Nonprofit Innovation Hub: United Way of Yavapai County quickened pace to aid nonprofits, bridge digital divide

Nonprofit Innovation Hub: United Way of Yavapai County quickened pace to aid nonprofits, bridge digital divide

by Troy Hill, ASU Lodestar Center

June 2, 2021

Despite the unfortunate conditions into which COVID-19 forced many nonprofits, the United Way of Yavapai County (UWYC) managed to sustain its support of nonprofits over the last year and is continuing to provide ongoing assistance to local communities in need.

Last March, when the pandemic was just beginning to impact the country, leaders at UWYC recognized how much of a financial need there was among nonprofits, and they quickly met the challenges head-on by distributing nearly $112,500 to over 20 organizations. As a part of their COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, some of those recipients included the Verde Valley Homeless Coalition, the Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Prescott Unified School District.

United Way is a global organization that focuses on supporting local organizations and “mobilizing the caring power of communities around the world to advance the common good.” A chapter of United Way works from Yavapai County, Arizona, which extends from south of Flagstaff down to Wickenburg, and has a population of over 200,000.

United Way mainly focuses on supporting three types of nonprofits with their funding: healthcare, education, and income stability-related programs. On a normal annual cycle, UWYC gives out more than $200,000 to local nonprofits who fall within these areas. Over the course of the last year, they were able to continue meeting that standard by giving out over $233,000.

When COVID-19 hit, UWYC started receiving calls from local organizations that would potentially have to drop programs.

“We were seeing a lot of needs, so we quickly did a grant cycle, which we had up and done in no time at all - less than a month,” said Patty Bell-Demers, the executive director for UWYC.

This initiative was their COVID-19 emergency relief, a “brand-new grant allocation where it was a simplified process to any of those agencies,” she said.

Some of the agencies that were able to receive immediate help were the Boys and Girls Clubs, Manzanita Outreach, Paulen Food Bank, Prescott Area Shelter Services and more.

UWYC also noticed another huge need - access to the internet for remote education. Many students’ homes in Yavapai County do not have access to the internet, so children were unable to attend school online. In response to this, they partnered with the Yavapai County Education Technology Consortium (YCETC), which is a part of Yavapai County Education Service Agency.

“There was a great need, we were seeing a lot of students weren't connected,” Bell-Demers said. “So we were able to donate $16,000 to [the YCETC]. We partnered with them with providing hotspots and some services and some subscriptions for that broadband connectivity.”

Because of their work with providing internet connectivity, more students could attend school online.

"That need, trying to bridge that digital divide, is still great, so we're going to continue to reach out to the community,” Bell-Demers said. “That is still running in addition to other emergency COVID relief that is still happening in our communities.”

Innovation hub

Nonprofit Innovation Hub

We want to hear your success stories. Organizations are invited to contribute to the ASU Lodestar Center's Nonprofit Innovation Hub and share how they are adapting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Submissions will contribute to an indispensable resource and help lift up the nonprofit community during this time of need.