A shift in the way funds are allocated by United Way of Douglas County has triggered concerns among some local social service agencies. Change is always difficult, but the community should give the new funding philosophy a chance to produce the positive results United Way officials envision.
United Way’s allocations committee, which represents a broad cross-section of the community, was instructed this year not to consider what local agencies had received from United Way in past years but to evaluate how their funding requests would help address three broad community goals in the areas of education, self-sufficiency and health. The new approach resulted in increased funding for some agencies and reductions for others.
Some “safety-net” programs saw decreases, but other programs, which hopefully will reduce residents’ need for such safety nets, saw increases. The safety net certainly wasn’t withdrawn — Just Food received a $60,000 funding increase — but United Way was trying to target agencies that are looking for ways to work together to provide better and more cost-effective services for the community. United Way allocations are an ongoing process. Agencies that saw decreases this year could see increases next year and vice versa. In the meantime, however, some agencies must find ways to raise more money or cut expenses to make up for funding losses.
The transition to a new United Way funding model, which is part of a nationwide initiative, has been under way for several years and has involved considerable communication with social service agency leaders. The three community goals targeted by United Way were the result of a process that included community surveys, focus group meetings and data collection.
Even though United Way sets ambitious fundraising goals, the money raised in its annual campaigns can’t possibly meet all of the community’s charitable needs. One of the hallmarks of United Way always has been the confidence its donors have that their money will be wisely allocated to provide the “best bang for the buck” in the community. Setting solid goals will allow United Way to use statistics and measurement tools to track the impact of the money the community is investing.
Change is part of life. Whether you’re talking about business, government, charitable giving or just about any other venture, doing the same old thing in the same old way isn’t usually a winning strategy. United Way of Douglas County has a great track record in the community, and it deserves our support as it moves through a transition aimed at providing even better ways to help our community.