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United Way shifts gears with giving to region's community nonprofits
Economic mobility at center of funding programs
Published Thursday, June 7, 2018 6:11 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

One thing won’t fix Charlotte’s upward economic mobility issues.

United Way of Central Carolinas announced Thursday an investment of $24.5 million to 110 organizations and initiatives throughout the area. It represents a continuation of their strategy to improve the city’s last-place ranking among the 50 largest U.S. cities where people born into poverty has little chance of improving their financial situation. Funding is split between $16.3 million in United Way’s community impact strategy and $8.2 million in donor-directed funding.

“United Way has changed its strategy over the last couple of years to focus on economic mobility, and fund the issues and the programs that we are feel are best going to be aligned to meet those needs,” Chief Impact Officer Laura Clark said of the Unite Charlotte initiative. “In particular, we focused more on grassroots and new organizations that are primarily minority-led, and are often working in the neighborhoods that need the services and the programs the most. That’s been a real shift for United Way, and we’ve done two rounds of that type of funding.”

Focal points of UWCC’s funding fall on education, particularly early childhood education, health and quality healthcare access, as well as financial stability.

“Making change within an institution can be hard, but we believe that as the largest private health and human services funder that we really do need to lead in that charge,” Clark said. “You see these initial investments in Unite Charlotte and in United Neighborhoods, so we’re doing that while at the same time we’re continuing to support the safety net in our community, and the basic needs organizations that are providing the most critical services to families and children in need during times of crisis, but at the same time also doing this other work in areas of early childhood education, mental health, access to healthcare services, financial stability.

“You have to meet a community where they are, and the reality is, because our community is 50th out of 50 in economic mobility, it still needs those safety net services, but at some point we also have to start to look up stream, and say ‘what can we do from a prevention and early intervention standpoint to reduce the chance that people are ever going to need those safety net services.”

Said Executive Director Sean Garrett: “Every single year we review our investments, and based on changes in our community, based on the work that our partners are doing, we can course correct.”

United Way began funding Unite Charlotte grants in response to the 2016 police shooting death of Keith Lamont and resulting unrest. BLKTECHCLT, a platform designed to make Charlotte’s tech scene inclusive, and Profound Gentlemen, an education centered nonprofit supporting male teachers of color, are among this year’s recipients. Each organization received $15,000 in funding.

“The goal was to bring new partners to the table that had not had access to funding like that from United Way,” Clark said. “We wanted to open the doors. We wanted to get new people to the table with new ideas that were on the ground really doing the work in the communities that most needed it.”

Profound Gentlemen’s grant will go toward two programs: PG Grant Program and Code Orange, both of which are heading into their second year.

“One of the biggest challenges that we face is how do we continue to provide resources to teachers,” co-founder Jason Terrell said. “This Unite Charlotte funding will be used for those resources.”

The PG Grant Program is a response to the needs of teachers. They provided four micro-grants to teachers last year, and hope to introduce an application process this year for expanded funding.

“We get requests literally every day for basic school supplies, sporting equipment, extracurricular activities, curriculum and books,” Terrell said. “One of our educators wanted to do a book study with his kids, but needed funding. We want to be able to provide funding to educators so they don’t have to go into their own pocket’s to fund those programs.”
Code Orange identified five Charlotte-Mecklenburg teachers, particularly in the Harding University High School area, to start student groups.

“These student groups focused on social and emotional learning, college exploratory activities and really centering around how to navigate being a young male in school,” Terrell said. “We gave them a curriculum. We want to expand that program from five to 10 groups.”



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