United Way collections to flow back as grants

Originally published June 16, 2014.

All of those individual donations to the Huntington County United Way last year will flow back to the community this year in the form of grants to local social service agencies.

For the 2014-15 fiscal year, nearly $400,000 in United Way funding will support 27 programs offered by 17 organizations.

Each of the programs supported by those grants fits into one of four areas - education, financial stability, health and wellness and crisis needs - where the United Way wants to have an impact on the community.

"We consider those three areas (education, financial stability and health and wellness) to be the building blocks to a better life in the community," says Jenna Strick, the United Way's executive director.

This is the third year United Way leaders have directed funds to specific areas of impact, and Strick says the organization will probably step back next year to make an initial assessment of the effectiveness of impact funding. A true assessment will probably take "a good five years," she says.

But, she says, she's already seeing a difference in the way United Way partner agencies serve their constituencies.

"Right now, the main result we're seeing is more collaboration between the agencies," Strick says.

Because impact funding focuses on outcomes instead of programs, she adds, organizations that are part of the United Way program don't stop at just providing clients with the services their organizations offer. They'll suggest other places where clients can receive assistance in other areas of their lives.

"Organizations understand that clients need services beyond just what they can do," Strick says.

"It's helping us kind of reorient to more collaborating," says Joey Spiegel, executive director of Love In the Name of Christ, of the United Way's objective.

Strick points to Love INC's Loving Neighbors program as one example of what the United Way is trying to achieve by targeting specific areas of impact.

Through Loving Neighbors, which was piloted by Love INC last year, a community member in need of assistance is paired with a volunteer, usually recruited through a local church, to provide that person with guidance to get back on an even keel.

"We used to do blanket financial assistance," says Spiegel. "We were really uncomfortable doing that. It's not really helping people long term."

Financial assistance can still be provided, he says, but it's coupled with guidance in finding resources and assistance that can provide the family with long-term financial stability.

Although the Loving Neighbors program was not instituted solely because of United Way, it is in line with a need for mentoring identified by the United Way financial stability coalition. And the national Love INC philosophy focuses on helping families find stability, Spiegel says.

"United Way impact funding gave us a window to do that," Spiegel says.

The staff at the Youth Services Bureau is looking at its programs from a different angle because of the United Way's impact funding, says YSB Executive Director Jan Williams.

"It hasn't changed the way we've done anything, but we're tracking things a little bit differently," Williams says.

"The impact areas kind of made us look and say, ‘How, truly, does this affect the health and welfare of those we serve? "How does this affect their overall well-being?"

Love INC received grants to provide both financial stability and crisis needs programs, while the Youth Services Bureau received grants in the areas of education and health and wellness.

Last year, the United Way awarded about $401,000 in grants, Strick says, with this year's lower total reflecting a decrease in donations. Organizations must apply for funding each year, and a committee of United Way volunteers review the requests and interview representatives of the organizations prior to awarding the grants.

Huntington County Habitat for Humanity was awarded a United Way grant for this first time this year, receiving $3,000 under the United Way's crisis needs target area. All of the other agencies receiving grants this year were funded previously.

The United Way committee awarded $92,140 in grants in its education impact area, which focuses on providing literacy-rich environments for children and providing alternative resources and strategies that enable students to maintain eligibility for graduation.

Receiving education impact grants are Big Brothers Big Sisters, $10,000; Boy Scouts, $10,000; Boys & Girls Club, $12,000; Girl Scouts, $10,000; Huntington County Literacy Coalition, $7,140; Pathfinder Kids Kampus, $25,000; Salvation Army, $8,000; and Youth Services Bureau SOS, $10,000.

Six grants totaling $52,500 were awarded in the financial stability impact area, where the goal is to provide crisis avoidance and support services, help families restructure their finances when their life circumstances change and help families build assets for long-term stability.

Receiving financial stability impact grants are the Boys & Girls Club, $7,500; Cancer Services for Huntington County, $5,000; Huntington County Council on Aging, $15,000; Love INC, $5,000; Pathfinder transitional housing, $15,000; and Pathfinder VITA, $5,000.

Health and wellness grants totaled $103,200. Those grants are designated for programs that help community members pursue healthy lifestyles, practice good nutrition and engage in physical fitness activities.

Receiving health and wellness grants are the Boys & Girls Club, $9,100; Council on Aging, $11,100; Huntington County Free Health Clinic, $24,600; Youth Services Bureau Teen Court and Skills for Life, $28,600; and YWCA, $9,200.

The final impact category, crisis needs, covers programs that provide immediate assistance to people in an unstable situation or in imminent danger to ensure their physical and emotional safety.

Sharing in the $112,000 crisis needs grants are American Red Cross, $30,000; Habitat for Humanity, $3,000; Huntington House, $19,000; Love INC, $9,000; McKenzie's Hope, $15,000; Salvation Army, $29,000; and YWCA, $7,000.