Local United Way adds $2M to expand program supporting Black- and Brown-led nonprofits

Funds part of Mecklenburg County's allocations for programs and initiatives aimed at reducing racial disparities.

United Way of Central Carolinas is directing more than $2 million recently allocated from Mecklenburg County toward expanding its support for Black- and Brown-led nonprofits addressing economic mobility and racial equity.

United Way officials shared more details Thursday about how it will use $2.2 million within Unite Charlotte, its initiative launched in 2016 in response to calls for racial justice following the death of Keith Lamont Scott. Funding is part of the $22,003,200 earmarked in the county’s $2 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2022 for programs and initiatives aimed at reducing racial disparities. 

Twenty-five grassroots organizations with operating budgets under $250,000 will be awarded one-year grants averaging $25,000. Additionally, grantees will have the opportunity to access shared services through a pilot program offering back-office support in areas like technology, finances and human resources. 

Kathryn Firmin-Sellers, United Way’s chief impact officer, says the goal is to provide a teaching model to help young nonprofits grow their organizational capacity.

“This is a deliberate effort to address economic mobility issues by funding people who have really innovative solutions because they are very close to the issue at hand,” she told QCity Metro. 

She added that the expanded focus for Unite Charlotte is also about making a concerted effort to direct philanthropic funding to Black and Brown organizations. According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Black-led organizations had 45% less revenue and 91% less unrestricted net assets than White-led organizations even where the work targeted Black communities. 

“We need to take a hard look at our grant-making and understand how we have failed with advancing racial equity through our own philanthropy,” Firmin-Sellers said.

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Unite Charlotte and United Neighborhoods were protected from funding cuts that president and CEO Laura Clark announced earlier this year. Due to a continuing decline in workplace giving — accelerated by the impact of Covid-19 — Clark said they’ll reduce funding between 54% and 68% beginning in January to community agencies receiving impact grants. Impact grants totaled roughly $8.8 million this year, according to a breakdown provided to QCity Metro. 

Firmin-Sellers says they aspire to grow both Unite Charlotte and United Neighborhoods through restricted gifts such as the one given by the county.

United Way will host two information sessions for agencies interested in receiving funding through Unite Charlotte before the cycle opens on Aug. 2. The virtual sessions will be held from 11 a.m. to noon on June 15 and June 30. Registration is required to attend. For questions, email unitecharlotte@uwcentralcarolinas.org.

Katrina Louis
Katrina covers Charlotte's Black business scene for QCity Metro. She's a Miami transplant, pescatarian and lover of the arts. She earned a public relations degree from the University of Florida. Got a news tip? Email her at katrinalouis@qcitymetro.com.

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