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United Way alters funding framework and processes to better serve community

May 25, 2017


United Way of Northeast Florida is making changes to its funding practices during the next year in order to broaden the organization’s reach and respond more effectively to community needs.

The changes, which will begin this summer, will affect how area nonprofits can apply for and receive United Way funding and will define which community challenges United Way seeks to impact through its community partners.

“Communities are not static, they are dynamic, changing places,” said Michelle Braun, President and CEO of United Way of Northeast Florida. “Our community’s needs are changing, our nonprofit sector is changing and charitable giving in our community is changing. 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.”

The changes are driven by various factors, Braun said. Increasingly, organizations need to collaborate and work together to tackle community challenges, meaning United Way must have greater flexibility in how and what it funds.  And 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 in order to drive results.

New Funding Priorities

In recent years, United Way has prioritized funding in three areas: education, family financial stability and health. Going forward, United Way will strategically invest in five priority areas:

  • Basic Needs
  • Youth Success
  • Financial Stability
  • Health
  • Neighborhoods

First to be rolled out is the Basic Needs priority area, with the goal of ensuring that basic needs are met for all in Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and Northern St. Johns counties. Basic Needs funding will support:

  • Programs that provide temporary food assistance, emergency shelter, utility assistance, emergency financial assistance, clothing, and disaster response services to individuals in an immediate crisis situation;
  • Programs that provide legal assistance and emotional support to individuals in a unique situation such as a medical crisis or domestic violence;
  • Programs that provide health screenings and education screenings, assistance for persons with disabilities and/or developmental delays, and senior programs promoting independence and healthy lifestyles.

United Way has supported such programs for years, but they have been bundled in other priority areas where they often did not fit well.

“We recognize that providing a night of shelter or feeding the homeless may not change long-term community conditions in the moment,” said Phyllis Martin, Head of Community Impact and Strategic Investments, “but it is nonetheless important. Individuals in crisis need emergency services and we, as a community, need to ensure that individuals have access to those services. That is the heart of United Way.” Letters of Intent for Basic Needs Funding are currently being accepted online through June 2, 2017.  Nonprofit organizations interested in applying should visit:  unitedwaynefl.org/funding

Eligible organizations will be invited to submit a full online application, which is due by August 11, 2017.

New Funding Process

With the launch of the Basic Needs application process, United Way is opening all of its funding opportunities to any 501(c)3 nonprofit organization providing service within Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau or Northern St. Johns counties.

This is a departure for United Way, which heretofore has 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,” Braun said. “By opening the doors to more applicants, we hope to see new ideas and approaches to solve our community’s toughest challenges.”

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.


Timeline for changes

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.

Basic Needs applications will be submitted online by August 11 and awards will be announced in October. Funding will begin in January 2018.

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. Funding decisions will be announced in April 2018 and funding will begin in July 2018.

The neighborhoods funding priority will be the last to be addressed, with parameters developed in the second half of 2018.

United Way officials began informing its donors and current grantees about the changes in late March.

“Change can be hard, complicated and sometimes tedious, but the results are worth the effort,” said Pat Geraghty, CEO of Florida Blue who chairs 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.”


For more information and frequently asked questions, visit: unitedwaynefl.org/funding/faqs