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February 8, 2016

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Understanding the United Way Community Investment Process

One of the Partner Agencies receiving funds from United Way of Union County will be the American Red Cross and its three programs: Disaster Relief, Blood Services and Armed Forces Programs. Here Tami Hughes, American Red Cross Collections Specialist preps Heather Queen, United Way volunteer for her blood donation.
Every year in our region something remarkable happens – an overwhelming number of individuals and companies donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to help our local community through United Way campaigns. These dollars make a real impact in the lives of Union County residents through programs and services administered through our local United Way and United Way partner agencies.

This “Community Investment Process” is the cornerstone of the United Way and its model of social services work. It ensures fiscal and program accountability for all agencies receiving United Way funds, while meeting the social services needs of our local, individual community. In the process, volunteers challenge each agency’s effectiveness at providing services, review the need for those services in the region, and analyze the impact of United Way funding in meeting those needs.

“The Community Investment Process is a great concept because it’s a true grassroots system. And, it works because it’s so accountable to the community,” said Sherri Coleman, Team Manager at Nationwide and a Community Investment Committee volunteer. “As donors,” Coleman said, “we can’t all take the time to review the agencies. One of the things I like is that United Way brings together community volunteers who have nothing at stake, volunteers who can take an unbiased look with an outsider’s perspective at the programs and agencies, assess their needs and make recommendations.”

United Way of Union County’s Board of Trustees recently approved $628,632 at its January meeting for use in 2016. The money will be split among 40 programs of 26 local agencies. Distributed on a “priority” system of needs in the local community, the 2016 allocations will be divided as such:

Priority One – Emergency & Basic Needs:
Over $265,317 will be allocated to agencies that focus on emergency and basic needs of local residents. Support for 2016 increased by over $23,000 as the needs for these services continue to increase in Union County. Partner Agencies receiving funds in this Priority One category include:
  • The Salvation Army including its Food Pantry Network, Homeless Prevention Program and Rapid Re-Housing Program
  • American Red Cross with both Disaster Relief and Blood Services
  • Heart of Ohio Homeless Shelter
  • Plain City Free Clinic
  • Turning Point Domestic Violence Shelter
  • Union County Health Department Prescription Voucher Program.
Priority Two – Health & Human Service Needs:
Approximately $148,000 will be allocated to Partner Agencies that work to serve residents with health and human service requirements – ranging from mobile meals to legal services to hospice and guardianship services. Partner Agencies receiving funds in 2016 for Priority Two include:
  • American Red Cross Armed Forces Program
  • 211 Helpline
  • Memorial Meals Program
  • Memorial Speech & Language Therapy
  • North Union Personal Needs Pantry
  • Legal Aid Society of Columbus
  • Loving Care Hospice
  • Union County Cancer Society
  • Union County Personal Needs Pantry
  • Union County Guardianship Program
Priority Three – Senior & Youth Services:
Recognizing the need to enhance the lives of our youth and senior populations, the CIC has allocated over $208,422 to these two segments. Flat to last year, the 2016 allocations will be distributed to the following Partner Agencies:
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio
  • Boy Scouts of America, Simon Kenton Council
  • Child Care Network
  • Community & Seasoned Citizens
  • Discovery Riders
  • Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland Council
  • Maryhaven
  • Pleasant Valley Senior Citizens
  • Richwood Civic Center
  • Union County Family YMCA
  • United Way Community Care Day
  • United Way Dolly Parton Imagination Library
  • United Way Youth Arts & Recreation Grant
  • Windsor & Community Seniors
  • Wings Enrichment Center

The Salvation Army will continue to be one of the Partner Agencies receiving funds from United Way of Union County. One of its programs to be funded is the Food Pantry Network that encompasses The Salvation Army Food Pantry, Milford Center Food Pantry, Plain City Food Pantry and Richwood Emergency Assistance Program.
Additional funds will be set aside for grant requests that arise throughout the year.

“Despite this past campaign being a challenging fundraising year, I am proud of our United Way and the tough but astute decisions that our CIC Team produced,” adds David Gleeson, Director of Respiratory Therapy at Memorial Health and Chairman of the Community Investment Committee. “The work that the CIC accomplishes offers both a rewarding opportunity to get know to our county’s social service agencies in more depth, as well the chance to observe an excellent group of volunteers working to do right by our community’s continual donations toward the work of United Way.”

United Way works to bring neighbors and resources together to improve lives in Union County. United Way of Union County has raised more than $20 million for local needs since it was established in 1958. More than just a fundraiser, United Way collaborates with local businesses, government, and non-profit organizations to solve pressing social service issues large and small.

  • Over $628,632 will be allocated to 40 social service programs in 26 Partner Agencies in Union County.
  • All monies raised by United Way of Union County stay in Union County to support local residents.
  • In conjunction with the annual fall campaign each year, the Community Investment Committee participates in a 5-month process to ensure that funds are distributed fairly, objectively, and with great consideration for their best use.
  • Since 1958, over $20,000,000 has been raised by United Way of Union County.

Understanding the United Way Community Investment Process

Many people are familiar with the fundraising activities of United Way, but understand less about how those funds are then put to the best use. Walk through the Five Steps of the United Way Community Investment Process to see how these monies are distributed right here in our county.

Step one of the allocations process begins with United Way’s Community Investment Committee (CIC). This committee is composed of over 15 volunteers who live and work throughout the community and represent diversity in experience, gender and age. These volunteers serve as the eyes and ears of the more than 3500 donors. This committee participates in a 5-month process to ensure that funds are distributed fairly, objectively, and with great consideration for their best use.

After formalizing for the year, the CIC begins Step two by collecting proposals for each current Partner Agency. These volunteers already know about the importance of building a stronger community by investing in a system of quality agencies that help people in need. In addition, they are already aware of the key issues and needs identified in our community – needs such as housing, disaster relief, drug prevention and such.

After reviewing proposals submitted by the agencies, CIC team members are dispatched to visit United Way partner agencies. They conduct an annual in-depth review of the agencies through site visits, community impact presentations, and reviews of reports submitted by the agencies. All told, each of the 26 member agencies are visited by this small team of volunteers. Through this process, each team member familiarizes him/herself with the agency and the services it provides, and then works to arrive at a recommendation for United Way funding.

Following the site visits, the CIC volunteers meet to discuss their findings about each agency to kick-off Step three. Agencies request funding based on their particular needs and programs. Funding requests can be as basic as operating costs to as advanced as developing a new program. Based on the knowledge gained through the allocations process, CIC volunteers now must come to consensus about how much money each agency will receive in the coming year. Volunteers determine funding needs based on the merits of the requests and the capacity of the agencies. While allocations vary greatly depending on agency size and impact, United Way volunteers work diligently to ensure that your generous donations are carefully and thoughtfully put to good use to help the most people.

Once all of the allocations recommendations are compiled, they are vetted through a two-part approval process, ending with a final decision by the United Way Board of Trustees. Following approval, funds are distributed to the Partner Agencies in the next fiscal year. Each non-profit partner agency is required to meet standards to maintain their United Way membership and receive funding, including reporting on a quarterly basis back to the United Way. And, that is how the dollars raised become the dollars that make an impact in Union County.
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