Triangle United Way retooling its funding

By Todd Cohen

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – As it prepares to change the way it distributes funds in 2009 among Durham, Orange and Wake counties, and in the way volunteer groups in each county identify and address priority needs, Triangle United Way in 2008 will use its existing formula to divvy up among the three counties the dollars it raised in its just-ended annual fund drive.

That drive raised a projected $19.4 million overall, including $11.4 million for its general Community Care Fund.

Next year, using the same funding formula and priorities it adopted after the 1997 merger of the United Ways in the three counties, Triangle United Way will divide among the three counties the community-care dollars it raised this year.

But only one volunteer “cabinet” in each county – replacing six teams each that have operated in Durham and Wake, and five in Orange — then will decide how to distribute its county’s share of funds among local United Way partner agencies.

Overall, including dollars that donors earmark for specific agencies, the drive grew 5.5 percent from 2006 and netted $1 million in new giving.

Donations to the Community Care Fund, which is divided among the three counties and then allocated by 17 volunteer teams to local United Way partner agencies that serve children, youth, seniors, families, health and basic needs, grew 5.5 percent from 2006 and exceeded the goal for the drive by $200,000.

The Triangle Speaks

To read the executive summary of a new report by Triangle United Way that features experts’ comments on improving health and human services in the region, click here. The executive summary was written by Todd Cohen, editor and publisher of the Philanthropy Journal. For the full report, click here.

In addition to contributions that donors make to the Community Care Fund, donors also can earmark their contributions for particular agencies, including those that are not United Way partner agencies or not in the Triangle.

In 2007, United Way allocated nearly $7.2 million to the Community Care Fund from nearly $11 million that donors contributed to it in 2006, with the remainder used to pay for overhead, services it provides directly, and other expenses.

Of that $7.2 million, Wake received over $4.7 million, Durham received over $1.7 million, Orange received $652,000, and $11,000 was allocated to a regional effort to end homelessness.

In 2006, nearly 42,000 local donors contributed to the annual drive, with over 29,000 of them contributing to the Community Care Fund, some of them designating that United Way spend the dollars in a particular county or to address a particular United Way priority need.

Donors making contributions in 2006 represented nearly 17 percent of the workforce United Way solicited.

In 2009, based on additional changes United Way will make in 2008, the formula for dividing funds among the counties will change, as will the priorities each county cabinet sets for addressing local needs with the funds it receives.

For that first year, at least, United Way likely will limit the degree of change, either up or down, in the share of funds each county receives.

And while United Way will limit funding in 2008 to programs of its 81 partner agencies, in future years it may consider also funding other agencies.

United Way soon will form a series of committees that will focus on setting funding priorities for each county and for regional initiatives, and for developing a formula for dividing funding among the three counties.

Once the new system is in place, the volunteer community-care cabinet in each county will distribute its share of funds based on local priorities it has set.

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