Earlier this year UWNCM updated funding priorities for our Community Impact Fund based on findings from our recent Community Needs Assessment, which identified three critical areas of need in our region: education & youth development, economic opportunity and supporting basic needs.

In January, we invited pre-selected non-profit agencies to submit grant applications for the 2021 – 2024 Community Impact funding cycle. As the fund seeks to make an impact for the most vulnerable members of our community, applicants were identified based on criteria including the geographic areas and target populations they serve as well as services they offer. In order to maximize our reach, UWNCM invited many of our long-time partner agencies as well as several potential new partners. In total, we received 41 grant applications for programs from 32 agencies.

As part of our evaluation process, we assembled a team of more than 30 volunteers from throughout the community to conduct virtual agency visits. Volunteers, including representatives from local businesses and organizations, used Zoom to connect with applicants. The agencies were excited to share information about their programs through presentations and virtual walk-throughs, after which volunteers asked questions and filled out online evaluations. We received extremely positive feedback from volunteers, who reported that virtual visits helped bring applications to life.

Volunteer Megan Krell, Associate Professor of Behavioral Science at Fitchburg State University, conducted 7 virtual visits and says she appreciated the opportunity to learn about the many ways local agencies have adapted to changing needs of the community due to COVID-19.

“Serving as a Community Impact site visit volunteer was a fulfilling and rewarding experience. I was most moved by the passion, dedication and creativity showcased by our local human services leaders, who quickly responded to changes brought about by the pandemic. Be it a drive-through food pantry, remote teen game nights, emergency child care or creating aeroponic gardens—just to name a few—our local agencies found unique ways to continue their mission and respond effectively to changing community needs,” says Megan.

As a next step, our Community Impact Leadership Team will pull together data from volunteer evaluations and make recommendations to the UWNCM Board of Directors, who will meet in June to review and approve final grant recipients. Award letters will be sent to chosen agencies in early July.

UWNCM is grateful to all our volunteer reviewers, who demonstrated both flexibility and commitment during this year’s grant evaluation process.

“It was wonderful to have so many volunteers engaged in visits and reviews. They brought a wealth of knowledge and experience,” says Judy Tomlinson, UWNCM Director of Community Impact. “They really went above and beyond in their dedication to helping us fund the most critical agencies.”