Changes on tap at Charlotte United Way

United Way of Central Carolinas
United Way of Central Carolinas

Todd Cohen

Despite falling $5 million short of its goal and the previous year’s total in its 2010 annual fundraising campaign, United Way of Central Carolinas will distribute nearly $16.5 million, the same level as last year, to its 91 partner agencies in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

But, based on recommendations by the Urban Institute at the Universityof North Carolina at Charlotte, United Way also is planning changes in the way it distributes funds and in the types of programs it funds, with cuts likely for partner agencies that do not fit its new funding model, says Jane McIntyre, executive director at United Way.

United Way, which has begun its 2011 annual fund drive and expects to set a goal that will exceed the $20.2 million it raised last year, will shift the focus of the funds it raises to priority community needs, based on recommendations in the study by the Urban Institute and a series of panels of 62 community leaders.

The study says the top health-and-human-services priorities in the five-county region United Way serves are programs that focus on prevention and programmatic education in the areas of education, housing and poverty, and health and mental health.

“One of the resounding themes throughout this research was the vital role of prevention in breaking the debilitating cycle of poverty which was identified as the underlying cause of most of the needs in the community,” the study says.

It also found a “lack of knowledge among the public regarding the needs of those around them and the services that are available to meet those needs.”

And it recommended United Way focus its funding on “fewer, select causes,” ask agencies to submit requests for proposals for funding to support causes selected by United Way, provide funding on a multi-year basis and based on evaluation of “reliably  strong programs,” and fund programs that use “best practices.”

McIntyre, who has begun meeting with corporate executives and community groups to talk about the changes, says United Way, in collaboration with its partner agencies and the community, will be working to identify which of the priorities identified in the study it can afford to fund.

Initial funding changes will take effect in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2012, and United Way will let agencies know no later than mid-November whether they will lose funding, McIntyre says.

Cuts for agencies that do not meet United Way’s new priorities would total to a third of their funding each year over the three fiscal years starting in one year, she says.

“The bottom line is we want to be better at raising money for community needs,” McIntyre says. “We’re doing this to make United Way more effective and to raise more money to address the most pressing needs in the community. The economy is different. So it’s vital we change.”

The share of funding United Way provides for individual partner agencies ranges from 10 percent to 60 percent, says Karla Williams, a consultant to United Way.

The funds United Way distributed in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2010, represented 93.52 percent of total funds available for distribution, compared to 71.13 percent five years earlier, thanks mainly to a reduction of nearly $4 million in operating costs, McIntyre says.

In the fiscal year that begins July 1, United Way was able to maintain last year’s level of support for its partner agencies by using $2.4 million from a “stabilization” fund it created to cope with financial ups and downs after the 9/11 attacks 10 years ago, as well as a combination of a higher-than-expected level of fulfilled pledges and greater savings in its operations budget.

Most of United Way’s partner agencies will receive the same funding as a year ago, and 15 agencies will receive increased funding totaling $145,508.

The Salvation Army of Charlotte, for example, received over $1.6 million, an increase of nearly $58,000, while Men’s Shelter of Charlotte receive over $384,000, an increase of over $34,000, and A Child’s Place received over $193,000, an increase of nearly $18,000.

“Several agencies that demonstrated a dramatic rise in need over the prior year, as well as proven results in meeting that need, received increases in funding,” United Way says in a statement.

The increased funding for those 15 agencies, however, represented only 25 percent of agency requests for increased funding, and agencies are “bracing for more governmental cuts,” United Way says.

Bill Norton, vice president of marketing at United Way, says agencies were asked to keep requests flat “unless they saw dramatically increased need and had the ability to meet that.”

In the five-county region it serves, United way provides funding in three “focus” areas in the five-county region it serves.

Funding for housing and stability totaled nearly $6.6 million, or 39.8 percent of total funding, while funding for health and mental health totaled $5.2 million, or 31.7 percent, and funding for children and youth totaled $4.7 million, or 28.5 percent.

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