Atlanta’s United Way grants to community down 10 percent

By Maria Saporta

It’s been a tough year for Atlanta’s United Way as it implements its new method of allocating dollars to agencies to meet its six community objectives.

In all, United Way’s community investment package totaled $20.9 million, a 10 percent decrease from last year’s $23.1 million.

The largest pool of money — the Community Impact Fund — totaled $15.2 million that went to 124 community organizations in the 13-county metro area. That was a 20 percent decrease of the dollars that were available last year in the Community Impact Fund.

As a result of the new competitive grants process, 49 agencies that had received funding in 2010 received no dollars this year. A total of 173 agencies applied for grants., but only 124 agencies received United Way funding.

“After an exhaustive and competitive process by more than 190 volunteers and board members, we are happy to put these essential dollars to work in our community because we know how much our grant partners depend on these resources,” said Milton Little, president of Atlanta’s United Way.

But Little said that a decrease in the pool of “undesignated” gifts led to United Way having to trim its giving.

“Unfortunately, many agencies saw a reduction in their grant awards this year, and 49 agencies will not be funding at all,” Little said. “But these are the tough decisions our board and community had to make based on the current climate.”

Larry Keys, the outgoing chairman of Atlanta’s United Way, said several programs that did not receive funding were important community assets and worthwhile initiatives.

“With fewer dollars to invest, however, and donor demands for those resources to be more focused, volunteers implemented a methodology in this tough economy that gets the most impact and ensures long-term viability for United Way,” Keys said. “This was the right decision at the right time, and these volunteers deserve a lot of credit for their commitment to the community.”

In 2011-2012, United Way is projected to invest more than $82 million in the 13-county region, which represents total revenue — fundraising and all grants — minus the unfulfilled pledges, depreciation, administrative and fundraising costs.

Of that, $25 million will go towards ending long-term homelessness and early education programs.

Also, $36 million will go directly to specific nonprofit organizations that have been designated by United Way donors.

For the first time in its history, United Way volunteers initiative a zero-based application process. To ensure the integrity of the grant process, United Way leaders committed to an open and transparent process. For a complete listing of the 2011-2012 awards, go to “unitedwayatlanta.org.”

Sometimes change and sharpening focus can be difficult,” Keys said. “But keeping a ‘business as usual’ model means being mediocre at best… This was a community decision, and we look forward to metro Atlanta coming together now more than ever to help our neighbors thrive.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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