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The Promise History and Overview

In 2020, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey teamed up with the City of Philadelphia to introduce a new public-private partnership aimed at reducing poverty and promoting equitable recovery from the pandemic. Our collective strategy has been informed by partners such as Monitor Institute by Deloitte and Moody’s Analytics and designed to build a community-informed, evidence-based strategy to address Philadelphia’s high rate of poverty. In early 2020, City Council released the Poverty Action Plan, detailing an aligned set of interventions to reduce Philadelphia’s poverty rate. In Spring 2020, United Way led a community-informed process that inspired a citywide initiative to inform and adapt the model. In October 2020, City Council introduced legislation for The Promise to collaboratively invest in effective interventions and intensive measurement and learning. In November 2020, The Promise launched its first Community Challenge centered around family stability and access to public benefits, with grantees announced in February 2021. In November 2021, The Promise launched its first record clearing and employment access challenge; programming has been taking place since May 2022 and will run through June 2023.

The Promise is a joint effort between United Way, the City of Philadelphia, and private philanthropy to reduce Philadelphia’s poverty rate and create opportunities for an equitable recovery from the economic collapse. Through this initiative, a public-private fund has been developed to streamline evidence-focused grantmaking processes and support high-performing community organizations and partnerships. The Promise is administered at United Way, with a separate governing board, three content-specific advisory committees, and independent staff to provide guidance and direction throughout the grant process. Grantees of The Promise will have the ability to be connected to United Way’s other offerings; in this instance, programs such as workforce development and entrepreneurship may be of interest to the clients of grantees.

The Promise has three primary components:

  • A citywide awareness-building strategy to ensure all residents of our region can engage in the fight against poverty and strive collaboratively for an equitable recovery
  • A community investment process anchored by a series of Challenges, designed to invest deeply in place-based and population-based collaborations to maximize opportunity, income, and stability for families facing poverty
  • A Knowledge Center to support data collection, evaluation, learning, and transparent reporting on outcomes and to ensure continuous improvement and adaptation

Through the Promise, the United Way is releasing its next Community Challenge centered again on record sealing and employment access. We are excited to continue to be part of one of the largest, if not the largest, record sealing and clearing initiatives this city has ever seen. Through this year’s community challenge, we plan to fund a minimum of 15 clinics and community events throughout July 2023-June 2024, while also connecting these clinics to high-quality workforce partners and research partners. These partnerships will be innovative and large-scale and we look forward to beginning this work and to contributing to the body of research connecting record sealing and clearance to increased employment access and opportunity. We are inviting organizations with legal expertise and/or deep community reach to a collaborative process that includes:

1. Conducting outreach and engagement to make Philadelphians aware of record sealing opportunities through Clean Slate and follow-up petitioning for expungement or pardons

2. Hosting record sealing and clearing clinics at trusted community hubs across the city

3. Providing direct services to Philadelphia residents including:

  • Running their criminal history checks to make residents aware of their arrest and conviction records and the impacts of Clean Slate laws on sealing some/all of those records;
  • Identifying records that may be eligible for sealing or expungement through a petition process or pardon through a pardon application
  • Filing petitions and following up with residents to help further seal and/or clear past records

4. As available, provide access to other employment and income supports including job search, resume development, interview preparation, benefits access, basic needs, and/or other on-site services.

Community Hubs

Program Area: Community Partnerships

Anticipated Number of Awards: 7-15

Amount: $30,000 or $60,000 Amount awarded will depend on number of  applications and capacity of applicants. Applicants may propose budgets of either $30,000 for one event or $60,000 for two events. Final funding awards will be subject to change based on review. Some applicants who apply to host two events for $60,000 might be invited to instead host one for $30,000 in order to ensure geographic and organizational diversity around the city. Applicants who applied in year one and did not receive funding are encouraged to apply again. The Promise is seeking a mix of new and repeat community hubs.

Scope of Work: The Promise is seeking proposals from nonprofits that can: (1) provide outreach to community members and (2) to host record sealing clinics that double  as community events. Nonprofits that have a strong track record for effective marketing and facilitation of community-facing events are encouraged to apply. Through this funding, trusted community organizations will leverage local partnerships to maximize legal, financial, and employment opportunities for local residents. Selected organizations will manage record sealing and clearing clinics across the city (each grantee must commit to either  one or two clinics/events), facilitating collaborations between legal service providers, community organizations, and additional partners that may provide employment services, workforce development resources, benefits access, basic needs, and/or community referrals.

Activities may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Conduct community engagement and outreach activities and campaigns to build awareness and drive community participation in record sealing clinics; collaborate with The Promise on outreach as needed, for example sending your event flier to The Promise at least one month in advance of your event so we can share on our social media accounts and website
  • Develop culturally-appropriate strategies that attract and encourage participants to understand their records and take action
  • Develop promotional materials, media/marketing opportunities, event schedules and merchant/partnership guides to community participation
  • Facilitate and host either one or two 1-day clinics designed to screen, seal, and expunge records and criminal convictions
  • Collaborate with a legal services provider to bring trained staff and volunteers on-site to lead screening, sealing, and expungement activities (note: these partnerships should  not be established at the time of application and will be facilitated by The Promise)
  • Collaborate with a workforce development partner and a research  partner; these partnerships will be facilitated by The Promise
  • Support data collection and assessment efforts
  • Obtain required permits and comply with all City regulations for public events
  • Assist local partners and legal service providers in preparation and involvement in project activities, e.g. joint effort to promote events, coordinate transportation, collect data
  • Participate in a learning community  with other service providers and grantees to share lessons learned
  • Ensure community events are fun and   engaging; previous successful events have included food and games to ensure   the community is excited to attend and to provide activities while people wait to receive services

Proposals should lay out a clear plan for hosting record sealing clinics and encouraging residents to explore record sealing opportunities and connect to other workforce supports. Organizations are encouraged, but not required, to develop new collaborations, or expand existing ones, in order to leverage the expertise of multiple partners (see Appendix A for a sample collaboration).

Applicants should discuss how their proposed initiative takes a place-based approach to poverty reduction. An example of a place-based approach would include a focus on a certain neighborhood or zip code where the applicant has unique expertise, trust, and ability to reach families who would benefit from services.

Performance Measures: Selected grantees will be expected to provide regular reports to Promise staff. Metrics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Number of outreach and awareness campaigns conducted
  • Number of local community partnerships secured to expand scope of services offered
  • Number of 1-day record sealing and clearing clinics completed
  • Number of people who attended record sealing and clearing clinics
  • Number of people who received legal services
  • Number of people who received referrals and/or assistance for other employment supports, family stability, or basic needs

Additional TA support will be provided to grantees and their partners to promote measurement and evaluation efforts, including data collection and client follow-up. The Promise will also work to connect participants in these events to other programs conducted by United Way and our partners, such as workforce development programs and our Entrepreneurs of Color program.

Selection Criteria

The following criteria will be used to identify high-performing partnerships and inform grantmaking decisions.

1. Target area and populations [10 points]

  • Is the applicant focused on connecting high-need populations or communities with relevant services and supports?
  • Does the applicant and its partners demonstrate the capacity to reach and engage a high volume of participants among their target group?

2. Planned objectives [10 points]

  • Does the applicant lay out an ambitious plan to reach and maximize resources to community residents?
  • Does the applicant set reachable goals, given the investment and timeline?

3. Description of approach and activities [15 points]

  • Does the partnership include diverse expertise to adequately address the multiple deliverables of the project?
  • Do the partners have a clear plan to integrate services and maximize value?

4. Management and organizational capacity [10 points]

  • Is the team equipped to undertake substantial growth and fast-paced implementation?
  • Is there organizational experience working with third party evaluators to conduct impact assessments?

5. Budget and Budget Narrative [5 points]

  • Does the applicant describe a clear and logical plan for allocating resources and hosting high-quality events?

6. Year one experience (+/- 5 points)

  • Applicants can receive up to 5 bonus points or have up to 5 points deducted based on year 1 performance and the responses to the year 1 section questions

7. Bilingual capabilities (up to 3 bonus points)

  • Applicants can receive up to 3 bonus points if there will be bilingual staff working on this project and if the staff can be available at the clinics to help the legal services organizations with translating if needed. If this applies to your organization please detail the staff capacity and language fluency in the target population and/or description of approach and activities question.

There will be an Informational Webinar about this RFP, including time for Q&A, on Wednesday, March 1, 2023 from 1pm-2pm. This webinar is not mandatory, but it is encouraged. Webinar attendance will not impact your application score. To register for this webinar, click here and fill out the form. If you register, you will be emailed the zoom link before the meeting; in the meantime please place a hold on your calendar for March 1 from 1-2pm.

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