Our Work

Worcester Together: Central Mass COVID-19 Fund

 

The United Way of Central Massachusetts and The Greater Worcester Community Foundation are glad to announce the third phase of the Worcester Together: Central Massachusetts COVID-19 Fund. In its final stage, the grant reviewers are seeking bold and innovative ideas to help Central Massachusetts organizations engage in systems change. A total of $1 million will be awarded through a limited number of major grants.

 

The full press release can be found here. If you have any questions, please reach out.

 

The Reimagining phase – the third and final phase of Worcester Together funding – is solely focused on supporting nonprofits to engage in systems change thinking (see the below callout for more information) and implementation planning. It is not about creating more efficient processes for individual organizations, but rather looking to support a limited group of collaborative efforts aimed at examining root causes of inequities and developing plans to disrupt the systems that uphold them, reduce barriers, and create more robust, equitable, and sustainable systems benefiting all people in our communities.

 

Below is the timeline for the third and final phase of Worcester Together:

 

  • Monday, Dec. 7 by 5 PM EST: Letter of inquiry deadline
  • Friday, Dec. 11: Invitations to submit full application
  • Tuesday, Jan. 12: Application deadline
  • Thursday, Jan. 28: 1 to 5 PM: Review Committee meets
  • Monday, Feb. 1: Grant awards announced

About the Fund

 

The goal of Worcester Together is to address immediate and long-term needs, complementing the work of public health officials and expanding local capacity to address the impact of this public health crisis on our region’s vulnerable populations. Grants will target organizations that have deep roots in the community and strong experience working with residents without health insurance and/or access to sick days, people with limited English language proficiency, healthcare workers, our seniors neighbors, and communities of color, among others.

 

While this pandemic is unprecedented, our highest priority continues to be serving the needs of our community. The Greater Worcester Community Foundation, the United Way, the City of Worcester, local officials throughout Central Massachusetts and many others are all collaborating to give the Fund the optimal reach and exposure.

Over $8.6M has already been granted! View our grantees here.

How You Can Help

 

The impact of COVID-19 is becoming more apparent each day as we see parents struggling to home-school their children, workers in the retail, transportation and food industries lose wages, many in the contingent workforce find themselves without work and pay, private drivers losing customers and the list goes on – as the nonprofit community struggles to support our most vulnerable families. Your gift to Worcester Together will help our community and our neighbors get through this pandemic.

Phase 3: Reimagining

The Reimagining phase – the third and final phase of Worcester Together funding – is solely focused on supporting nonprofits to engage in systems change thinking (see the below callout for more information) and implementation planning. It is not about creating more efficient processes for individual organizations, but rather looking to support a limited group of collaborative efforts aimed at examining root causes of inequities and developing plans to disrupt the systems that uphold them, reduce barriers, and create more robust, equitable, and sustainable systems benefiting all people in our communities.

 

Background:

 

While COVID-19 has highlighted inequities and service gaps we know have existed for a long time, the nonprofit sector has proven its resilience in responding to the needs of our community and forging new ways to connect people with resources. We also recognize that nonprofits often lack the capital, resources, and dedicated collaboration time or face structural barriers to tackle the systems change required to eliminate these inequities. It is clear that, moving forward, real systems change is needed in order to build a stronger collective social safety net that will allow nonprofits to operate at a higher level and empower all community members to thrive.

 

This phase of the Worcester Together Fund is focused on generating models and a plan to test the influence of a systems change project. We recognize complete systems change may not be feasible with the duration and amount of these grants, but we are hopeful that this can be the spark that ignites new collaborative thinking about entrenched community issues.

 

Purpose:

 

We are specifically looking to support teams and collaborations in generating ideas and project plans. Grants can be used to:

 

Support new systems change work such as:

•Allow teams to generate ideas and test them with key stakeholders

•Support teams with ideas of what might need to be done but do not yet have a project plan in place

•Allow teams the supported time to gather information and meet with stakeholders

 

Support the capacity of an existing systems change project including:

•Expanding the influence of the project

•An opportunity to reflect on stages completed and plan for the next phase

•Help generate evidence needed to scale efforts and/or attract other funders

 

A limited number of major grants, totaling $1 million, will be awarded in this phase. Please direct all applications to our online portal.

We are interested in seeding promising ideas and expect requests to be aspirational but also realistic in terms of the timeline and amount of funding needed. Grants should be considered working capital to apply to work for however long it takes. We recognize grants awarded will not change systems immediately.

 

Values:

 

We are interested in supporting community-led projects that have the potential to create lasting changes within and across systems. Those projects
must be:

•Led by a registered 501(c)(3) or have a fiscal sponsor

•Tackling the root causes of complex issues by disrupting the ways systems have historically operated

•Collaborating within and across sectors

•Bold and creative in their approach

•Have potential for lasting change

•Have equity at the forefront

•Focused on creating better systems for people and our community as a whole

 

Logistics & Process:

 

Below is the timeline for the third and final phase of Worcester Together:

•Monday, Dec. 7 by 5 PM EST: Letter of inquiry deadline

•Friday, Dec. 11: Invitations to submit full application

•Tuesday, Jan. 12: Application deadline

•Thursday, Jan. 28: 1 to 5 PM: Review Committee meets

•Monday, Feb. 1: Grant awards announced

 

Criteria on which your LOI will be evaluated include:

•Community-driven solutions: people and institutions most affected by the issue are engaged in the process

•Locally-led: change efforts generated from within local communities

•The root cause: demonstrates good thinking about the current system and possible levers for change

•Readiness: organization and community are primed and ready to tackle this issue

•Impact: the issue being addressed will benefit a significant population or sector in the community

 

What is ineligible for consideration in this phase?

•Applications from lead organizations outside Worcester County

•Sponsorships or event support

•Endowment support or matching grants

•Direct religious purposes

•Capital projects

•Direct program/service costs or operational expenses (unless it is directly addressing broader systems change)

•COVID-19 emergency relief (unless it is directly addressing broader systems change)

 

For more information, please contact one of the following staff members:

•Kerry Conaghan, vice president of community impact, United Way of Central MA

Email: kerry.conaghan@unitedwaycm.org

Phone: 508-757-5631, ext. 262

•Jonathan Cohen, vice president for programs & strategy, Greater Worcester Community Foundation

Email: jcohen@greaterworcester.org

Phone: 508-755-0980, ext. 111

•Sarah Shugrue, program officer, Greater Worcester Community Foundation

Email: sshugrue@greaterworcester.org

Phone: 508-755-0980, ext. 109

 

What is Systems Change?

 

Systems change requires rethinking and adjusting to how we do things. One tool in systems change is systems thinking, which takes a step back from the immediate consequences of a social issue and looks at the bigger picture. Systems thinking is a way to approach complex issues by recognizing how the system works to create the results you are seeing. Understanding that bigger picture is the first step to creating lasting change.

Systems thinking is not linear. Systems are often interconnected and involve relationships among players at different levels and in different sectors and the relationships are often complex.

In this approach, you start with the assumption that the system you’re working within is intentionally designed to get the results it’s getting. It achieves these results because of the choices of the stakeholders within and outside the system

It does not mean inventing an approach no one has ever done before. It could mean adapting a successful approach to your local context.

Questions to help you get thinking:

 

•How did we get here? What are the root causes of the issue?

•Why does the system operate this way? What societal benefit is it trying to generate?

•What are the unintended consequences of the way the system currently operates?

•What would be different and uncomfortable about changing the current system?

•What are the stakeholders?

•Who benefits from the current system? Who is left out?

Phase 2: Recovery

Granting Focus:

The goal of Phase Two: Recovery is to provide three-to-six months of unrestricted general operating support to nonprofit organizations that are actively delivering support and/or programming to our community in a high quality, responsive manner. Grants will be awarded to a select group of organizations that:

  • Are current or recent grantees of either the Greater Worcester Community Foundation or the United Way of Central Mass.
  • Have been operating as a nonprofit organization for at least 2 years with 501(c)(3) status or an established fiscal sponsorship arrangement with a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
  • Are based in Worcester County, with priority given to those based south of Route 2 to the south end of the county.
  • Fall into one of our designated areas of priority (Arts & Culture, Economic Security, Health & Human Services, Youth Development & Education)
  • Are actively engaged in scenario planning for the future.
  • Can demonstrate financial resiliency.

Program Details:

  • Grant Size: Grants will typically range from $25,000 to $100,000
  • Grantees will have the opportunity to access community-funded consultative services in areas that will be helpful to their recovery.

Phase 1: Rapid Response

Granting Focus:

Phase One: Rapid Response aimed to complement the work of public health officials by expanding local capacity to address the outbreak’s social, health and economic impacts in the short and long term. Grants will be awarded to nonprofit organizations who are:

  • Authentically connected to the greater Worcester community
  • Serving populations whose needs are being exacerbated by the crisis – including, but not limited to:
    • Front-line workers (first responders, healthcare workers, essential workers)
    • Those facing physical, behavioral or emotional health challenges, including those with disabilities
    • Children and seniors
    • Communities of color, immigrants, refugees and undocumented individuals
    • Those facing food-insecurity
    • Homeless populations
  • Incurring expenses above-and-beyond budgeted operating expenses due to meeting community needs resulting from the pandemic

Program Details:

  • Grant Size: $5,000 to $50,000
  • Organizations will only be eligible for one Phase One: Rapid Response Grant.
  • 501(c)(3) organizations and programs with a fiscal sponsor are eligible.
  • The program will not fund individuals or businesses.