United Way of Greater Portland (UWGP) announced it has established a Racial Equity Fund. With funding from lead founding partner, IDEXX, and other partners BerryDunn, Gorham Savings Bank, Hannaford, KeyBank, and WEX, this initiative supports the work of local nonprofits led by and serving people of color in our community, while advancing the work at the heart of the community-developed Thrive2027 initiative.

Since 2016, UWGP has convened individuals and organizations around Thrive2027, three 10-year goals to improve education, financial stability, and health for every person in Greater Portland.

Although UWGP-funded programs currently serve an estimated 50% people of color in the Greater Portland area, UWGP has established the Racial Equity Fund as one step to more intentionally address disparities in education, financial stability, and health.

“In order for our community to achieve the Thrive2027 goals, we need all members of our community to have a place at the table, so we can provide and implement solutions together that take into account the unique experiences of diverse populations, especially our Black and African American neighbors,” said Liz Cotter Schlax, President and CEO, United Way of Greater Portland. “The Fund will support organizations and connect them to Thrive2027 to improve outcomes, such as increased access to health care, high-quality education, affordable housing, and workforce preparation for jobs that can provide access to opportunity for economic mobility.”

In order to reduce inequities in the nonprofit sector related to access to funding and networks, organizations will receive both programmatic funding and capacity-building technical assistance, to help strengthen their organizations and programs overall.

“Gorham Savings Bank embraces equity within our workforce and our communities,” said Steve deCastro, President & CEO, Gorham Savings Bank, and 2020 United Way of Greater Portland Campaign Chair. “As a financial organization, we are committed to using our resources in ways that address disparities and help create positive change. This Fund is one important way we, and other local businesses, can help move things forward. 

The Racial Equity Fund decision-making committee will include a diverse cross-sector group (business, government, non-profit, and philanthropy) with close ties to Thrive2027 and with at least 50% of committee members being people of color. They will accept grant applications until November 2nd and will use parameters established by the UWGP Board of Directors to award grants, beginning in early 2021.

The Racial Equity Fund:

  • Supports and strengthens organizations led by and serving people of color, especially those led by Black/ African American leaders, all while advancing the work of Thrive2027.
  • Works to address inequities related to the strong infrastructure, funding networks, data, and metrics more established organizations have.
  • In addition to programmatic support, provides supplemental funding for organizational capacity building and/or general operating costs to build sustainability for organizations.
  • Makes initial grants using funds raised by November 2, 2020.

“While equity is an embedded principle in our grantmaking, we recognized that well-established nonprofits with strong social networks, long-standing funding relationships, and many staff can be more successful in applying for and receiving funds from United Way,” said Bill Fletcher, Founding Partner of Fletcher, Selser & Devine LLC, and Chair of United Way of Greater Portland’s Board of Directors. “It is more important than ever to ensure capacity-building for newer, and often smaller, organizations led by and serving people of color, which may struggle to compete for Thrive2027 – and other — funding, but which are critical to our community’s ability to deliver quality services to communities of color.”

Over the coming months, UWGP will work to identify and engage organizations that meet the fund criteria and will provide technical assistance as they apply for this funding.

The application will be available by September 14 and are due November 2, 2020.                                                                                               

UWGP is also planning for a September community dialogue to launch a community-wide approach for transforming inequitable systems.

“We recognize that equity is not only a moral and economic imperative for our community, but that it is central to our mission of uniting caring people to help us all thrive,” said Cotter Schlax. “We also recognize we don’t have all the answers. We are committed to convening groups to find solutions grounded in strength, resourcefulness, and lived experiences.”

Update: Addressing racial inequities in our communities remains a top priority for UWGP. Although effective November 20, 2020, we are no longer accepting contributions to the Racial Equity Fund, all contributions to the Racial Equity Fund will be directed toward other United Way supported work that serves People of Color. This flexible funding helps United Way mobilize individuals in the recovery and rebuilding of a more equitable, resilient community.