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United Way chief: Changes will not curtail funding

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on January 22, 2012 1:50 AM

Despite changes in the procedure by which local organizations will receive money beginning next year, United Way of Wayne County Executive Director Stephen Parr doesn't anticipate any significant changes in donations or the distribution of funds to nonprofits.

Parr said his organization did a needs assessment two years ago, setting into motion a process that, after 18 months of planning, led to the release of the United Way's strategic plan to create a better future for Wayne County residents.

Nonprofit organizations interested in receiving financial support from the United Way in 2013 were required to attend an information session Friday to receive details on how best to proceed with the organization's new request for proposal (RFP) process for determining which programs will receive funding.

"It's been a transition to what's considered a zero-based funding approach," said Karen Schneider, United Way of Wayne County community investment director. "We've looked very closely at what the needs are in the community and refined our community goals in the four focus areas."

The plan specifies that programs must benefit the community in health and wellness, education, financial stability or community responsiveness.

"We need to make sure what we do in our community is relevant to what the needs are of the community," Parr said.

And there will be assessments associated with the programs, meaning organizations will need to show results to be eligible for future funding. There will also be options for multi-year programs, although the end results will still be expected.

The group will also be looking for collaborative programs between organizations, such as the creation of a Boy Scout Troop at the Boys and Girls Club of Wayne County.

"Using an RFP is really a step toward issuing grants with the expectation of delivered results," Parr said. "We've always required results, but this is more formalized."

Mary Bartlett, the Wayne County chapter board chairman, referenced the impact of the change in a release recently issued by the organization.

"This plan sets forth a new direction for our United Way with an emphasis on improving lives rather than raising money," Bartlett said in a statement. "We have made a significant shift in how we do business. Even though our ability to impact the four focus areas is dependent upon community support, we will measure our success in the future not on a campaign meter, but on the impact we are having in the community in areas such as literacy, graduation rates, obesity reduction, and decreased teen pregnancy rates."

Parr said the change will allow the United Way chapter to make good investments into local organizations.

"Money's not as easy to come by as it was five years ago so it assists us in fine-tuning our whole process and becoming more efficient," he said.

Still, Ms. Schneider said she anticipates many of the same United Way-sponsored organizations will receive funding.

"They're already working toward our community goals," she said of the United Way's current benefactors. "We're just steering away from if you've always gotten United Way funding, you'll continue to get United Way funding."

Parr said the changes in appropriations for organizations wouldn't affect donations or distributions and wouldn't involve more red tape.

"If you're a donor, you want to make sure we're investing your money and that's what we're doing to make sure the gift you give is giving the best impact. I doubt that we're going to see any changes of programs that we currently are supporting. (If we do stop supporting an organization) it will be strictly be because they don't align with what we're trying to accomplish or they're not showing results."

This year's expected shortfall in donations to the United Way won't factor into the new procedure since it won't be implemented until next year, and Parr said despite the sluggish pace of donations this year, there won't be a significant impact on programs, since the organization's budget was put together last summer.

"Back in June we established a budget," he said. "We've already looked at the programs we want to fund and we know we can come close to it."

He said Wednesday the $1,219,770 raised represented about 94 percent of the agency's goal. By the end of the month, he predicted the goal could be within 5 percent of the total. He said the deficit wouldn't have much effect on the organization's reach this year.

"We don't know, at this point, how it's going to shake out," he said.

This year's budget creation process, however, will likely be a little more complex as it will involve interviews with nonprofit agency heads to put together an appropriations plan for 2013 funding.

To qualify for funding, organizations must be tax-exempt under the IRS Code 501c(3), incorporated in the state of North Carolina as a nonprofit, render charitable/philanthropic/health/character building/social welfare services in Wayne County, and demonstrate the effectiveness of their program through the measurement of program outcomes.

For more information, call 735-3591.