United Way forces some agencies to make changes
By Shannon Pettypiece
United Way of Miami-Dade has changed its criteria for program funding, forcing some agencies to alter their operations.
During the next cycle, the United Way will distribute funds based on the impact an organization has on the community instead of solely on the activities it performs.
For some charities, United Way now considers how many people they help employ or find a stable environment for instead of how much is given away. For educational programs, United Way will now consider how they improve test scores and cut dropout rates and other criteria instead of how many children are tutored.
"United Way continues to really step up to the plate to say how we can really improve people's lives in the community," said United Way of Miami-Dade President Harve Mogul. "People want to know that they are not just giving to United Way, they are giving to United Way who gives to programs that make a difference."
The United Way expects 61 organizations to submit a pitch for funds over the next nine months based on what they plan to produce and the impact they have had on the community.
The United Way by the end of this year will set funding levels for the next two years, and funds will be granted by July 2005.
Groups will have six months after they learn how much funding they will get to make financial adjustments.
As part of the new strategy, Mr. Mogul said, some agencies probably will have to change their approach.
"We are going to discover things that people have been doing that are not as productive," Mr. Mogul said. "We are going to be more focused, and some agencies may not want to get into this level of activities."
One program, the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and Parenting Council, has opted out of United Way funding because of the criteria, said United Way spokeswoman Tammy Klingler.
The United Way said also will ask these questions when considering whether to fund an organization:
Do the program's outcomes fit with United Way's goals?
How likely is it that the program will achieve the desired outcome?
Has this program made an impact on the community?
Are United Way funds critical to the success of the program?
Does the program fit the needs of its targeted area?
Some funding sources that use similar models include state and federal agencies, the Knight Foundation, Alliance for Human Services and the Children's Trust.
Because the concept has been used by other funding sources, larger organizations will be able to easily adapt to the new program, said United Way volunteer Barbara Shrut, who spent two years helping develop the new plan. Ms. Shrut said the United Way is training smaller agencies how to set and measure outcomes, which they would be able to apply when seeking other grants.
"For some agencies, they are used to doing outcome measurements, but for some it is new," said Ms. Strut. "It opens up the door for some agencies that haven't had the learning or tracking ability to gain this type of skill."
United Way officials hope the new strategy will lead to more solid results to report to donors, restoring faith in the organization and improving fundraising results.
"What it really does is strengthen confidence in the United Way," said Ms. Klingler. "It allows us to really go back and be able to report much stronger results than we had been able to in the past. The ability to connect contributors to the results is a real benefit of this program."
Ms. Klingler said the United Way expects to raise several million dollars more this year than the $46.7 million it collected last year.