United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley (UWGLV) announced their slate of community investments today that aligns with their Collective Impact Strategy 2014-2018 investment plan. Investments are structured on a 1+3 year model: data is collected and measured after the first year of awarding to ensure all programs are tracking to proposal and achieving results. Successful programs will be funded for an additional three years. More money, more investments, and more results to build a stronger, healthier Lehigh Valley is what United Way’s staff is proud to report today.
The 2014-18 investment plan focuses on three community goals that United Way’s Board of Directors approved as a way to create, track and measure long-lasting change in the Lehigh Valley. Based on in depth community assessment performed alongside community partners in higher ed., and health and human services, the Board directed United Way staff to focus on the root causes of three very important issues in the Lehigh Valley.
Education remains the top priority and largest investment, followed by healthy aging to support our seniors, and after learning that one out of every ten people in the Valley are hungry, food access became a priority. In addition to the three goals, United Way also continues to fund vital emergency services.
United Way Community Impact Goals:
• Education – Increase the number of third grade students reading at grade-level by 50%
• Healthy Aging - Increase by 50% the number of seniors whose basic needs are met at home
• Food Access - Reduce by 50% the number of people in the Lehigh Valley who are food insecure
David Lewis, President, UWGLV, commented on the goals and the seriousness of attaching real numbers to track and measure results, “Our community goals are aggressive but they are attainable. As public servants to our donors, we have spent years assessing conditions of the Lehigh Valley, crunching the numbers, and most importantly convening strong leaders and people who are on the front lines of this work, to collectively create these goals. Our donors rely on us to deliver results and alongside our community partners, we stand committed to deliver.”
More money was raised in the campaign this year, $10,729,000 under the leadership of Campaign Chairman, Paul Farr, who was recently named president of PPL’s Energy Supply group as part of the transition to forming a new publicly traded company, Talen Energy Corporation, of which Farr will be CEO. The total raised is an increase of 4.4% from last year’s fundraising efforts and exceeds the national United Way average of 1.2%. That translates into a 9% increase or $800,000 additional dollars invested in the Lehigh Valley. “Residents of the Lehigh Valley are generous and caring people and we thank them for their support of this essential campaign,” said Farr. “Throughout this campaign I was constantly reminded of the importance of the work done by United Way partner agencies. The increased funding from this campaign, combined with the new community impact goals, means more programs to support education, healthy aging, food access and emergency services.”
In addition to the money that was raised in the community, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley had a banner year with receiving grant funding to benefit local programs. Total dollars into UWGLV this year was $12.3 million. With only 19% in administration and fundraising costs, more than 80 cents of every dollar is invested directly into the
community. By capitalizing on United Way’s global reputation for fundraising expertise, many of the partner agencies that United Way funds locally save on fundraising costs and personnel.
Assisting the greatest need with the funds available
Even though United Way raised more money this year, there were nearly double the requests for funding than available funds. United Way made some tough decisions with their carefully chosen investments. If more money was available, Marci Ronald, VP of Community Impact for UWGLV, knows exactly where additional awards would be invested. “Our investment plan is focused and strategic and the volume of requests reflected both the need and the willingness of partners to support achieving these goals. In every area, we identified viable proposals with strong partners where we would fund with additional resources.”
Awarded funds are indeed necessary for Bridget Pruett from Slater Family Network who explained, “If not for UWGLV, Slater Family Network would not exist. From 14 years ago, when we began receiving seed money for programs and advocacy for a needy, forgotten area of the Slate Belt -- to the present, with a vital family center offering stability, support and hope. United Way has made a difference in the lives of many families in the Bangor Area School District through their monetary investment, technical assistance and ever-present support.”
Craig Poland, CEO Boy Scouts of America, Minsi Trails Council added, “Thanks to the valuable support provided by United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, Minsi Trails Council is able to provide quality scouting programs to over 1,200 of our area’s most at-risk youth.”
Not a big shift in eight-year strategy – just more focus
The new investment portfolio is investing in more programs from more partner agencies. In the past 2011-2014 investment plan, funding was awarded to 73 individual programs at 47 non-profits, who United Way refers to as partner agencies. That investment plan focused on education, (71% investment), older adults (11%), and basic needs (18%) now known as emergency services.
In the new investment plan, 112 programs are being funded at 61 agencies. The strongest focus remains on education with 80% of investments, a slight increase over previous cycles, healthy aging receiving 12% and food access 8% of available funds. Emergency services has a set funded level to assure those vital services are available to the community. Click here for a complete listing of UWGLV investments.
Measured results and tracking
One area that differentiates United Way from a typical funder is their commitment to accountability, providing support and validating the partner agencies they fund via a rigorous vetting process. The RBA (Results Based Accountability) model started in 2006 and it was a major shift in the Lehigh Valley for United Way. Led by community volunteers on the Board of Directors, members such as Bob Wood, Noshir Chinoy, and Bill Coles set a course to change the model from funding non-profits that do good work to measuring results of programs and services. This direction is working and has led to some outstanding data United Way released, which includes:
• Third grade reading scores for United Way students: 2011= 39% >> 2013=53% (positive increase)
• Seniors in nursing homes: 2000 =13% in nursing homes >> 2013=5% in nursing homes (positive decrease)
The next step in the evolution of Results-Based Accountability (RBA) is to take RBA measures and incorporate it into a collective impact model which forms the foundation of the current 2014-18 investment plan. Collective impact occurs when organizations from different sectors agree to solve a specific social problem using a common agenda, common measures, and mutually reinforcing activities. This approach also maximizes the dollars that United Way is able to invest. With strong community resources, United Way is able to bring several groups together to focus on one challenge, or hundreds of challenges.
When a community comes together and supports one another with the same common goals -- which is what it means to “Live United” -- great things indeed will happen.