The changes to the our traditional Investment Process represent the next step in a multi-year evolution, triggered by the adoption of the Child Well-Being Agenda in 2016, the increased role of the data in the assessment process and the need to strengthen our grantmaking practices to best position us to achieve our goal of improving the lives of more than 250,000 children by 2027.
- A more intuitive, web-based software will make grant submission and approval easier and transparent, deadlines clearer, data accessible and impact visible for both United Way and applying agencies.
- A stronger focus on programs, place-based work, and collaboratives that have the greatest impact on improving child well-being scores and the lives of more than 250,000 children by 2027. Grants will be made in the Investment Priority area (Strong Learners, College and Career Ready, Economic Stability, Brighter Future)
- In addition to program-based grants, we will make general operating grants to provide grantees more flexibility to provide services and adjust their operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last Fall, United Way embarked on a Redesign Process for grantmaking. The process was facilitated through interviews with key foundation leaders and other United Ways that have made a significant shift in their grantmaking priorities to focus more on place. A Redesign Investment Taskforce was also formed and comprised of executive leaders from national, local foundations, and United Way leadership volunteers. In addition to recommendations on grantmaking strategies to achieve our goal, we received input on a new grants management system.
During our research of best practices in grantmaking, we learned many United Ways have moved to a process with an increase in staff participation in the process. Our staff will conduct the due diligence and vetting with our Community Engagement Committee making the final decisions. This is a move away from the general volunteer-led/staff-managed process of past years.
The new process benefits grantee partners. First, the new web-based platform for grant applications will be less labor intensive and more transparent. Additionally, United Way will begin implementation of a portfolio management approach by United Way staff that builds and strengthens relationships with grantee partners. Grantees should experience communications and engagement that is proactive and regular cadence that will provide helpful information. Another benefit of this approach is that United Way staff will learn about the promising practices, emerging needs of partners and/or potential partnership opportunities outside of the grant making cycle.
Grants will be more focused on “place” – specifically, areas of low and very low child well-being. Investments will also be made to increase the capacity of partner agencies to operate more effectively in those areas, which are often more challenging areas to work. With a goal of changing the lives of more than 250,000 children by 2027 in the low and very low areas of child well-being, we must be intentional in the programs and resources that we invest in throughout Greater Atlanta’s 13-county region.
Because advisory boards are as unique as the county they represent, it is important to create a model that has a degree of flexibility within the grantmaking process. Building awareness and engagement in low & very low Child Well-Being communities will be an integral part in the enhanced model. Regional Directors will work with their respective Advisory Boards to ensure the local Child Well-Being priorities set are directly aligned to one of the Investment Priority areas (Strong Learners, College Career Ready, Economic Stability, Brighter Future) Providing three approaches with parameters empowers the local advisory board to select the approach that best serves their county.
- SPARK Prize – This approach involves a shark-tank style competition where local agencies, groups and individuals will compete for local grant dollars. Advisory Board will identify help identify agencies for competition and community members to serve as SPARK Prize judges. Local staff will provide direction, selection criteria and overview.
- Community Participatory Grantmaking - This approach gives advisory boards the opportunity to create deeper connections and broaden their understanding of the low & very low Child Well-Being communities in their respective counties. Utilizing existing/current data/reports [e.g. Kids Count, community needs assessment] to identify potential agencies that are focusing on low and/or very low Child Well-Being zip codes addressing work in one of the four Investment Priority Areas will be key. Regional Development staff will drive and manage this local grant-making process. Decision-making will include contributions from residents in low & very low CWB communities and advisory board members.
- Strategic Partnership - This approach increases UW visibility in the community to more than a fundraiser/grant-maker. Through targeted partnerships we can demonstrate our thought leadership, convening/collaborating and engagement with a diverse group of stakeholders. An example of such partnership could be joint grantmaking with another funder to address a community issue that is clearly aligned to one of the Investment Priority Areas. The implementation of this approach is staff driven; Regional Directors will determine when this approach is appropriate. In addition to potential media coverage, such partnerships will support the development of stories - demonstrating impact that goes beyond direct service.
The first of multiple grant cycles began in July 2020 with final grant decisions announced in late August 2020.