FROM UNITED WAY OF LANE COUNTY - Thanks to contributions from local donors, four coalitions now have substantial funding to tackle systemic challenges in Lane County, from housing and violence prevention to childcare and food security.
Be Your Best Cottage Grove, Hope and Safety Alliance, FOOD for Lane County, and Lane Community Health Council, each acting as the backbone for their respective coalitions, received a $75,000 grant from United Way on July 1, for a total of $300,000 in community donations going back to Lane County communities.
The funding comes from United Way of Lane County’s new “Community Change Coalition” grants, aimed at bolstering collaborative efforts that formed in response to recent challenges like COVID-19.
“Over the last two years, we’ve seen many local organizations really step to meet changing needs, forming new and diverse partnerships to better tackle community challenges holistically,” said Jared Pruch, United Way’s Director of Community Impact. “Coalition work is challenging, and often underfunded in the philanthropic sector. United Way wants to ensure these partnerships have the resources they need to be successful, so we’ve committed to investing in their work over the next year with these grants.”
One such project is the South Lane Child Care Coalition. To address the lack of childcare in South Lane, local organizations want to better understand the challenges unique to their community. Funding will allow this coalition—comprised of Be Your Best, South Lane School District Family Resource Center, Family Relief Nursery, Lane Quality Connections, Cottage Grove Chamber of Commerce, local libraries, schools, nonprofits, and more—to assess high-priority needs and opportunities to bolster the availability and accessibility of childcare in this rural region of Lane County. This assessment will lay the foundation for pursuing future projects and strategies.
In addition to providing funding, United Way will regularly convene the coalitions and offer technical assistance to support the projects over the next year.
Each of the following four coalitions received $75,000 grants for the 2022-2023 year:
The Cottage Grove Sentinel reached out to United Way’s Director of Community Impact, Jared Pruch, to learn more about the organization’s Community Change Coalition grants, as well as Samantha Duncan from Be Your Best Cottage Grove to learn more about how this funding opportunity might impact the South Lane County area.
This week, read the transcript from The Sentinel’s Q&A session with Jared. The Sentinel will be following up with Part II of this story, featuring the interview with Samantha Duncan, next week.
NOTE: The following interview transcript has been lightly edited.
S. GLASS: Hello, Jared. Can you tell me a little bit about United Way’s new grant initiative?
J. PRUCH: Yeah. So, July 1 is the start of our new fiscal year. So, we have just announced this new cohort of grantees that are receiving what we call a “coalition grant,” and it’s really in line with the kinds of community investments that we've been doing for a number of years now. We’ve been doing these in recognition of the fact that many of the challenges that we face in our community are just too big for one organization to tackle. They are one of the ways that United Way is investing in multiple organizations that are coming together to work collectively to address issues that they all care about. We're providing these grants to groups of organizations that are working together towards a shared goal in a collective and coordinated way.
S. GLASS: That sounds like a great approach; then you have people coming to the table that have different skill sets and different perspectives. If they can agree on a way to move forward to tackle some of these large-scale issues, then you might just have something there.
J. PRUCH: Yeah, exactly. That's the hope. We have so many wonderful nonprofits in Lane County, and this is a way to try to provide them some support to make sure that their individual activities are mutually reinforcing and that they have the resources and the time they need to be in dialogue with each other.
S. GLASS: Were the coalitions in place before this grant funding came available?
J. PRUCH: So, the answer is that, for most of these coalitions, they were basically ideas that were ready to happen; they were kind of aspirational. For instance, the partnership that FOOD For Lane County is leading, there were folks that had really been wanting to work together for years… Most of these grant [recipients] fall into that category: it's not people coming together to have a conversation for the first time, but it's the first time that they're actually receiving a grant to implement some of the ideas that they've been talking about for a number of years.
S. GLASS: It sounds like some of these coalitions that United Way is supporting are actually going to be completely new forces of good?
J. PRUCH: Yeah, there are these incredible groups of community leaders who are in conversation with each other all the time. And this is just, again, a way for [United Way] to provide them some resources to take new innovations and new ideas about how they can work together in creative ways.
S. GLASS: How did the selection process for the coalition grants take place?
J. PRUCH: United Way typically does a funding cycle every year or two. We typically do multi-year grants. So, anytime we're going to release a request for proposals, we try to get the word out as far and wide as possible. Then we usually have some information sessions where we share our goals with the community and hear from people about their ideas.
We had 19 applicants for these grants. We wish that we had enough funding to support all of them… but we wound up selecting four coalitions whose work aligns with our strategic vision helping kids be successful in school and life. One of the issues these groups are forming around is childcare and trying to identify what kind of barriers that a lack of high-quality childcare care presents for a rural community. That [effort] is taking place down in South Lane, Cottage Grove.
S. GLASS: I was really surprised by the density of these coalitions. Looking at the groups of non-profits involved, it isn't like a list of two or four; there’s something like ten in each coalition.
J. PRUCH: I think that's a really good point. Because, you know, there are four grants that we've made, but there are probably over 40 partners that are involved in the coalitions.
S. GLASS: It seems like these grants present an opportunity for community partners to pursue dynamic solutions. It also falls right in line with United Way’s support of the “collective impact” approach to dealing with issues. Honestly, I had not heard the term before I went to a United Way symposium some years back, but it is a method by which community actors can try and solve complex issues together, right? How many of the grant coalition partners have learned more about the collective impact model through United Way’s events and programs?
J. PRUCH: Some of the partners that are leading these coalitions, like Be Your Best Cottage Grove, they're really leaders in Lane County when it comes to the idea of collective impact and bringing together many cross-sector partners to work on community issues. And they have participated in some training that we've hosted on how to manage collective impact initiatives.
S. GLASS: And if any of our readers are interested in donating to one of these coalitions’ initiatives, how would they go about doing that?
J. PRUCH: Thank you for bringing that up. I did want to say and acknowledge that, really, all of this - all the work that we get to do in Lane County - is possible because of the support of donors. We have almost 4,000 donors from throughout the county who contribute over two and a half million dollars each year. That's what allows our organization to do what we do and to provide these kinds of investments to partner organizations in the community…
These grants are all funded through what we call our Live United Fund, which is our general fund. People can visit our website, which is unitedwaylane.org, and make a contribution that can support all of these efforts, as well as many of the other grants that we provide. Also, people can be made aware of these opportunities in the future by signing up for our newsletter.
S. GLASS: Fantastic. Well, is there anything I did not ask that you would like to get out to our readers?
J. PRUCH: Just a last, very small comment. Part of why we're offering these grants is because it can be really hard for non-profits to secure funding to support collaboration. A lot of the funding that's out there is for service delivery and program implementation. So, this grant funding that United Way is providing to these networks, it’s really because of the support of our donors.
NOTE: The cover photo was taken by FOOD for Lane County (FFLC) and features their partnership with The ARC of Lane County and the Bethel School District.