BUW awards over $1M in grants; pilots general operating support

With the support of over 3,000 generous donors, Berkshire United Way (BUW) awarded just over $1 million in grants to 28 organizations, including five new to BUW. This investment will enable BUW’s partners to serve the community during the funding year from July 1, 2023, to June 30, 2024.

As part of this year’s application process, BUW piloted a general operating support model that allowed agencies the option to apply for a grant to support their mission any way they see fit, while still working within one of BUW’s three priority areas: early childhood development, positive youth development, or economic prosperity.

In this round of funding BUW awarded grants to: 18 Degrees, Barrington Stage Company, Berkshire County Head Start, Berkshire County Kids’ Place, Berkshire Hills Regional School District, Berkshire Nursing Families, Berkshire Pulse, Berkshire South Regional Community Center, Berkshire Theatre Group, Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, Child Care of the Berkshires, Community Health Programs, Dalton Community Recreation Association, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Flying Cloud Institute, Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center, Greenagers, Lee Public Schools, Lee Youth Association, Pediatric Development Center, Railroad Street Youth Project, Roots Rising and Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires.

“General operating support is an emerging best practice in the fundraising and philanthropy fields,” said BUW president and CEO Tom Bernard. “It’s an approach that provides our funded partners with greater flexibility while ensuring shared accountability for mutually defined goals. More importantly, it is recognized as a strategy to make funding more equitable, something that aligns with BUW’s commitments to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB). Finally, because we are treating this as a pilot, we know the model will evolve as we and our partners learn together.”

The five new partner agencies are: Berkshire HorseWorks, Literacy Network of South Berkshire (LitNet), NAMI Berkshire County, Rites of Passage and Empowerment (R.O.P.E.) and Roots & Dreams and Mustard Seeds.

“LitNet is especially grateful for this unrestricted general operating grant from BUW. It’s like receiving a big safety net. We know we can continue to do our regular programming well while trying out new endeavors and taking risks we might not otherwise feel secure enough to attempt,” said Leigh Doherty, executive director. “We’re excited to expand our ESOL programming, such as adding a curriculum for workplace learning, to ensure that any adult who seeks language support can receive it.”

At BUW, community volunteers are deeply involved in the process of reviewing grant applications and making funding recommendations to the BUW Board of Directors. This year, 30 volunteers spent over 400 hours collectively reading, evaluating and discussing the applications for funding.

“BUW has the great privilege of working with community volunteers who help us determine where to invest our community dollars,” said Katherine von Haefen, director of Community Impact. “I’m grateful to our volunteers for their thoughtful review and careful deliberation, and I look forward to working with our partner agencies throughout the coming year.”

Help increase BUW’s investment in quality, impactful programs that make a lasting, positive change. Donate at www.berkshireunitedway.org/donate or through your workplace campaign.