Boys Hope Girls Hope receives United Way funds

Playing BasketballMile High United Way has sharpened its giving strategy to focus on three community needs: school readiness, youth success and adult self-sufficiency.

This means 112 organizations will receive a total of $6 million in direct investments this year. Half are first-time recipients. Some groups long funded by United Way will receive reduced funding, or none.

“For some longtime partners this will be a change, and some will be disappointed,” said Christine Benero, president and chief executive. “For others, it’s going to be a great opportunity.”

Mile High United Way raises money and funds agencies in Adams, Arapahoe, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties. In addition to the direct investments funded by unrestricted donations, the agency will funnel about $8.7 million in donor-designated funds to about 1,200 agencies. Another $15.5 million will go to collaborative programs, such as Denver’s Road Home and Lights on After School.

The big change in how local unrestricted donations are handed out mirrors the movement of the national organization, said Stacy Palmer, editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

“They’re defining themselves as problem-solvers rather than just raising money,” Palmer said. “It’s shaking up a lot of communities around the country. Groups that have long expected to get money all of a sudden can’t count on it, but it’s great for upstart groups.”

United Way will now fund more agencies that serve the Latino, Asian, African-American and Native American communities.

The new giving philosophy includes a new emphasis on measuring outcomes.

This is in response to demands by donors, who want assurances that their money is being well-spent. “They’re very frustrated that they’re pouring all this money into philanthropy and nothing is happening,” Palmer said.

Mile High United Way began to transition from being a funding agency to a community impact organization in 1999. The community impact model measures success in terms of how much a community changes for the better.

In 2006, United Way developed a five-year impact plan that defined the three focus areas. Last year, the board decided to review their allocation process to make sure the money is given to agencies that closely align with the three target goals.

The 112 agencies were notified of the results of this funding cycle on Tuesday afternoon.

“We’ve begun to pick up some small community-based agencies that none of our donors are going to know their names because they are not brand-name agencies,” Benero said. “Or they may be in a neighborhood that no one ever drives through, but the work they are doing for children or families is changing lives.”

One of the new agencies is Boys Hope Girls Hope of Denver, a residential program for low-income children that gives them the stability of a family setting to help them succeed in school. The agency will receive $15,000 in the first year of a three-year cycle.

“It’s a really big deal for us,” said Boys Hope Girls Hope board chairman Scot Anderson. “The alliance with United Way is really helpful to us. They have a much higher profile than we do, so we’ll be able to tie into that and let people know what we are up to.”

The new process also yielded greater diversity in those who receive funds, by opening the grant application process to a larger pool of agencies.

“The diversity of this community in 15 years has changed dramatically,” Benero said, “and this process reflects that.”