Fundraising, Resource Allocation + Grantmaking
A core part of United Way’s work is fundraising and distributing those resources back into the community to create positive change. Historically, most United Ways accomplished this through a traditional allocations process that distributed money to community-based organizations that provided direct services and support to residents that addressed community needs (e.g. homelessness, high school graduation, and obesity). In the past two decades, many United Ways have shifted to an impact model to achieve greater impact than could be realized through direct services alone. In a community impact-driven model, United Ways strategically distribute resources in the community based on established shared community (or United Way) goals, issue priorities, and specific strategies. Also, funded entities are increasingly expected to report on results, often against common impact measures developed by the local United Way with community partners. In addition to making more strategic investments in the community, impact-oriented United Ways employ additional strategies to accomplish goals, including policy and advocacy, convening, community engagement, local capacity building, and leading cross-sector partnerships.
A market-driven impact model builds on this evolution by acknowledging the importance of engaging donors at every step of this process, so that they have opportunities to help shape the work, are invested in the solutions, and are willing to devote resources to support them. United Ways vary in the extent to which they are implementing a market-driven impact model, often based on local relationships, internal capacity, and buy-in needed to make this shift, and the support/ willingness of funded partners to envision a different relationship with their United Way. Yet, United Ways that are making this shift are in a strong position to leverage their fundraising and strategic investments as levers for increasing equity.
Ensuring that the intent to address inequities within the community informs your United Way’s financial decisions, is critical to advancing equity. Examining (and adjusting as needed) internal financial processes, focusing on equity-centered grantmaking and community capacity-building to improve the readiness of partner organizations, are ways that United Ways can model best practices and lead on this issue.
When we discuss fundraising, resource allocation, and grantmaking as it relates to equity it is important to articulate how power dynamics interact within and across funder relationships and partnerships. The definition of power is the capacity of an individual or group to influence the behavior of others. One of the hallmarks of power is access or control of resources. Therefore, knowing the ways that power can enhance or undermine relationships, strategies, and ultimately outcomes, is an equity imperative when committing to centering equity in fundraising, resource allocation, and grantmaking. By adopting an equity frame in the distribution of resources, United Ways can demonstrate a deep commitment to dismantling one of the most significant impediments to collective prosperity.
Knowing the ways that power can enhance or undermine relationships, strategies, and ultimately outcomes, is an equity imperative when committing to centering equity in fundraising, resource allocation, and grantmaking.