Eliminating racism. Empowering women. Everything we do at the YWCA Greater Cleveland is a reflection of this mission. But how do we pay for the work that allows us to bring the mission to life?
The short answer is philanthropy. The longer answer, however, takes a bit more explanation. For instance, when YWCA Greater Cleveland receives grants from community and corporate sources, those dollars usually come with an asterisk – a little note requiring us to spend the awarded money on particular programs, purposes, even staff positions. While funders often have very specific interests and priorities, many are fortunately very interested in our high-quality programs for homeless youth and young adults.
Grant restrictions tend to be even more stringent when the YWCA receives funding from federal, state, or local government sources. For example, as a Permanent Supportive Housing location, our Independence Place contains 23 apartments – 15 funded by the federal Homeless Act. Because of this funding, anyone housed in one of those 15 apartments must meet the federal qualifications of at least one year of homelessness or two years of episodic homelessness. For us, this means potentially being unable to offer housing (at least in those federally-funded units) to a young woman whom we knew was aging out of foster with nowhere to go. In that unfortunate example, it is conceivable that the young lady would have to become homeless by definition before we could help.
Thankfully, eight apartments at Independence Place are supported by less restrictive revenue streams. With these apartments, the YWCA has the flexibility needed to address individuals’ needs, regardless of whether they meet the federal qualifications for homelessness or not. Much of our unrestricted support comes from individual donors, people from across the community who believe in the work we do and the expertise we provide (FY13 annual report). In fact, an important component of our work centers on building a stronger base of dedicated individual supporters. Last year alone, individual contributions grew by 28 percent, nearly double the previous year’s growth of 16 percent. These unrestricted contributions are crucial to the success of our work.
However large or small, annual gifts can pack a mighty punch when we are able to use the funds where they’re most needed. Maybe it’s a haircut for a tenant with a new job; maybe it’s a winter coat for a young mother’s infant; possibly you’ll provide a month’s rent for an apartment upstairs, maybe a computer for a staff member who works tirelessly to make these programs possible or the salary of the security guard here on weekends making sure our tenants are safe.
If you received our recent annual fund letter, or if you’re a community member looking to make a difference, here’s the suggestion: the YWCA needs your unrestricted donation. It makes our unique and meaningful work possible. You can contribute here or call us at 216.881.6878 for more information.
Julianne Potter is the Coordinator of Grants and Donor Relations with YWCA Greater Cleveland’s Advancement team. A recent returnee to Cleveland from Ann Arbor, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and Creative Writing and minored in Arabic and Peace and Social Justice at the University of Michigan. She is passionate about youth leadership development, racial justice, innovative philanthropy, and advocacy for women. After just over four weeks working at YWCA Greater Cleveland, she thinks she has found a great fit.