Setting goals

Changes in the United Way funding process may require some adjustments, but the community and its social service agencies should give the new approach a chance.

April 20, 2012


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 The safety net certainly wasn’t withdrawn — Just Food received a $60,000 funding increase — but United Way was trying to target agencies that are looking for ways to work together to provide better and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.


headdoctor 6 years, 2 months ago

The best bang for the buck would be donating directly to your preferred organizations and avoid giving to the United Way. It might be a different story if a large amount didn't go to their administration top heavy structure. They wouldn't have nearly as much money to work with if the corporate suck ups seeking notoriety for contributing didn't strong arm their employees into putting time and money into the United Way.

George_Braziller 6 years, 2 months ago

I agree. And for agencies receiving the funds the strings attached are often not worth the effort. I worked for an organization in Lawrence that received United Way funds for three years.

I did detailed data collection and reporting for nearly $1 million in state and federal grants but what we were tracking wasn't good enough for United Way. We had to monitor a completely different set of data just for them. Then there was the fundraising black-out period where we couldn't do any of our own fundraising while United Way was doing theirs.

The additional work involved ended up costing more than the $16,000 in funding. We dumped them. Two years later they came to us and wanted us to apply again because they wanted our name associated with their fund drive.

Sorry Charlie. Not going to happen. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

mriley 6 years, 2 months ago

For those of us outside the allocations committee discussions, it is impossible to know the difficulty they face when deciding how to divvy up these dollars. I know many of the allocations committee personally, and know they have taken this responsibility very seriously. They wish they could fully fund each and every agency's programs. Unfortunately, that is impossible, and difficult choices have to be made.

But let us also remember, the United Way serves more functions than just these allocations. For instance, did you know the United Way partners with the Dg Co Community Foundation to offer FREE training seminars for non-profit employees and board members on a regular basis?

Did you know the U.W. organizes the Day of Caring, where anyone in our community can volunteer to put their sweat into helping agencies fulfill their mission, and also the Summer of Service for area youth to get involved with volunteering?

As well as the Roger Hill Volunteer Center, where you can sign up to get a weekly e-mail of volunteer needs throughout the community? The U.W. provides info on the many great opportunities for each of us to actually DO something to help non-profits on a personal basis!

And, don't let us forget that the United Way's office building is designed to help small non-profits function efficiently by sharing office space-- per the United Way website, "20 nonprofit organizations occupy its low-cost offices. The organizations thrive by being able to share resources, office equipment, conference rooms, storage space, and information, and it is through this kind of collaboration that the United Way of Douglas County takes another step towards strengthening local human services". This is an amazing way for small and critical agencies to function in a fiscally responsible manner.

For a full list (as well as the U.W.s 990s, their by-laws, their board members and ways you can help volunteer), see their website: http://www.unitedwaydgco.org/about%20us.html

It's about more than just money-- it's about helping organizations, their staff and volunteers who are working hard to do good in our community succeed-- not just those who receive dollars from the United Way, but all non-profits who want to take advantage of the training and supportive services.

Carol Bowen 6 years, 2 months ago

Interesting. My first reaction was to eliminate the middle and donate directly. This informations should have been part of the LJW article.

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