Let me be upfront, honest and direct in this opening statement: According to United Way Worldwide statistics and our own internal review of our regional business landscape, United Way of North Central Washington has underperformed in our workplace and community giving campaigns for many years.
We absolutely recognize we have much opportunity for growth and increased impact, as we have fallen short serving our community as well.
After the latest leadership transition in August 2018, we needed some time to identify and face challenges, explore opportunities, and implement solutions. The lack of response to recent opinions published regarding this issue is not because it has fallen upon deaf ears of United Way leadership or its board.
As opposed to unnecessarily reacting to the incivility that has occurred, we have maintained our composure and integrity while we continue to rebuild and focus on meeting the needs of our community.
In less than one year, we established a Policy Governance Model which ensures the highest level of governing standards and ethics, defines organizational goals and firm legal and procedural guidelines with regards to how an organization functions.
I commend CEO Charity Bergman and staff for bringing this model to our United Way, persevering through challenges, developing these policies, and solidifying this structure to provide tangible evidence of our pledge to our community for transparency and commitment to the greatest good.
We have recently recruited new, high capacity, mission aligned board members and elected new executive leadership; I now have the pleasure of serving as the Board Chair.
I was born and raised in this beautiful community and feel extremely fortunate to call Wenatchee home.
After living 12 years in Phoenix, Arizona, my husband and I moved back in 2016 to raise our children in this Valley. One gleaming aspect of moving back to the greatest mountain town in the Pacific Northwest was the opportunity to be back in a community that takes care of its own. You don’t get that in a big city like Phoenix or even Seattle.
I have three children, Memphis (2), Mathis (5) and a beautiful special needs daughter named Scarlett (8).
Scarlett has a rare syndrome called 18q Deletion Syndrome. She has a host of physical and cognitive disabilities that severely impact her growth and development. Wenatchee offers us the opportunity to be a part of an inclusive, supportive community that lacks within a metropolitan area.
One thing you learn very quickly when you’re the parent of a vulnerable child is how to advocate and fight for services. I have developed a passion for advocacy and intend to foster that at the local level through my role with United Way.
I started my career at the Arizona House of Representatives staffing the House Health and Human Services Committees. My personal and professional experience have created the fundamentals for understanding how to advance common good in communities. United Way’s focus on health, education and financial stability are the building blocks for a good quality of life, and we need that more than ever right here in our community.
There is tremendous unmet need in this region. With so many competing and underfunded non-profits, it is essential to identify needs, gaps, and prioritize a collaborative approach to ensure each agency brings value and services that are not duplicative or negligible in regards to impact.
We have also determined that it is necessary to implement a cash-based allocation model (as opposed to pledge-based) in order to be trusted stewards of our donor’s dollars by maximizing the amount being allocated, beginning with eliminating the 8% “pledge loss” reduction off the top of all donations.
This is easier on grantees as well, as there will be a set amount of funds to allocate instead of forcing applicants to “shoot in the dark” at funding with no helpful boundaries or guidelines. This results in an informed approach to budget planning and program development for our partner agencies, so they can focus on how to increase the impact of their own good work in our region.
At this stage in restructuring, in order to maximize available funds for the next cycle, we chose to prioritize the most basic needs and limit pledge-based funding to current partner agencies who provide food-based services to our vulnerable populations.
Also in service to supporting basic needs, we historically funded one organization’s efforts to address homelessness, but the need surrounding homelessness is much greater and unmet as well, highlighting an urgent need for the philanthropic sector to contribute to these efforts.
Fortunately, there was nearly $4 million of government funding available to nine agencies to address the homelessness crisis in Chelan and Douglas counties for this biennium.
None of these choices have been easy, but we made these decisions, with the support and understanding from our grantee and community partner organizations, because we want to minimize any negative impact while we take one year to shift to the stable cash-in-hand model and explore how to better support our underserved region.
The support we have received from our local workplace donors has been treasured and is an attestation to why I believe this community is so great. We recognize that relying on one or two primary donors is not a healthy model.
To date, during this rebuilding phase, efforts have and continue to be made to move beyond that narrow, unbalanced model and aim for performance in line with our true potential.
Restoring trust within our community continues to be of paramount importance and I personally look forward to having conversations with existing and potential donors and partners.
We appreciate the community’s and individuals’ personal responses to ensuring that the United Way is truly serving the community and I am confident that we have the best board members and staff to in place to reestablish our presence and support meaningful improvements in the quality of life for all of our friends and neighbors in North Central Washington.
Courtney Ward is board chair of the United Way of North Central Washington. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.