COVID 19, housing issues, inflation, early learning shortcomings, Hurricane Ian. We’ve experienced wave after wave of challenges during these difficult times. However, the transformative philanthropy of MacKenzie Scott has enabled us to positively respond to each crisis.
The $20 million gift we received from Scott two years ago almost seems prescient.
The Scott organization informed United Way Suncoast we no longer need to produce an annual report updating our progress, but we want to keep our region connected to the R.I.S.E. work and how the gift continues to fuel our community service. Here are some highlights from this past year.
Addressing the housing crisis
One of the first ways we went to work was to address the impending eviction crisis and the impacts of skyrocketing rental rates were having on our region. With average rent increases looming just under 30%, every community felt this crisis. Working with 28 nonprofit partners, we created a navigation infrastructure that enjoyed almost immediate success. In the first six months of the initiative, we supported 2,153 individuals with housing services, keeping 1,925 individuals in their home or achieving new or stable housing (89% success rate). Overall, the individuals who received navigation, 91% stayed in their homes or moved into new stable housing. We served a total of 5,322 people in the first year of this work, helping families build financial stability through all the services provided.
We also created an eviction dashboard that has more than 15,000 pageviews to provide our community leaders with the data needed to understand the full context of this issue. The dashboard also raised awareness, drawing media attention from a number of outlets. In addition, we convened Emergency Rental Assistance program managers together to share local best practices and increase efficiencies near beginning of distribution.
Expanding our Early Learning work
United We Learn, our early education initiative, has ignited our work by investing and implementing programming within attendance zones of selected Title I Elementary schools comprised of Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) households. UWS also concentrates on ensuring children enter kindergarten ready to learn, provides needed supports to families and removes barriers they may encounter. The UWS’ R.I.S.E. taskforce’s $5 million investment over the next three years will expand and deepen the Quality Childcare Initiative (QCI) across Suncoast footprint.
In 2022, we extended the work to all five counties and now serve 41 preschools. With this initiative, we are funding Behavioral Specialists to provide support/training at QCI sites and funding Community Navigators to support families. We are providing support for community partners to contribute to school readiness and early grade level reading success and increasing staff capacity to expand education work for emerging needs and convening our partners. Finally, we also launched our Early Learning Dashboard to again provide community leadership the data needed to understand the importance of this work and the scope of the issues.
Piloting capacity-building efforts
In an effort to understand the capacity building needs of our nonprofit partners and to provide technical assistance to increase an organization’s impact data, we launched a pilot program with Resilia and ResultsFirst. Our supported funded capacity building support for 45 grassroots organizations throughout the region. Not only does this support strengthen the work of our partners, but it also helps us to better understand the capacity needs of our social services sector so we can determine a more long-term plan to be responsive to those needs.
Investing in our own infrastructure
We’ve invested in our technology infrastructure to bring greater efficiency and collaboration to our operations. From a technology audit that reduced redundancies to a risk assessment, we are thoughtfully implementing a number of technology initiatives. These will enhance our ability to serve our community, nonprofit partners and donors. We are launching a pilot of a donor dashboard in 2023 that is in development now called My United Way. This will enable our donors and supporters to manage all of their information (donations, volunteer hours, community data and information) in once place.
Responding to Hurricane Ian
The strong infrastructure we put in place to address the housing crisis and our early learning work allowed us to quickly and effectively respond to Hurricane Ian’s impact. Our board supported an investment into this effort. We helped match those dollars in our Make it a Million campaign. Our current investments include assisting families with housing needs, navigating available public supports and strengthening recovery at our QCI early learning centers.
We’ve learned a lot from this work and will continue to thoughtfully serve. We’re investing this transformational gift to help our communities rise above challenges and serve as that consistent source of support. We know this effort takes both an immediate approach and attention to our long-term needs. That’s why you see the work comprehensively addressing this spectrum. You can read the complete R.I.S.E. Report to learn more about the work.
We are incredibly grateful for this gift and opportunity to serve our region. Thank you Ms. Scott for the impact you gift is having in our region.