United Way to award $34.4 million in 2015

Funding plan aims to increase school readiness, prevent high school dropout and lift families out of poverty

BOSTON – Beginning July 1, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley (UWMBMV) will award $34.4 million to support community partners and strategies that are most effective in increasing school readiness, preventing high-school dropout and creating more opportunities to lift families out of poverty.  United Way’s Board of Directors has approved a comprehensive plan that includes 1) funding a network of 185 high-performing community-based organizations focused on these issues; 2) leveraging federal, state and private grant dollars; 3) investing in emerging human service delivery models; and 4) advancing public policy efforts to ensure lasting change.

“This is a strong plan designed to tackle some of the most complex, entrenched issues in our region,” said Andrew Dreyfus, Board Chair of UWMBMV and President and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.  “We are excited to take our plan and future results ‘on the road’ both to thank the 60,000 donors and corporate partners who are making it possible and to rally even more individuals and businesses in our region to get behind it and accomplish even more.”

“The Commonwealth spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year on special education for children who did not get the right start, unemployment for young adults who did not graduate high school, and homeless shelters and motels for families who cannot afford stable housing,” said Michael K. Durkin, UWMBMV President. “The funds we are committing to the community today through a mix of performance-based funding for agency partnerships, grant revenue and innovative initiatives will achieve targeted, meaningful results for children, youth and families and will prevent costlier interventions later.”

Increasing School Readiness

UWMBMV will award $12.7M in early-education efforts that meet high-quality standards established by early childhood experts and research.

  • In the next year, United Way will fund 48 partner agencies to help ready more than 8,000 children for kindergarten and to provide an additional 7,500 children with social or emotional challenges the supports they need to stay on track.  United Way will also help almost 2,000 early care providers to better support children with these challenges.  Partner agencies will also provide over 5,000 parents and caregivers with skills and information so that they can help their children learn, grow and thrive.
  • United Way, the Barr Foundation, Children’s Hospital, Partners HealthCare and other funders will invest $550,000 in Thrive in 5, a public-private partnership created by UWMBMV with the City of Boston in 2008. Thrive in 5 is working with community-based organizations to engage close to 4500 parents as advocates for their children’s early learning and healthy development in five Boston neighborhoods, and with Mayor Martin J. Walsh to reach his goal of universal Pre-kindergarten in Boston.  Thrive in 5 has collaborated with multiple partners and community-based organizations around school readiness efforts that have resulted in an increase in the percentage of young children entering kindergarten with strong early language and literacy skills, a key element of school readiness, from 54% in 2009 to 63% in 2013.
  • United Way has been tapped by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to administer up to $4M in Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) grants in 2014 and 2015 to elevate the quality of early education programs across the state.

Ensure more youth graduate on time

UWMBMV will award $12.1M to high-quality community-based organizations that help student transition successfully from grade to grade, which, experts believe, is critical in preventing high school dropout.

  • In the next year, United Way will fund 95 partner agencies to provide academic support to almost 13,000 young people. Funds will also place over 3,500 youth in one-to-one mentoring relationships and ensure that over 11,000 teens avoid risk behaviors that jeopardize their success both in and out of school.  Partner agencies also will provide over 7,000 youth with leadership, work and life skills that prepare them to be productive, engaged citizens.
  • In addition to its funding of youth-serving agencies, United Way, through its nationally-recognized Summer Learning Collaborative, will fund partnerships between out-of-school time programs and school systems in seven school districts with high drop-out rates and low student test scores.  These partnerships will prevent more than 2,000 elementary students from losing skills gained during the school year over the summer, or “summer learning loss.”
  • United Way was also tapped by AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National Service and the Massachusetts Service Alliance to deploy a team of 15 AmeriCorps members in Lynn Public Schools and community agencies to help support English Language Learners (ELL) students and their families to help  reduce the dropout rate among immigrant students in that city.

Help create more opportunities to lift families out of poverty and prevent homelessness

UWMBMV will award $9M to agencies and initiatives that implement effective practices in workforce development, financial education and homelessness prevention.

  • In the next year, United Way will fund 59 partner agencies to help almost 7,000 adults get the skills and credentials they need for employment,  to help almost 3,000 adults get jobs, and to provide affordable housing and related supports to almost 18,000 families. United Way partner agencies will also educate and empower almost 40,000 low-income adults to make good financial decisions and/or access benefits and supports that help them move out of poverty.
  • In addition to funding housing and community-based organizations, UWMBMV will expand its network of Financial Stability Centers, currently operating in Lawrence, Lynn, Chelsea and Roxbury.  In the past year, these centers helped place more than 1,000 individuals in jobs and deployed innovative, integrated strategies to help families gain a more solid financial footing through financial education, budget coaching, and workforce development.
  • United Way will continue to provide free tax preparation services in 8 communities, which last year resulted in more than $10 million returned to families and communities through often-unclaimed earned income tax credits.

United Way began developing this comprehensive plan for the community over a year ago, and engaged more than 460 volunteers in the process of reviewing applications from over 200 community-based organizations across the region.  Applications were evaluated on 1) effectiveness of the organization’s programming and ability to achieve meaningful, measurable results; 2) sound governance and financials; 3) alignment with the community goals articulated by UWMBMV in its Request for Proposals; 4) quantity and scale of services provided; and 5) alignment with the geographic and community populations UWMBMV strives to serve.

Since 2007, United Way has used a performance-based funding model to provide the best possible stewardship of donor dollars throughout the funding cycle.  This model also relies on proportional funding; the more resources United Way raises, the more funding it can award to agencies providing these critical services in the community.

This year, United Way will also play a significant role in advocating for public policies that not only help children, youth and families, but actually transform how people are helped.  For example, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts named United Way, along with the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance and the Corporation for Supportive Housing, as partners for a new “Pay for Success” contract, to help reduce chronic homelessness among individuals across the state.  The organization will also award $629,000 to 21 organizations engaging in advocacy that ensures lasting change for children, youth and families.