United Way of Allegheny County launched open competitions for the best local programs in two of United Way's three focus areas: helping financially struggling adults and families and helping children, teens and young adults succeed. On December 9 United Way awarded grants to the best agencies serving seniors.
United Way will award $1.6 million in annual funding for multi-year grants (up to three years) for projects best able to help people achieve economic self-sufficiency. An additional $1.4 million is available for single year grants for programs and projects designed to help youth succeed.
Competing agencies will have to demonstrate that they are well run, financially sound, provide important services to populations with great needs, and are able to demonstrate measurable results for individuals and/or families. The purpose of the United Way grants is to address critical problems making Allegheny County a better place to live and work.
This competitive funding process is part of United Way's transformation to an allocation system based on measurable results. In June of this year, United Way began this three-year roll out of the new system, which is designed to respond to donors seeking the best use of their charitable donations.
“Agencies have responded with proposals of projects and programs that in many ways are improving or expanding services. United Way's open competition for funding has not only identified stronger, innovative programming among existing Impact Fund agencies,” said United Way board chair and president of the Pittsburgh Steelers Art Rooney, II, “but has also uncovered new partners with stellar services and results. We have raised the bar on our expectations for outcomes and results, and our community partners have overwhelmingly responded to the challenge.”
The competition for funding to help people in financial distress comes at a time when people are hurting due to the economic recession and will go hand in hand with the emergency grants that will now be available through Neighbor-Aid, a joint initiative of United Way and the Pittsburgh Foundation.
United Way of Allegheny County had identified the issue of financially struggling families as a critical need through its 2006-07 Community Needs Assessment report even before the recent financial crisis placed the issue in the spotlight. Key indicators of the need included:
• Since 1999, 31 percent fewer households could afford to rent or own homes in Allegheny County (when using the commonly accepted standard that the percentage of a person's income devoted to mortgage, rent, utilities and maintenance should not exceed 30 percent).
• Mortgage foreclosures increased from less than 2,000 per year in 1999 to more than 4,900 foreclosures in 2006.
• Utility terminations quadrupled between 2000 and 2005 and have continued to increase.
Since the completion of the Community Needs Assessment in April 2007 many conditions, including rising food and utility prices and unemployment, have worsened. Reports from agencies and United Way HelpLine requests (412-255-1155) show dramatically rising demands for food, shelter and job placement assistance.
“We are looking for financial stability programs that help families get back on their feet and take steps to secure a livable wage, live within their means and save for and plan for a secure future,” said United Way President Robert Nelkin. “In the youth area, we are seeking programs that prevent serious problems like school failure and violence, while giving youth hope and support so that they can be successful in school and life.”
The Requests for Proposals are available for download at www.unitedwaypittsburgh.org. To find out more or to register for an information and training session in January email firstname.lastname@example.org. Proposals will be due by February 2, 2009 at 5:00 p.m.