This article (featuring United Way of Northern Utah) is part of an ongoing series showcasing the diversity of businesses and local nonprofit organizations in Ogden funded by the Ogden CARES Grant Program. Ogden CARES was funded by the federal CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). CRF could only fund, “necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19).” Ogden City used CRF from both Weber County and the State of Utah to fund the Ogden CARES program. Ogden City received three tapered rounds of CRF from Jun. through Nov. 2020 and, consequently, administered three rounds of Ogden CARES. This series highlights four Ogden CARES grantees adversely impacted by COVID-19 and how they received support from Ogden CARES. With help from Ogden CARES funds, United Way of Northern Utah was able to maintain a healthy level of staffing and continue to provide additional support to Ogden-area nonprofits through the Nonprofit Connection Center.
Read more about the Ogden CARES program in the first article in the series, the "Final Report."
As a nonprofit, United Way of Northern Utah (UWNU) serves Weber, Morgan, Box Elder, and Oneida (ID) counties, but their offices are in Ogden—the area with the largest concentration of need. The organization’s focus is on improving community level outcomes in education, income, and health and in bringing partners together to collectively, and most effectively, improve the lives of its neighbors and community.
According to Tim Jackson, the president and CEO of UWNU, his organization not only supports other nonprofits financially, but, due to COVID, there’s a greater focus on lifting up the nonprofit sector on which so many people depend.
Jackson said his role is to work closely with the board of directors (consisting of 22 members, all representing different parts of the community) to advance his organization’s missions—in particular, its work through volunteerism. UWNU recognizes volunteerism as one of the most effective ways to scale its work and engage the broader community in visitation of children in the home, tutoring and mentoring, tax help, and more.
Additionally, UWNU works with the United Partnership Council—chaired by Sen. Ann Milner and Superintendent Rich Nye—as a body serving to develop integrated plans for improving outcomes in early childhood education, third grade reading, high school graduation, food security, and affordable housing.
“We also have a community school initiative with full-time staff in Title 1 schools in Ogden School District that connects children and families with community resources,” Jackson said.
Needs have shifted for nonprofits as the effects of COVID continue to be felt nationwide. Financial strain and a loss of support has forced organizations to rethink their work. According to Jackson, UWNU is working to create forums to assist nonprofits with fundraising, event planning, marketing, etc. Jackson said nonprofits have historically been limited in resources, but, when you have an economic downturn or new challenges (like those caused by COVID), this lack of resources is compounded as needs increase and available resources decrease. Part of UWNU’s work takes the form of the Nonprofit Connection Center, which was developed to support strategic planning, leadership and change management.
“Our nonprofits are experts in the populations they serve and the services they deliver,” Jackson said. “I’ve been fortunate during my tenure at United Way to help professionalize a number of our systems, which creates efficiency and allows for staff to focus on what they do best. These nonprofits do incredible work with the resources they have.”
Jackson’s team includes contractors and experts who regularly assist nonprofits with knowing how to make budgetary adjustments. UWNU helps these nonprofits with the paperwork, receipts, accounting, and regulations for grant applications—a potentially overwhelming process when an organization is already dealing with greater strain due to ongoing circumstances beyond its control.
Jackson said assistance from Ogden City and the Business Information Center made a difference for the people managing nonprofits who may have otherwise been overwhelmed.
“I think the City did a really good job with making the CARES application as easy and manageable as possible, Jackson said, “Especially when there’s such an opportunity cost in redirecting their [an organization’s] attention to something they haven’t done before and aren’t certain is going to pay off, it’s like ‘What do you drop to do that? Is it worth the mental health or over-extending yourself?’”
Jackson said the Ogden CARES funds helped UWNU to stay whole in terms of staffing—it enabled his organization to maintain community school coordinators who have been very much involved in supporting students when school wasn’t in session (including doing things like contact tracing). The CARES money is an investment into the entire nonprofit sector to help organizations innovate, respond in real time, and focus on their core missions.
“Keeping us whole and allowing us to be responsive to the needs of our community as they come up, means we’ve been able to hold trainings and webinars and help organizations apply for multiple funding sources,” Jackson said. “This money has also enabled us to purchase equipment for students to be able to have a device at home to take advantage of remote learning. The big picture is, without these monies, we’d be looking at ‘What do we need to cut? What are things we just won’t be able to do this year because our resources are down?’ Instead, we’ve been able to ask, ‘How can we realign our existing staff to be responsive to the times and populations we serve?’”