New United Way funding model leaves some out of the mix

The United WayThe United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area, a major source of funding for regional nonprofit agencies, is changing the way it distributes money in hopes of finding new ways to fix community problems.

But it’s a move that could leave some agencies without the charity’s monetary support.

The local United Way has accepted proposals from nonprofit agencies on how to address specific community issues determined by the charity and will distribute contributions made by local residents according to those needs.

“This year we adopted three priority areas: School readiness, self-sufficiency and community health. And our direct services funding, grants and volunteer efforts will fall in those three areas,” said Cathy Train, United Way president. “We set up impact teams with our United Way board members and staff and volunteers and they met with agencies, looked at issues and adopted the priorities for service within those areas.”

Total funding amounts and which projects are going to be in place have not been determined, Train said.

In 1990, the charity, which is managed locally, changed its funding structure from granting money to select nonprofit agencies to granting money to specific programs after a review. That method remained in place until this year.

In the new procedure, community needs to be addressed are determined by United Way officials, and requests for proposals are then sent to agencies for offers on how to meet those goals. The proposal requests were sent in February and agencies were asked for formal proposals in March.

“Before, we would contract with an agency and provide them funding for the programs that we thought addressed a need,” Train said. “The difference is now we are saying that these are our priorities and asking the agencies to give us a proposal on how they would go about meeting those needs.”

Train said the United Way sought proposals from agencies on programs to address the particular issues. Some agencies submitted multiple proposals and many joined forces with like-minded agencies to make a proposal. Not all of the proposals will be funded, however.

“It makes it difficult to say who is and who isn’t going to receive funding,” Train said. “It’s no longer about a nonprofit organization’s mission and what programs are meeting those missions. It’s about providing programs that will address the issues we see as being the most important.”

Some agencies, such as the local chapter of the American Red Cross, which has received as much as $19,000 annually from the local United Way in the past, will see that money disappear.

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