United Way alters funding framework and processes


United Way of Northeast Florida is adopting new priority funding areas and opening all funding opportunities to any 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organizations within Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and northern St. Johns counties as part of its efforts to respond more effectively to community needs and broaden the organization’s reach.

“Our community’s needs are changing, our nonprofit sector is changing and charitable giving in our community is changing,” said Michelle Braun, president and CEO of United Way of Northeast Florida. “United Way needs to be responsive to these changes and, going forward, we need to be agile and nimble enough to do the most good where we are most needed.”

In recent years, United Way has prioritized funding in the areas of education, family financial stability and health. Moving forward, United Way will strategically invest in five priority areas, including basic needs, youth success, financial stability, health and neighborhoods.

The organization will first roll out the basic needs priority area, which will support programs providing temporary food assistance, emergency shelter, utility assistance, emergency financial assistance, clothing, and disaster response services to individuals in an immediate crisis. Funding for basic needs will additionally back programs that provide legal assistance and emotional support to individuals in situations such as a medical crisis or domestic violence. Programs offering health screenings and education screenings, assistance for people with disabilities and/or developmental delays and senior programs promoting independence and healthy lifestyles, will also be eligible for basic needs funding.

Organizations eligible for the basic needs funding area should submit their online applications by Aug. 11. The basic needs awards will be announced in October, with funding scheduled to begin in January 2018. The new application process will include mandatory workshops to ensure applicants understand clearly the funding area goals and the steps needed to apply. Technical assistance will be provided to those organizations that need it.

With the launch of the basic needs application process, United Way is allowing any 501(c)3 nonprofit organization providing services within Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau or northern St. Johns counties to compete for funding. This is a departure for the organization, which has previously engaged in negotiated grantmaking with a pool of about 50 grantees that has changed little through the years. Under the new process, funding will be competitive, with decisions based on the strength of the application and its alignment with the goals of the priority area.

“This is a major change for United Way,” added Braun, whose organization began informing donors and current grantees about the changes in late March. “By opening the doors to more applicants, we hope to see new ideas and approaches to solve our community’s toughest challenges.”

The changes in funding are driven by various factors, United Way representatives said. Increasingly, organizations need to collaborate and work together to tackle community challenges, they noted, meaning the organization must have greater flexibility in how and what it funds. In addition, changes in the corporate landscape suggest a decline in funding in the short term, meaning United Way must be more strategic with the resources it has to drive results.

To transition existing grantee organizations into the new environment, United Way will offer bridge grants to give the grantees time to adapt to the competitive landscape.

This summer, United Way will convene groups of stakeholders to develop the parameters for the youth success, financial stability and health funding priorities. With those established, the application process will begin in November 2017, and funding decisions will be announced in April 2018. Funding will begin for those priority areas in July 2018. The neighborhoods funding priority will be the last to be addressed, with parameters to be developed in the second half of 2018. For more information, visit http://www.unitedwaynefl.org/.

“Change can be hard, complicated and sometimes tedious, but the results are worth the effort,” said Florida Blue CEO Pat Geraghty, chairman of the United Way Board of Trustees. “These changes will help us be better stewards of our donors’ contributions, be better partners with our colleagues in the field and be better servants to those in need in our community.”