Dallas Nonprofit Organizations Helped And Hurt By New United Way Grant Process

December 1, 2011  


By Lauren Scheinin

The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas has seen a six percent increase in the number of donors and contributions in 2011, allowing them to disperse nearly $25 million to 77 nonprofit service providers.

Despite the increase, however, United Way has either decreased or stopped providing funds for 31 organizations in the Dallas area, resulting in budget cuts, some layoffs and a scramble for new money.

“We have an important program that needs to be strengthened and right now it is a lot weaker than I want it to be,” said Diane Jones, the associate executive director of Citizens

Development Center in Dallas, one of the organizations that lost funding from the United Way. Her center provides employment and training to over 150 individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities

The Citizens Development Center’s budget decreased by $200,000 this year. The organization now serves about 40 percent fewer people in their employment program and had to cut back on some of the benefits they were providing.

United Way officials say they stopped or reduced funding for some organizations in order to focus on education, income and health issues. They changed their grant process to allow any nonprofit to compete for money for programs that focus on the three areas. The organization picked up 19 new beneficiaries this year that provide services in these areas.

“Each year our campaign income has increased slightly, and it may not have increased as much as it would have if we were in good economic times, but we’ve raised more money every year,” Susan Hoff, United Way vice president of community impact said.

For the 2011 year, the United Way received proposals for grants from more than 160 different organizations.

Dallas Challenge Inc., one of the new organizations picked up by the United Way, helps more than 6,700 youth a year stay on the right track by urging them to stay in school and avoid destructive behaviors, drugs and alcohol.

Funded by state and county grants and an annual campaign, Dallas Challenge Inc. has been able to provide a new program, Smart Decisions, because of the $45,000 it received from United Way.

“Because of the new funding from the United Way, we will be able to serve more children than in the past,” Vicki Keifer, the Dallas Challenge Inc. director of development said.

The new program teaches children aged 12 to 17 how to obtain and manage money legally, and the importance of education as it relates to earning money in the future.

Camp Summit, an organization that offers weeklong and weekend camp sessions for adults and children with mental and physical disabilities, lost $130,000 in United Way funding.

Carla Weiland, the CEO of Camp Summit, said her organization has been very careful with their money for the past few years fearing they would not receive money because of the new United Way grant process.

2011 was the first year that United Way allowed any nonprofit to apply for program funding.

“We’ve seen a shift in how we’re being funded, so we really just tried to structure ourselves in a way to not get into any trouble,” Weiland said.

Camp Summit brings in revenue through small program fees, a small amount of designated United Way funding, direct mailing and two annual fundraising events.

Last year, the 64-year-old overnight camp in Dallas added nine weeks of camp services in the fall, which helped bring in money. Weiland hopes the expansion will help them increase funding over the years.

“Even though we were a year-round facility before, with the new program we are offering we are being taken more seriously, and hopefully it will help bring in money from funders and foundations,” Weiland said.

The open application process for 2012 United Way grants ended Nov. 7 and officials report they received applications from about 150 organizations.

Around 200 volunteers will now review the applications and make site visits to determine if the proposal fits within the long-term goal of the United Way.

With funding decisions announced in May, Diane Jones of the Citizens Development Center is remaining hopeful that they will receive funding for 2012.

“We’ve been able to continue our program without them this year, but we are definitely a lot stronger with their support,” she said.

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