A changing role

By retooling itself, United Way strays.

To the editor,

[03.02.04] — I wish Barbara Goodmon’s editorial [“Let’s find a way,” Philanthropy Journal, 2/18/04] had added a couple of sentences on how the Triangle United Way has “lost its way” and what, specifically, needs to be “fixed.”

Not that I disagree with the premise: There are many local United Way

chapters that are:

• Expanding their own programming and services, sometimes in competition with the missions of local United Way agencies.

• Seeking to establish an endowment, arguably in competition with the local community foundation, which currently receives United Way support.

• Setting accountability standards for United Way agencies and programs that are sometimes at variance with the standards the local United Way sets for itself; one specific such measure in some local United Ways is limiting agencies from keeping more than 90 days’ cash on hand in an operating reserve.

• Actively discouraging member agencies from building their own fundraising capacity and even from hiring their own development staffs, despite United Way providing far less than 50 percent, and often less than 30 percent, of program support.

Addressing these United Way issues is part of the solution.

There also, of course, needs to be an analysis of why campaigns are falling short.

Since most businesses are not consciously aware of the four issues above, the reasons are “probably” related to other factors, both external to and internal to United Way operations.

Michael L. Wyland, Sumption & Wyland, Sioux Falls, S.D.

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