentive-based financial coaching and savings programs that empower working, low-income families to build assets, achieve their financial goals and become financially secure. More broadly, Compass seeks to build a leading nonprofit financial services organization that promotes financial security and economic mobility for working poor families by influencing field-related practice and policy.

Compass is the first nonprofit organization in the U.S. to launch an asset building model for the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, an employment and savings program for families who live in federally subsidized housing – a market with the potential to reach approximately 1.6 million eligible households nationwide. The Compass FSS model identifies and invests in working, low-income families who seek to build a strong financial future. The program couples financial coaching and education with a powerful earnings and savings incentive to help participants increase their income, build assets, establish a strong credit history, access high quality financial products and reduce their reliance on public assistance.

At a Glance
Founded: 2005
Founder & Executive Director: Sherry Riva
Systemic Poverty
Location of work: Domestic, Northeast
Compass Working Capital
Boston, MA
Where families Aspire. Plan. Invest.
Sherry Riva of Compass Working Capital
Meet Sherry Riva

Sherry Riva is the Founder and Executive Director of Compass Working Capital (“Compass”). Sherry founded Compass after more than a decade working with various direct service organizations that served low-income women and families, including several years running a transitional shelter for women in Seattle, WA. During this time, Sherry observed first-hand the cycle of poverty that traps many working poor families. She launched Compass, an organization rooted in the anti-poverty and asset development field, to empower working poor families to build savings and assets as a pathway out of poverty.

Sherry is part of the 2015 class of GLG (Gerson Lehrman Group) Social Impact Fellows joining 12 world-leading innovators and nonprofit leaders. Sherry was also a 2013 recipient of Citi’s Community Development Innovation and Impact Fund. In 2013, Compass was selected to the Social Impact 100, the first-ever, broad index of U.S. nonprofits with proven results and strong potential to scale.


A multi-year, quasi-experimental study of Compass’s program concluded that participants earned more income and received fewer welfare payments than their matched peers. They also achieved positive credit and debt outcomes that exceeded benchmarks.

An interim cost-benefit analysis found that participants gained more than $10,000 in increased income over a five-year period as a result of participation in the program, at a net cost to the government of only $276 per participant.

In 2018, Compass leveraged its on-the-ground expertise to help pass federal legislation that will expand the scope and impact of an asset-building program for families living in federally subsidized housing, and increase federal funding for the program.