Not your grandfather’s United Way

Over a decade ago, the United Way of West Central Connecticut, which serves the communities of Bristol, Burlington, Plainville and Plymouth/Terryville, decided to change how we do business. Through this transformation process, we went from being solely a fundraising organization to a “community impact” organization.
In our old model, we raised money and then handed it back out to local non-profits working in the community. While this is still an important piece of what we do – with funding provided to 31 programs at 23 non-profits – we consider this our “on-the-ground” work. For example, our donors’ investments pay for preschool opportunities at several high-quality centers.
Our newer “community-level” work focuses on creating meaningful, long-lasting changes that impact everyone in our community. And that’s exactly what “community impact” is – a way to convene and mobilize local partners, including businesses, community leaders, public officials and community residents, to expand opportunities for people to succeed. An example of this kind of work would be our partnerships to help ensure that all of our youngest children enter kindergarten ready to be successful.
Through our community-level work, United Way advances the common good. Our focus is on the building blocks for a good quality of life for everyone in our community – education, income, and health. All three of these building blocks are critical – remove any one and the other two will topple. However, if we build them all up, we will have a strong foundation for collective success. United Way completes this work through 13 in-house initiatives and programs – tune into the rest of our eight-part series to hear more about how your investment supports our community.
What makes United Way so successful in getting results with this new model is that we are focused on creating last changes, not charity. We know that if we are going to create REAL change and solutions that last, we can’t fool ourselves into looking for quick fixes or band-aids. Lots of organizations treat just the symptom or focus on only one issue. United Way does something different – we look at the big picture, the whole person and the whole situation.
We are a local organization, governed by a local volunteer Board of Directors, supported by local individuals and companies. All money raised here, stays here, and local volunteers make decisions about how to best use the funds that we raise.
United Way recruits people and organizations who bring the passion, expertise and resources needed to get things done. But we can’t do this work alone. We need people to be part of this change by giving, advocating and volunteering. Please join the Live United movement today by logging onto our website –
This is the first column in an eight-week series from United Way of West Central Connecticut’s president & CPO, Donna Osuch.

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