As a mother of four, Shawana Carter knows first-hand how expensive it can be to get kids ready for back to school. She recalls a time when she did not have enough money to put clothes on the backs of her children, even though she and her husband were working full-time.
Today, Carter is in a better place, but she hasn’t forgotten about families that struggle to make ends meet. She founded Carter’s House five years ago, a nonprofit that provides free new and gently used school clothing to Dallas County children of all ages.
“The families we see are generally hard-working families. They are low to moderate income and they just have hit a spot where they just don’t have it,” Carter says. “For these families, there is just more month, than money.”
By providing this service to up to 700 families a year, Carter knows she is freeing up funds, so families can focus paying other bills. She says parents have told her that they will put the money they have saved toward rent or food.
Carter is one of many leaders in our community who have who built a nonprofit organization based on her experiences. These leaders need resources to help them touch more lives and create more impact. To that end, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, along with State Fair of Texas and University of Texas at Dallas, started the Thriving Nonprofits Initiative.
This collaborative capacity building initiative brings knowledge, investment and networking to these organizations. Subject matter experts from United Way, State Fair of Texas, UNT Dallas, and various community institutions* coordinate and provide a customized 40-hour course developed to address the key capacity areas organizations operating in the community have said they need. The course is paired with a $5,000 stipend, opportunities to network and peer-learn, and an opportunity to pitch for an additional investment of up to $10,000 to support specific capacity needs identified by each organization. This program is supported in part by United Way, State Fair of Texas, Dallas Foundation, and United Way Worldwide.
Carter says the Thriving Nonprofits Initiative has changed her outlook and her future plans for Carter’s House.
“It was eye-opening as an executive director on how I propel this organization to the next level to ensure that we are sustainable for as long as we are needed. We had to transition from being a passion project to business,” she says. “Those six months of classes were extremely instrumental for me in seeing the long game for Carter’s House,” she says. This was a turning point for me.”
At the end of the day, United Way wants to see all communities flourish. We are committed to treating 360 degrees of need in North Texas in the areas of education, income, and health. We strongly believe that equipping homegrown leaders with knowledge and resources will ensure impact happens. Through the Thriving Nonprofits Initiative, not only do Executive Directors leave with better knowledge and tools, but they also leave having gained trusted resources both in and out of their community, with which to engage and partner.
* Communities Foundation of Texas, LegalAid of NorthWest Texas, Connect3, VolunteerNow, Mary Beth Harrington, Deloitte, Dr. Halima Leak Francis, Boulder Advocacy, Frost Bank, and Matt Houston