United Way aims for long-term impact

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ninety-eight United Way partner agencies in five counties in the Charlotte Metro region will share nearly $21 million this year that donors last fall contributed to the “community care fund” at United Way of Central Carolinas.

The distribution of those funds, while short of the more than $22.8 million the agencies requested, exceeds the $20.2 million they received last year.

It also reflects the work of 350 volunteers who contributed 26 hours each on average over nine months to assess over 200 program requests based on agencies’ effectiveness and long-term impact on priority community needs set by a separate group of United Way volunteers.

“United Way through the community care fund is a way to ensure that your investment is addressing the truly greatest needs in the community,” says Andy Elliott, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and community investment chair for United Way.

In addition to allocations from the community care fund to partner agencies, some donors designated that their contributions totaling $7.3 million go to organizations other than partner agencies, up 3 percent from a year earlier.

United Way also will distribute another $5.5 million through grants and other programs.

Last year’s United Way campaign raised $43.1 million, with 12 percent of those dollars covering overhead costs and another 6.5 percent representing uncollectible pledges.

Elliott says the designation of dollars to groups that are not partner agencies “reduces the ability of United Way to direct dollars to those agencies that are having the greatest impact in the community.”

For this fall’s United Way campaign, AT&T-North Carolina and BB&T have agreed to partially match donations by individuals who pledge to increase their giving to the community care fund over three years to levels of $1,000 or more, $10,000 or more, or $25,000 or more.

Chaired by Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones, the campaign begins with a pacesetter drive that starts June 28 and a public drive that kicks off Sept. 7.

Funding allocated this year to partner agencies for United Way’s three priority “impact areas” includes nearly $11 million for “building strong and healthy communities,” over $7.3 million for “investing in children, youth and families,” and nearly $2.5 million to “empower seniors and disabled.”

Of those funds, nearly $16.1 million goes to Mecklenburg County, up 2.7 percent from last year; over $1.85 million to Cabarrus County, up 3.7 percent; over $1.8 million to Union County, up 7.3 percent; over $1 million to the Mooresville-Lake Norman area, up 9.1 percent, and $55,000 to Anson County, which now has joined United Way of Central Carolinas.

In weighing competing funding requests, a key challenge for United Way volunteers is to use indicators tracking agencies’ output, like the number of clients served, and to use metrics showing agencies’ longer-term progress in addressing pressing community needs, like homelessness or access to health care or child care, says Chris Jackson, vice president of community investment.

“We’re placing more emphasis on community priorities, on long-term outcomes and on effective measures of impact,” says Jackson, a former principal in the Charlotte office of Philadelphia-based Vanguard Group who joined United Way in January.

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