Kate Knight, GroundFloor director, talks with Virginia Waldrop with ReadyToWork (right) at one of GroundFloor's December networking and education events.

United Way’s GroundFloor Program Unveils Five New Investments

'Intrapreneurs' battling poverty, predatory lending, and unhealthy eating receive nearly $500K in capital and other assistance.

Five nonprofits are being awarded more than $494,000 in seed funding, mentoring, and social-capital investment as the newest class of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ GroundFloor Fellows program. The program, founded in 2013 with investments from AT&T, EY, and individual donors, is a social innovation fund and “impact accelerator program” that provides support and resources to innovative social ventures.

The five nonprofits receiving the GroundFloor assistance are:

—The Akola Project, which empowers impoverished women to become agents of transformation for their families and their communities through economic development. Begun in Uganda, the program has expanded to Dallas. It will receive a total of $107,500 through a combination of seed funding, mentoring, and social-capital investment.

—Bonton Farms, a rapidly developing urban farm that’s providing jobs, healthy food, and community development in the “food desert” community of Bonton, five miles south of downtown Dallas. It will be awarded a total of $97,500.

—Dallas Teacher Residency, which prepares effective classroom teachers for urban schools. It will receive an investment totaling $148,500.

—SafeNight, a mobile-app service that engages donors in paying for hotel rooms for domestic-violence victims when shelters are full. Developed with the help of corporate backers like Microsoft and Blue Shield of California, the app service is being brought to North Texas by Dallas-based AdvanceNet Labs, a SafeNight founding partner. It will be awarded an investment totaling $78,500.

—Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a community-based nonprofit that helps those in need. It will receive a total of $62,500 for its Mini Loan Program, which provides relief to those trapped financially in the likes of predatory payday and auto-title lending programs.

“Innovation is clearly thriving in our community—and not just with startups,” Kate Knight, director of GroundFloor, said in a statement. “By funding this inventive track of ‘intrapreneurs,’ we are helping organizations hire the ‘unhirable,’ create alternatives to predatory lending, equip new teachers to succeed, and use technology to improve the nonprofit sector. The sky’s the limit in terms of impact this group can have as they creatively work toward community-level change.”

The application process for GroundFloor’s 2017 program will open in the fall. For more information, visit thegroundfloor.org.

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