(DALLAS) – United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is pleased to announce its newest group of GroundFloor Fellows. The GroundFloor invests in and mentors social entrepreneurs working to make an impact in North Texas in the areas of education, income, and health.
The GroundFloor is targeted toward social innovation endeavors that would not typically be eligible for a grant through United Way’s highly competitive Community Impact Fund process because they do not yet have measurable results. Candidates selected for support from the GroundFloor show promise of introducing the next big idea for preparing students to succeed after graduation, reducing poverty, or improving health across North Texas.
United Way founded GroundFloor in 2013 with seed investment from AT&T, EY and a variety of generous individual donors. The fund’s first recipient was Café Momentum, a culinary job-training program transforming the futures of at-risk youth.
“Our first group of GroundFloor recipients, including the incredibly successful Cafe Momentum, is proving these social innovation investments change lives in North Texas,” says John Stephens, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Board Chair and Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at AT&T. “We are excited to fund this next group of startups, all creatively inventing new ways to achieve lasting impact throughout our community.”
This newest group of GroundFloor Fellows includes the following organizations:
2ndSaturday is a non-profit/sustainable-business hybrid that seeks to address the lack of long-term employment and opportunity available to the numerous at-risk men of Dallas’ poorest neighborhoods, while simultaneously helping to restore the homes and dignity of disadvantaged senior, limited-income and disabled residents of the city. What began as a volunteer project with nine people at a West Dallas home in 2009 has become a monthly service event for hundreds of volunteers from across the metroplex, and a business that intentionally employs and invests in former felons, gang-members and drug-dealers in order to provide a pathway out of poverty. “2S” employees are helping build sustainable small businesses in lawn care, construction and more while working alongside city partners to serve their community. By providing a job, meaningful long-term relationships and purpose, not just a program, 2ndSaturday believes the inner-city’s at-risk men can not only contribute, but become emerging leaders in neighborhoods they once exploited.
Per Scholas is a national nonprofit organization offering free, high quality technology education, job training, placement, and career development opportunities to people in underserved communities. Since 1998, more than 5,000 unemployed and underemployed adults (18+ years old) have enrolled in its job training programs. Per Scholas offers a free 8-week job training course (IT-Ready) providing high quality, hands-on technical skills training and professional soft skills development to unemployed and underemployed adults. The course teaches to the CompTIA A+ certification, which prepares candidates for entry-level help desk and technical support roles. The Per Scholas model has been twice recognized by the White House for its effectiveness serving the unemployed and proven successful through independent studies, launching its growth into new regions. In its first year, Per Scholas Dallas will train 80 students from the Metroplex. Nationally, 85 percent of Per Scholas participants graduate and obtain industry certification and 75 percent of graduates land jobs.
SafeNight is a mobile service that assists domestic violence organizations and engages individual donors in paying for hotel rooms when it is an appropriate option. The SafeNight Solution leverages the capacity that exists within our community to meet a desperate need, and do so sustainably and at scale. The Solution coalesces mature technologies – a web-based fund-raising/financial management system (Virtual Aid Drive™) and a smartphone app – to fund rooms (hotel rooms, etc.) on a real-time basis for people who are in danger of violence. The program received initial support for development from backers such as Microsoft Corporate Citizenship, Blue Shield of California Foundation, and Vodafone Americas Foundation. The program is being brought to Dallas as its first Metropolitan-Wide rollout by SafeNight founding partner, Dallas-based AdvanceNet Labs, and in collaboration with SafeNight concept creator and program leader, Caravan Studios (a division of TechSoup Global).
Upswing is an organization focused on partnering with colleges to improve student success and retention through retention planning, online collaboration technology, and predictive data analytics. Before beginning the partnership, a retention officer works with each college to help identify a plan that will best suit the college’s needs in order to build awareness and assess impact over the course of the partnership. By modernizing traditional academic support methods, colleges are able to provide a college experience that aligns with the schedules and lifestyles of students. Additionally, college administrators can access real-time student performance data and reports in order to prevent student attrition before it occurs. The result is higher student retention rates and a better overall experience for every student. Upswing is on a mission to help end attrition.
Drawing on the strength of United Way and its supporters from across the community, the GroundFloor provides its participants with a three-pronged investment:
- Financial capital, for seed and early stage ventures;
- Human capital in the form of an intensive program led by mentors from the areas of entrepreneurship, academics, public policy and the social sector; and
- Social capital, by connecting The GroundFloor’s participants with resources from more than 1,000 United Way corporate partners and more than 80 service providers.
This new class represents GroundFloor’s second year of operations. The four organizations in the inaugural class leveraged their mentoring, support and seed funding investments of $310,000 to raise an additional $1.85M to fund their impact work.
The applications for the GroundFloor’s 2016 programs will open in Summer 2015. Ventures will be selected through a competitive business plan and pitch competition. More information about the GroundFloor and the application process is available at thegroundfloor.org.
About United Way of Metropolitan Dallas
United Way of Metropolitan Dallas brings people together to improve lives and create lasting change here in North Texas by focusing on education, income, and health — the building blocks for strong families and thriving communities. We galvanize and connect all sectors of society – individuals, businesses, non-profits, and government – to create long-term change through investing in solutions that produce healthy, well-educated and financially stable individuals and families. We raise, invest and leverage over $50M annually in community-focused solutions serving Dallas, Collin, Rockwall and southern Denton counties. We do more than help one person beat the odds – we are changing the odds for entire communities. Together, we LIVE UNITED. To learn more, please visit UnitedWayDallas.org.