02/12/07 — United Way releases list of 2007 allotments

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United Way releases list of 2007 allotments

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on February 12, 2007 1:51 PM

After a long fundraising campaign, the United Way of Wayne County has made its 2007 funding decisions and is in the process of beginning to distribute the more than $1.44 million that was raised.

United Way executive director Steve Parr said the organization is doing more than just handing out money. Volunteers and staff are working to have a measurable impact on the community -- responsibly.

"The United Way, when you really boil it down, is not about fundraising," Parr said. "It's about the community coming together to say, 'I can reach out and have an impact.' The bottom line always comes down to impacting people's lives and improving people's lives. That's the basis for what we do. It takes money to make that impact, but that's not what we're all about."

Parr said the United Way volunteers and staff determine not only how much money will go to each organization, but how it is being used.

The organization funds specific programs with the money awarded on a monthly basis.

"The old way was we just looked at what they do -- their activities," Parr said. "But it's not what those activities are, it's what you do with those activities.

"What we look at now, is, 'show us the impact of what it is you do.' Our funding process is based on outcomes and results. Organizations have to be able to demonstrate measurable outcomes. If we're going to invest X number of dollars, we want the best return back to the community."

This year, 12 agencies providing 25 programs were approved for funding.

"We haven't added any new programs," Parr said. "The programs we are funding are the ones we promoted throughout the campaign."

A program-by-program breakdown of the allotments was not yet available, United Way community investment director Suzie Acree said, because agencies have the option of spending donor-designated dollars on whatever approved program they choose.

The balance of the $1.44 million goes toward administrative fees, donor designations to other United Ways, special community building and project expansion grants and some pledges that are simply never honored.

But beyond those dollars designated by donors to specific agencies or programs, the allocations from the United Way's community care fund are made based on need and performance. The process for agencies to secure that money lasts several months.

For new applicants, it's a more stringent process to ensure they aren't duplicating the efforts of an agency already receiving funding and to ensure they are showing their outcomes.

Often, United Way officials explained, new programs aren't immediately approved for community partner status because they aren't prepared to actually show their measurable outcomes.

For those programs, the United Way sets aside another pot of money to give out in one-time community building grants, which can be renewed every year based on the program's progress.

Ultimately, they said, no agency or program receives funding unless it can prove it is doing what it promised with the money and that it are making a difference with those actions.

"Everybody gets the same treatment through the application process -- are we getting the bang for the buck you said we would," Mrs. Acree said. "It's a fair and impartial process.

And now, those programs receiving funding will be required to submit quarterly outcome reports, as well as financial statements.

"We will know each quarter if there are any flags and we will not hesitate to go to the organization and tell them we are not happy. It's not that we're any more stringent, it's just that we're requiring more frequent reporting and these agency boards have got to step up," Parr said. "Sometimes there's a fine line between micromanaging and oversight. We'll be doing a lot more oversight just to make sure we're comfortable with the programs we're funding."

"We have a very large fiduciary responsibility to our donors," United Way Board of Directors member Ric Moffat added. "If someone is willing to donate money to the United Way, it's our responsibility to make sure it's being spent wisely and through outcomes people can see that.

"Just because you have a program that has received funding, that's not carte blanche it'll receive it next year. The money we appropriate is donor money and if it is not being spent to the best of how it was reported it would be in the beginning, we're not going to keep writing that check. We're not going to continue to fund a program that has no results."