Our Community Investment Process

A Q&A with the director

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Connecting resources to solutions

There are many people in Greater Chattanooga - like you - that want to give back to their community but aren’t sure of the best way to do so. At United Way of Greater Chattanooga, we seek to connect people and resources to opportunities and solutions that address our community’s most pressing issues. We believe that a connected community changes everything. One of the ways that we are working to do this is through our community investment process.

So, what is the community investment process? 

Meet Sara, United Way of Greater Chattanooga’s Director of Community Investment and Partner Relations. Sara oversees our community investment process, which is integral to what we do at United Way - connect resources to innovative and impactful solutions. We’ll be taking a deeper dive into what the community investment process is all about this month, and Sara is here to get us started with a Q&A.

Q: What is the community investment process?

A: The community investment process is how we distribute grants to fund initiatives run by local nonprofits that align with our impact areas of education, stability, and health. The purpose of this process is to financially support a network of partners working collaboratively to provide comprehensive and coordinated services that drive deep impact across our community. Our goal is to encourage measurable and meaningful community transformation in order to help all members of our community achieve their full potential. 

Q: Where does the money invested into this process come from? 

A: Generous donors in our community - companies and individuals like you!

Q: Who can apply for funding? 

A: Our nonprofit agency partners who have historically-established funding relationships with United Way of Greater Chattanooga are currently able to apply for our community investment funds. However, we realize that there are more agencies than those we currently support doing this important work in our community. Once we fully transition into this revitalized process in 2022, nonprofit agencies in the 6-county region we serve that demonstrate collaborative, high-quality, and data-centered projects focused on deep impact will be eligible to apply.

Q: How are projects selected, and who selects them?

A: We have an extensive application review process that is run by several volunteers. First, multiple Volunteer Advocates (VAs) are assigned to each application to review. Then, we have program calls - which would normally be in-person, but this year COVID had different ideas - between the VAs and nonprofit agency staff members to answer any questions about their applications. Our VAs then submit their application evaluations, and their responses are compiled. Then, our Community Investment Committee (CIC) members are presented with all applications, VA evaluations, relevant data, and the funding available to award. Those CIC members then spend several hours discussing what’s been presented and make funding recommendations for each application. The recommendations made by the CIC members are then presented to the Board of Directors for approval. Once approved, those are the projects that receive grants through our community investment funds. The process is a long one, but it ensures that the projects we fund are thoroughly and fairly evaluated.

Q: How often is funding allocated? 

A: Currently, we distribute grants once per year. 

Q: How does United Way of Greater Chattanooga work with grantees after they receive funding? 

A: Our Volunteer Advocates (VAs) continue to work alongside the grantees to discuss their successes, challenges, and identify any areas of support they may need throughout the grant cycle. We hold Shared Learning for Impact sessions for grantees to share these experiences and encouragement with one another and provide an opportunity to brainstorm solutions to challenges they face. We also help facilitate Community Roundtable sessions to gather and analyze data around needs and assets in the community and identify opportunities for collaborative solutions.

So, there you have it - a quick run-down of one of the most important pieces of United Way of Greater Chattanooga's work. If you're wondering what kind of strategies and projects receive funding, make sure to keep an eye on our blog at the end of next week!

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