2016-2017 First Step Funding for Children Living in Poverty
Request for Proposal (RFP) Announcement


The United Way of Northwest Arkansas is pleased to announce the launch of its First Step Funding initiative representing the “first step” on our Pathway out of Poverty. This funding opportunity is in support of our focus area addressing the issue of Children Living in Poverty.

United Way of Northwest Arkansas is seeking proposals that will expand existing programs or develop new and innovative solutions for helping children living in poverty. Nonprofit organizations that have been determined to be 501(c)(3) entities by the Internal Revenue Service and other tax exempt organizations (e.g. political subdivisions, etc.) currently providing, or that could successfully implement, high-quality services and programs in alignment with providing children a pathway out of poverty are encouraged to apply for one year of funding. Additional future funding may be available based upon outcomes after year one.


In May 2014, the United Way of Northwest Arkansas Board of Directors made the decision to shift United Way of Northwest Arkansas to an “issue-focused” model. Through a strategic planning process, United Way of Northwest Arkansas identified areas of need within our community and selected an issue in which we believe public, private, and government partners can collectively influence meaningful change with measureable results. The issue chosen was children living in poverty. The Board of Directors issued a Bold Goal for United Way of Northwest Arkansas: Providing every child a pathway out of poverty. The role of United Way of Northwest Arkansas is to:

  • Lead—Convene and educate our community about children living in poverty
  • Identify and Partner—Identify impactful partnerships with a goal of providing a pathway out of poverty
  • Mobilize—Mobilize resources to achieve collective impact in our community
  • Invest—Invest in our community to achieve the greatest impact


Nearly one in four children in Northwest Arkansas under the age of 18 live in poverty—that’s 26,000 children, the largest concentration of children in poverty in the state. Besides struggling to have their basic needs met, children in poverty experience additional problems in educational and cognitive development, and health outcomes. The implications of nearly a quarter of children growing up in poverty in our community are significant and require our collective attention.


The Request for Proposal process for 2016-2017 First Step Funding for Children Living in Poverty will be in two stages: a Letter of Intent (LOI) from all eligible organizations, to be evaluated, and a final Request for Proposal (RFP) from select applicants.

February 25, 2016 First Step Funding Request for Proposal announcement released to the community
March 8, 2016 at 9:30am at the Center for Nonprofits at St. Mary’s, AT&T Classroom (1200 W Walnut, Rogers) Informational meeting to discuss the RFP and LOI process. Any interested eligible organization is welcome to attend the meeting to ask questions and gain information needed to apply.
April 1, 2016 Letter of Intent (LOI) due by email to
April 4-29, 2016 UWNWA Community Investment Volunteers review submitted LOIs and select applicants to receive RFP
May 2, 2016 Applicants notified of LOI decisions; Application released to selected agencies
May 5, 2016 at 3:00 pm


May 6, 2016 at 8:00 am

Required training for all selected agencies on the Community Building Module. Two trainings will be offered to allow agencies flexibility to attend the required training. Since applicants will not be notified until May 2, please ensure that you block off the required training time slots now.
June 3, 2016 RFP applications due through the Community Building Module
June-July 2016 UWNWA Community Investment volunteers review applications and determine funding recommendations
July 25, 2016 Applicants notified of funding decisions
September 1, 2016-August 31, 2017 UWNWA First Step Funding for Children Living in Poverty grant period


The minimum criteria to apply for First Step Funding from United Way of Northwest Arkansas includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • Must be an eligible tax-exempt or non-profit organization, with a 501(c)(3) letter of determination from the IRS, or other tax exempt status.
  • Must be willing to abide by all United Way policies and procedures.
  • Must be willing to collaborate with United Way and make efforts to continually improve organizational efficiencies and quality of service.
  • Must provide programming that targets children under the age of 18 that live in poverty and reside in Northwest Arkansas.

In addition, for 501(c)(3) organizations:

  • Must have written by-laws, which clearly define the organization’s purposes and functions, its structure, and the duties, authority, and responsibilities of its governing body and officers.
  • Must be governed by a local volunteer board of directors that meets at least quarterly, with adequate provision for board rotation.
  • Must be willing to submit agency financial statements according to the UWNWA partner program financial policy.

For other tax exempt organizations, a governance structure must be in place (e.g. oversight council, appointed or elected board of directors, etc.) and there must be evidence of overall financial health and stability.


United Way of Northwest Arkansas invites eligible nonprofit and tax exempt organizations to reply to our 2016-2017 Request for Proposal through an initial Letter of Intent. This will be a highly competitive process.

Applicants may submit proposals to:

  • Continue funding for direct service programs.
  • Expand services for programs that show significant measurable results in order to serve more program participants through community partnerships (i.e. service providers, financial institutions, school districts).
  • Create new and innovative solutions to achieve community outcomes.

The Letter of Intent will provide a concise description of the program for which the organization is requesting funding. The following elements must be included in the Letter of Intent:

  • Describe the overall focus of your organization and verify that you meet the eligibility requirements.
  • Describe your proposed program to build a pathway out of poverty.
    • Is this an expansion of an existing program or a new program? Why is it critical?
    • What are the specific short term outcomes expected? What is the long term impact expected?
    • What evidence do you have that the program will achieve the outcomes and have the desired impact?
    • What measures will you use to evaluate success related to outcomes and impact?
  • Describe the budget required.
    • Will the program be wholly funded by the grant or combined with other sources of income? If there are other funding sources, please describe.
  • What else is critical to know about this program initiative?

United Way of Northwest Arkansas is available to discuss proposal ideas before the submission deadline. Please contact Kim Johnson, Manager of Child Pathway out of Poverty Programs at to schedule a meeting.

Letters of Intent (LOIs) must be submitted no later than 5:00 pm on Friday, April 1, 2016. Submit all LOI(s) by email to Kim Johnson, Manager of Child Pathway out of Poverty Programs at


Submission of an RFP application is by invitation only. Organizations will be asked to submit an RFP application based on the initial Letter of Intent submitted.

Applications will be submitted through the online portal called the Community Building Module. All applicants (including current United Way of Northwest Arkansas agency partners) are required to attend a Community Building Module training session on one of the following dates: Thursday, May 5 at 3:00 pm or Friday, May 6 at 8:00 am. The training session will be held at the United Way of Northwest Arkansas office in Lowell.

Grant applications are due by 5:00 pm on Friday, June 3, 2016.

selection criteria

All Letter of Intent proposals and RFP applications will be reviewed by a panel of unbiased community investment volunteers with direct subject matter knowledge and/or community investment experience.

United Way of Northwest Arkansas will be looking for the vertical or horizontal expansion of existing quality programs, promising practices grounded in research, and emerging and innovative ideas.

implementation grants

Selected agencies for First Step Funding for Children Living in Poverty will receive a one-year First Step Funding grant. These grants will allow programs one-year to provide outcomes and indicators, with future funding for further implementation of programs based on the progress made during the first year of funding.

The grant period for approved grants will be September 1, 2016 to August 31, 2017.

first step funding reporting & meeting requirements

Agencies receiving First Step Funding will be required to:

  • Complete grant reporting, including mid-year and final grant reports.
  • Attend monthly First Step Funding meetings. The focus of these meetings will be to collectively create community outcomes and indicators, collaboration, sharing of best practices, and an overall focus around the issue of children living in poverty.
  • Abide by the United Way of Northwest Arkansas First Step Funding Agency Agreement.


If you have any questions about the Request for Proposal (RFP) process, please contact Kim Johnson, Manager of Child Pathway out of Poverty programs at (479) 303-4422 or


United Way of Northwest Arkansas has received the following questions concerning the 2016-2017 First Step Funding for Children Living in Poverty Request for Proposal. 

Eligibility Requirements

  1. Can the program focus on the family as whole, rather than just the child?
    1. Yes, as long as you are clear on the direct impact to the child. You need to connect the dots on how helping the family will ultimately impact the child.
    2. Provide research and data to support your information to help our volunteers make the connection.
  2. What is the definition of “child?”
    1. 0-18 years of age
  3. In regards to the “local Board of Directors” requirement, are there any exceptions?
    1. For schools, a school board does meet this requirement.
    2. If the board is not local, but the organization serves children in Northwest Arkansas, then the requirement is met.
  4. Is there a minimum number of people that need to be served?
    1. If you have a really impactful program for a limited amount of children, we still encourage you to apply.
  5. Is there a specific target area within NWA that UWNWA is interested in?
    1. We are open to any area in NWA that falls in our service area of Benton, Madison, and Washington counties. We do not want to limit programs to a certain location.


  1. Since the timeline is so short, there may not be enough time to coordinate with partners. Will United Way be flexible to allow agencies to build partnerships?
    1. Yes, just outline the plans and include possible partnerships for us in the Letter of Intent.

Letter of Intent

  1. If we submit more than one Letter of Intent, are we eligible to get more than one First Step Funding grant?
    1. Yes, we are not going to limit it to one per organization. Decisions will be based on the programs presented.
  2. Once the Letters of Intent are submitted, can applying organizations see everyone else’s Letter of Intent?
    1. No, UWNWA will not share other Letter of Intents.
    2. UWNWA will help facilitate connections between similar programs, ideas, and work, as well as identify gaps in services based on the Letters of Intent.
  3. In regards to the budget, should we give scenarios about “x” amount of money will allow us to do this, but “x” amount of money will allow us to do this?
    1. Yes, the Letter of Intent is an excellent place to do that. It will allow the committee to see the possibilities.
    2. There will be a more specific budget in the application.
  4. How closely will the agency be held to budget from the Letter of Intent to the application?
    1. We will be flexible since the Letter of Intent is more high level, but we will want to see more accurate numbers for the application.

RFP Application

  1. Will the application be in ANDAR?
    1. Yes, and that is why there is a mandatory training meeting for all organizations that will be asked to fill out an application.

First Step Funding Grants

  1. What is the specific grant amount range?
    1. We have not identified a specific range.
    2. They will be larger grants, but we are open to proposed dollar amounts.
    3. UWNWA will not be doing $5,000-$10,000 grants for children living in poverty. As our board develops our funding strategy for the next several years, similar adjustments may be made to any other funding.
  2. Will current UWNWA partners automatically receive First Step Funding if they apply?
    1. No, this is a blank slate—everyone will apply in the same regardless of previous funding from UWNWA.
  3. Would UWNWA be interested in funding a social worker in the school system?
    1. Our advice is to apply for any idea that you have, but make sure to make the connection to children living in poverty.
  4. Is there a renewal opportunity past the first year of funding?
    1. There is an opportunity for implementation grants and future funding, but that will be based on our Board of Director’s strategic plan.
  5. If an organization is not funded in year one, is it possible to get funding in year two?
    1. Yes
  6. If someone creates a new program, if it doesn’t get full funding, it can put a hardship on the agency. Can we require full funding for things like that?
    1. We will provide those guidelines to our committee to keep in mind.
    2. We may also see if we can engage other funders.

Grant Cycle and Allocations

  1. If two organizations are working in collaboration, can UWNWA allocate funding directly to each organization or does one organization have to distribute funds to the other organization?
    1. UWNWA will allocate funding based on how the organizations desire. Please include these details in the Letter of Intent. We would need to know who would be receiving the allocations and the percentage breakdown.
  2. Will the funding be allocated one time or quarterly?
    1. Monthly, with the total allocation amount divided into the 12 month grant period.
  3. For new projects, can UWNWA consider startup costs to pay-out earlier than once per month?
    1. Yes, UWNWA will consider startup costs and pay those out at the beginning of the grant cycle. Monthly allocations would be adjusted accordingly.
    2. Any startup costs need to be included in the Letter of Intent.
  4. Will September 1-August 31 be the new regular grant dates?
    1. No, our hope is to get back on our fiscal year of July 1-June 30. This grant cycle is just to get us started.

Community Investment Volunteer Committee

  1. Will there be guidelines for the committee making funding decisions? “Impactful” is a relative word based on opinion.
    1. We will have loose guidelines for the committee
    2. UWNWA will release the general guidelines that the Community Investment Volunteer Committee will receive. We will release them as soon as possible by email.
  2. Will UWNWA publish the list of Community Investment Volunteers that review the Letter of Intent submissions and applications?
    1. The Community Investment Volunteers will consist of a cross-sector of community stakeholders. Committee members include representatives from the following stakeholder groups: subject matter experts, businesses, government, and higher education.

General Questions

  1. How do other foundations in the area fund? Is this duplication?
    1. UWNWA has been meeting with other foundations and are collaborating with them to reduce duplication of services.
  2. As a small agency, there is concern for the short time frame for the Letter of Intent submission. Is that something that was considered?
    1. UWNWA knows that this is a short time frame, but this is the only way that we could make funding decisions for this year.
    2. UWNWA will help any agency through one-on-one consults and reviewing drafts.
  3. Will agencies that receive First Step Funding be able to get direct designations?
    1. Yes
  4. When the current partner agencies are no longer funded, will agencies not receiving First Step Funding be able to get designations from campaign?
    1. The Board of Directors will have to determine that.