United Way of the Ozarks provides new two-year funding for 20 programs that champion children and provide pathways out of poverty

Mary Sue HobanAnnouncement, Partners

Following a highly competitive seven-month process, beginning July 1, United Way of the Ozarks (UWO) is funding a new lineup of programs focused on championing children and providing pathways out of poverty. Money for the grants is provided by donations to UWO’s Community Investment fund.

UWO’s two-year grants support 20 programs operated by 15 nonprofit organizations now considered UWO partners. Of the 20 funded programs, 17 champion children and provide pathways out of poverty. Three programs are focused solely on championing children. UWO received 40 grant applications; nonprofits did not need to have a current or prior relationship with UWO for their program to be considered.

“This was our most competitive grant process yet, and we’re thrilled with the quality and variety of community needs United Way can help address,” said Brandi VanAntwerp, president/CEO of United Way of the Ozarks. “We’re happy to support our community’s most vulnerable – our children – and help break the cycle of generational poverty.”

“Our approach is open and disciplined so that we can put donors’ money where it can have an impact on our community,” added Greg Burris, former UWO president/CEO, who oversaw the organization through this grant cycle. Burris remains with UWO part-time as executive director of its Give 5 program.

Donor-volunteers lead strategic selection process

Community members drive the process for allocating grants from UWO’s Community Investment fund. “This process allows community members to learn about our area’s needs and allocate money to make the most impact for their neighbors,” enthused Cindy Norman, co-chair of the Community Investment Committee.

Applications are evaluated by 60 donor-volunteers who serve on panels focused on programs offering upstream solutions, safety net needs for immediate relief or innovative approaches to emerging and existing community challenges. Panel recommendations move to a donor-volunteer Community Investment Committee that presents final funding recommendations to the UWO board of directors for approval. This year, the board approved the committee’s allocations to 11 upstream programs, nine safety net programs and two programs in the innovation category.

This is the second two-year cycle of grants funded using UWO’s sharpened Community Investment process. In the first cycle – July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2024 – UWO funded 21 programs provided by 14 nonprofit partner organizations. While the number of grant recipients was similar in both cycles, applications were higher the second time around and there were some changes in the programs selected by donor-volunteers.

The current roster includes four new programs provided by three new partners – Child Advocacy Center, iPour Life and Ozarks Food Harvest. Additionally, some returning partners received funding for different programs than in 2022. “Given the competitive nature of the process and changing community needs, it’s natural for the mix of programs and partners to shift,” noted UWO’s Burris. “Programs funded in each cycles do important work across the Ozarks.”

Investing in the future

Programs receiving UWO’s grant funding support for 2024-2026 support either – or both – of UWO’s focus areas of championing children and providing pathways out of poverty. They are:

Upstream Programs and Nonprofit Partners

Safety Net Programs and Nonprofit Partners

Innovation Programs and Nonprofit Partners