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    United Way to award $34 million to local nonprofits

    The United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley will award just over $34 million over the next year to support local nonprofits that help students prepare for school, work to lower high school dropout rates, and provide job-training and other aid to low-income families.

    The money will be distributed to 185 nonprofits in the region, going to efforts such as Thrive in 5, an early education initiative created by the United Way in collaboration with the city of Boston. It also will put AmeriCorps members in Lynn Public Schools and community agencies, expand a network of centers that provide needy families with budget coaching, and support a variety of other services.

    The $34 million is the first round in the United Way’s three-year funding plan. The charity adopted the three-year approach several years ago as a way to give nonprofits more certainty, stability, and opportunity for longer-term planning. “The issues that families and children are dealing with today are more complex than one-year solutions,” said Michael K. Durkin, president of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.


    The amount that United Way will distribute during the fiscal year that begins July 1 has increased modestly over the past few years, up about 6 percent from the $32.5 million doled out in 2011.

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    That money will be split between several priorities, with $12.7 million awarded to nonprofits with early education programs, $12.1 million to groups that help advance students in school and prevent them from dropping out, and $9 million for agencies that focus on worker training, financial education, and homelessness prevention.

    At Victory Programs, a Boston nonprofit that works with the homeless, president Jonathan Scott said the United Way long has been a key funding source. The social services agency currently gets about $75,000 from the United Way, with which it has partnered for more than 25 years.

    The money comes with few stipulations, Scott said, and that has helped Victory implement creative programs it might not have been able to otherwise. For example, the agency runs an urban farm to teach young mothers about nutrition and give them experience in small-scale farming, greenhouse management, marketing, and community outreach.

    By committing to fund nonprofits for at least three years, the United Way focuses its money on agencies and programs that can have an impact over a longer period, said Rick Jakious, chief executive of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network, which works to strengthen the local charity sector.

    Erin Ailworth can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ailworth.