EVERETT — The United Way of Snohomish County has announced it will distribute $2 million in grants over the next year.
The amount is similar to what the agency gave out in past funding cycles, but this time the United Way is targeting all the grant money toward a single goal: breaking the cycle of poverty.
That was a decision the organization made last year after holding more than 500 conversations and meetings in various forums with other nonprofits, agencies and community groups, said Jacqui Campbell, a spokeswoman for the United Way.
“Poverty kept coming to the surface as being one of the single-greatest needs in the community,” Campbell said.
She said that nearly 60,000 households in Snohomish County are struggling to make ends meet.
The grants will be shared among 56 separate programs in the county.
The largest recipients include Lutheran Community Services Northwest, which has been awarded $342,855 for three programs, Housing Hope ($252,920 for 10 programs), and Cocoon House ($242,000 for four programs).
Cocoon House, which operates housing and social service programs for youth and young adults, has long been a recipient of grant funding from the United Way, CEO Cassie Franklin said.
The United Way’s shift in focus made the application process a little different, she said.
“That vision and focus aligned 100 percent with what Cocoon House does,” Franklin said.
“We’re breaking this cycle of poverty with that young demographic so these kids won’t become chronically homeless adults,” she said.
Jennifer Willows, the director of impact and development at the YMCA of Snohomish County, said the United Way’s shift in philosophy didn’t result in any change in approach in applying for the money.
Grant applications are always aligned toward the needs of the donor’s priorities, Willows said.
“We certainly considered the specific program areas of emphasis that we would elevate for their consideration,” she said.
In the end, the YMCA received $191,616 for four programs: the Casino Road Adult Education Academy, Casino Road Scholars, Early Childhood Education and School Age Child Care.
The YMCA will continue support through other means those programs that were not funded through the United Way this year, Willows said.
The other shift in the United Way’s practices was to shorten the funding cycle this year from three years to one year.
That will allow the United Way to monitor more closely the effect that the grants are having, and to tailor the program accordingly, Campbell said.
“We wanted to make sure we had tightly aligned granting and results so we could make any future changes we needed in the granting cycle,” she said.
Going forward for the next funding cycle the grants will return to three-year grants, Campbell said.
Cocoon House was awarded $242,000 for fiscal 2017, which is up from the yearly average of about $180,000 during the past three-year funding cycle, Franklin said.
She said she believes the bump up in funding represents a closer match between the United Way’s and Cocoon House’s needs.
But it also means the next grant application process will start a lot sooner than before.
“That’s going to be a challenge, as it always is, and we don’t know what that’s going to be like next year,” Franklin said.
This story has been updated to clarify that while this year’s grant funding cycle will be only for one year, subsequent funding cycles will return to three years.