The United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County is located at 700 South Alamo Street.
The United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County is located at 700 South Alamo Street. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The board of the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County has approved the agencies that will receive $15 million in program funding for the coming fiscal year. Although the total amount of funding is down, a dozen agencies that have never received funding from United Way will be awarded money July 1.

Area agencies submitted a total of 138 funding requests for $35 million. The United Way board selected 76 programs for funding as part of its new strategic alignment process and a new process for allocating funds.

Nine agencies will receive 100 percent of the requested funding, and 21 will receive less than requested, but more than they received last year. All agencies that receive funding will be required to submit monthly reports that track their progress toward achieving goals.

Click here to see the full list of recommendations.

One agency the board recommended for full funding was the Brighton Center, a nonprofit that provides family and community education and developmental services to children with disabilities or delays. The 49-year-old agency will receive over $200,000 for a program to support social and emotional development screenings for children transitioning out of its therapy programs, and to provide screening and support for children enrolled in its early childhood program.

“There’s relatively new research that says that children who enter with social and emotional skills on target are more likely to not only graduate from high school, but also to go to college,” said Kim Jefferies, Brighton Center CEO. “We’re going to be able to provide so much additional support to those kids now before they get to [kindergarten], so by the time they get to kinder, all they’re doing there is soaking in that education.”

In some cases, agencies that submitted joint proposals will share United Way funding to work together on a similar program.

All requests were required to show a source of funding for half the estimated cost of the program, essentially bringing the total community impact of the funding to $30 million, a spokesman said.

Agencies not selected for funding still have the opportunity to remain a part of United Way’s annual fundraising campaign by receiving money specifically designated through the campaign, which kicks off Oct. 24, United Way President and CEO Chris Martin stated in a letter to the agencies.

In December, United Way announced it had raised more than $46 million during the 2018 campaign, exceeding the goal by almost $5 million, but less than the previous year’s $48.7 million. Due to a drop in contributions to United Way in 2018, there was an 8.3 percent decrease in the amount United Way could allocate during the coming fiscal year.

Of the total raised, about half was donor-restricted gifts for specific agencies and other United Way organizations, and donor-designated gifts through workplace giving campaigns. Nearly $5 million was set aside for the United Way’s safety-net funding programs, such as those provided by the Children’s Shelter and Red Cross.

The most recent allocations are based on changes in the way United Way views its relationship with the thousands of social service agencies that exist in the county, and an effort to encourage those agencies to work together toward “collective impact” in the community.

“At some point, we realized that portfolio of agencies [we fund], while each one was doing great work, they were operating independently,” said board member Ed Rice. “For us to have the kind of impact we felt we could have in the community, we needed to do what most organizations and businesses would do and figure out what our interests were and fund and support those agencies that were most strongly aligned with our priorities.”

The United Way formed four Community Impact Councils as part of its new strategic alignment process. One council is focused on making sure children are prepared for school; another on education and workforce development; a third on individual and family economic stability, and lastly, safety-net programs. Each of the first three was allocated $5 million for awards, and after reviewing the proposals, made its recommendations to the board.

During the review process, the funding levels provided to agencies in previous cycles were not considered, said Lady Romano, senior vice president of community investments at United Way. “Decisions were made based on the quality of the applications and the impact volunteers felt it would make, rather than historical funding.”

“That’s a commitment we made to everybody when we started this process – that there would be no sort of legacy [or] special agencies exempted from the process,” Rice added.

Twelve of the 18 new partner agencies that submitted proposals were included in the fiscal year 2020 round of funding. Agencies that historically have been funded by United Way, but not selected this time around, will continue to receive donor-designated funds.

As for those agencies and programs not funded, the United Way has identified local philanthropists who will be notified so they may consider giving based on the remaining needs.

Shari Biediger has been covering business and development for the San Antonio Report since 2017. A graduate of St. Mary’s University, she has worked in the corporate and nonprofit worlds in San Antonio...