Leading the way

Partnerships key for United Way.

By Todd Cohen

[03.03.04] — United Way needs help.

A sputtering economy, marketplace change and demand for charitable choices have prompted a shift from funding member agencies’ operations to funding priority community needs.

And while annual fundraising remains central, United Ways are diversifying into endowments and public-policy work.

Spurred by United Way of America, local United Ways aim to be more accountable and spur community change.

But without help, United Way risks undermining its critical role in sustaining agencies that serve basic needs.

United Way has involved member agencies and community leaders in its changes.

But communities must invest more in helping United Way retool.

Just as agencies need its support to strengthen the way they work, United Way needs community support to diversify its fundraising and expand its role.

Triangle United Way in North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham area, for example, fell $2 million short of its 2003 fundraising goal, and agencies fear big funding cuts.

Communities need to help United Way define its role and make sure it gets the resources it needs.

Business leaders can start by helping United Way track the impact its changes have had and will have on agencies and causes.

Communities can help United Way find its way.

Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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