With the fiscal year coming to a close in June, the United Way of Southeast Missouri is now accepting applications for their next 3-year grant cycle.
According to executive director Elizabeth Shelton, any non-profit organization in the community can apply, as long as they are presenting a program that supports United Way’s focus on education, income, and health. With this particular grant cycle, they’re interested in programs that will help support financial stability and independence for citizens in their service area.
Shelton says a 3-year cycle helps both the United Way and their partners better determine which programs create long-term change.
“It enables [our partners] to have a little more budgeting stability, and also have a greater amount of time to demonstrate the success and impact of the programs we’re investing in,” says Shelton. “And, they get to see change in those programs that are going beyond just meeting immediate needs.”
Shelton says this method is what sets them apart from being ‘just a pass-through community chest,’ which, for a long time, was how it functioned.
That is, until United Way organizations across the country developed what’s called an ‘impact model.’
“Instead of just investing in individual charities, non-profits, and agencies, we invested in programs,” says Shelton.
One example would be through United Way’s education initiative.
“10 years ago, the Missouri high school graduation rate was only 71%. Cape Public Schools were just below that,” says Shelton.
With the help of local partners and the school system, they created a coalition to raise that graduation rate by investing in programs for every age group.
“By the time they get to high school, that’s not when the problem just suddenly occurs. And everything we read talks about the importance of early childhood education,” says Shelton.
The graduation rate, since 2009, was raised from 68% to 88%. This was accomplished through the Read to Success literacy program, EduCare, acquiring counselors and social workers, and mentoring programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“We are on track to be at our goal of 90% by 2020, and it’s a huge accomplishment for our community and our students,” says Shelton.
Since creating their 3-year cycle in 2016, Shelton says they have simplified the application, allowing an easier process for smaller organizations. And, upon showing interest, applicants will receive a unique link from United Way where they will further the application.
The decision on which organizations will receive grant money is not made by the United Way staff, but by volunteers throughout their service area. Each application is reviewed three times to ensure objectivity.
The grant application window closes April 12.
For more information on the application or on volunteering, visit www.unitedwayofsemo.org call 573-334-9634.