Tuesday, September 26, 2023 Sep 26, 2023
93° F Dallas, TX

How the United Way and Communities Foundation Are Helping Small Nonprofits Fight COVID-19

Grant applicants have already requested $11 million in funding from North Texas Cares, an unprecedented philanthropic partnership.
By |

As the coronavirus continues to spread, vulnerable members of our society–the elderly, the homeless, children living in poverty–will feel its effects to an unprecedented degree. North Texas’ nonprofit community is swiftly adapting to meet increasing demands, but many are struggling to find the money to pay for it.

Some of our region’s largest companies and foundations have acknowledged that smaller nonprofits need assistance. Nearly 30 Dallas-Fort Worth Area organizations (including Toyota Motors North America, Communities Foundation of Texas, and The Gene and Jerry Jones Family Foundation) have partnered with local branches of United Way to create North Texas Cares. The goal is to bring together donors to provide financial support to small nonprofits that serve the people and communities affected by COVID-19. To date, a total of $1.3 million has been awarded to applicants.

North Texas Cares’ streamlined application process uses a single form; nonprofits are able to submit their requests to all partners at once. This ensures that they get the resources they need as quickly as possible.

“In urgent times such as these, it is imperative that we come together to simplify the process for submitting funding requests, for all of our nonprofit partners,” said Leah King, president and CEO of United Way of Tarrant County.

Dozens of applicants have already received funding. Meals on Wheels Senior Services is now delivering shelf-stable foods in addition to hot meals. Domestic violence shelter Emily’s Place continues to provide housing, childcare, and other resources. Empowering the Masses, which typically focuses on vocational training, has pivoted to fight food insecurity with grocery drop-offs and pickups. All are doing so with money from North Texas Cares.

“We’re facing unprecedented challenges in our community as we confront the COVID-19 emergency, and it’s important that we do it together.”

Jennifer Sampson

To be eligible for funding, nonprofits must be 501c3 organizations and provide services that address immediate or long-term COVID-19 relief efforts.

North Texas Cares anticipates that grants will range from $10,000 to $40,000. Each partner will use their own funds to award grants, so one application could result in multiple grant contracts.

Over 300 applications have been submitted and 800 others are in progress, says Monica Egert Smith, the chief relationship officer at Communities Foundation of Texas. Nonprofits have requested $11 million in grants so far.

“This is just the beginning,” said Smith. “Many of [these nonprofits] will continue to support individuals and families who will be out of work for quite some time, even after the threat of the virus passes.”

One of the first North Texas Cares grant recipients was Better Block Foundation. Better Block promotes the growth of neighborhoods through purposefully designed public spaces. One problem: Better Block’s entire business model is bringing people together. And people cannot currently be together.

So the nonprofit shifted its operations, using its construction and design tools to create protective face shields for medical providers. Better Block started by using a 3-D printer to create each shield, which took roughly two hours. Now, the team uses a CNC router, a computer-controlled cutting machine, to cut sheets of plastic. That produces 99 shields per hour.

A face shield created by Better Block. Photo Courtesy of Better Block

Better Block applied for a North Texas Cares grant last Wednesday. By Monday, their request for $40,000 had been fulfilled by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. With the addition of community donations, Better Block has the dollars to create 8,500 shields.

Better Block’s shield template is available online for public use, and managing director Krista Nightengale has received messages from individuals as far as New Zealand who are using it.

“[Right now, the world can] feel pretty helpless. [This is] giving us a purpose, giving us all something to work toward,” said Nightengale.

(If you are in the medical field in Dallas and you need a shield, says Nightengale, reach out to [email protected].)

Including Better Block’s grant, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas has so far approved and awarded $750,000 to North Texas Cares grant applicants.

“We’re facing unprecedented challenges in our community as we confront the COVID-19 emergency, and it’s important that we do it together … to ensure that those hit hardest by this pandemic will receive assistance as quickly as possible,” said Jennifer Sampson, McDermott-Templeton President and CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

In addition to partnering on North Texas Cares, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and Communities Foundation of Texas are working together to facilitate an extension of North Texas Giving Day.

Giving Tuesday, a globally-recognized day of philanthropic fundraising, has been moved from December to May because of the immediate need for COVID-19 relief around the world. While North Texas Giving Day will be held in September as usual, an additional initiative will take place this May to fund urgent relief efforts here in Dallas.

The initiative, known as North Texas Giving Tuesday Now, will begin at 6 a.m. on May 5. Donations will go directly to the North Texas Giving Day organizations on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.

“As #GivingTuesdayNow tackles the need on the global and national scale, Communities Foundation of Texas is thrilled to be joined by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and the Dallas Cowboys in unparalleled efforts to address local needs right here at home,” said Scullin, president and CEO of Communities Foundation of Texas.

Yesterday, the Communities Foundation of Texas established yet another partnership, this time with Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. The initiative, Dallas County COVID-19 Response Fund, was created to support our city’s first responders and healthcare workers. $100,000 has already been raised; the funds will be used to produce sanitizer.

“The fight against the spread of COVID-19 can only be won if we protect our frontline responders including police, fire, EMS, and healthcare workers,” said Jenkins. “The Dallas County COVID-19 Response Fund will [provide them with] critically needed resources that will keep them protected.”

Related Articles


COVID-19 Bulletin (12/02/21)

The omicron variant has arrived in the U.S. as Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers is blocked by a federal judge.

COVID-19 Bulletin (11/15/21)

A federal judge blocked Abbott's ban on mask mandates. Ten states have challenged the healthcare worker vaccine mandate.

COVID-19 Bulletin (12/08/21)

Omicron has arrived in Texas. UT Dallas has created a breath test for COVID-19.
By Catherine Rosas