By LISA CAPOBIANCO
From subsidized tuition for preschool and academic enrichment to crisis management for improving family self-sufficiency to therapy for children and youth who experienced trauma, the United Way of West Central Connecticut has funded 31 programs that help improve the quality of life in the communities it serves.
These programs, which address education, income, or health, will be funded for the next three years. United Way has a three-year allocation process that allows local organizations to apply for funding every three years.
Donna Osuch, president and CPO of UWWCC, said United Way has established a good relationship with its funded partners, giving them an opportunity to reflect back on what they do as organizations. Funded partners for the next three years in the Bristol community include Bristol Community Organization, the Bristol Boys and Girls Club, Bristol Preschool Child Care Center, Wheeler Clinic, Bristol Hospital Parent and Child Center, Bristol Adult Resource Center (BARC), St. Vincent DePaul Mission of Bristol, and Literacy Volunteers of Central Connecticut. Funding began July 1, and ends June 30, 2018.
United Way also serves the communities of Burlington, Plainville and Plymouth/Terryville.
“We are raising dollars to help the community,” said Osuch, adding that everyone learns from each other. “We want to be partners in this…offer guidance and support.”
Under the allocation process, organizations apply for funding utilizing a three year projection of needs in the first year. Funding is granted on a three-year basis, and instead of reapplying for funding the following two years, organizations give financial updates and outcome measurement reports on the community impacts as a result of funding.
Last fall, United Way received 44 letters of intent from local organizations that totaled $668,000 in requests for funding. United Way then invited 37 of those organizations to submit applications, with the total funding request of almost $600,000. United Way funded 31 programs for a total of about $310,000. All funded programs must address at least one outcome under United Way’s three building blocks: education, income, and health.
Over the years, the amount of funds available for allocation has varied. Osuch said there has been less money available for allocations overall.
“We have raised fewer dollars the last few years,” said Osuch. “We made the decision though to keep the number level with three years ago or with the funding that was currently being used the year before just as a starting point.”
One thing United Way has noticed is there are more requests for funds to support basic needs programs as well as more requests for programs once funded by other sources that now dissipated. For instance, Bristol Community Organization lost funds for its case worker program, a program that was greatly needed, said Osuch.
“We were seeing United Way funds being asked to support programs that were no longer being supported by the state or federal monies,” said Osuch.
Osuch said this loss of state and federal funding for basic needs programs has made the allocation process even more competitive, making it difficult for the Allocations Committee to narrow down their final funding recommendations to the United Way’s Board of Directors. The board acted on those recommendations as part of the allocation process this past spring.
In the end, the committee decided it was important to maintain the level of funding for the current programs that had good outcomes, said Osuch.
“They wanted to fund everything,” said Osuch, adding how committee members felt heartbroken that they could not fund all of the programs. “They saw value in every program that came through.”
Phyllis Tucker, vice chairperson of the Allocations Committee, said the biggest challenge for the committee was fulfilling the funding requests of each application.
“It was a difficult decision not to fund all of the programs,” said Tucker, who has volunteered for United Way and has served on the Board of Directors. “We wanted to fund all of them.”
During the allocation process, the committee reads each application that comes through in batches based on education, income and health, meeting every two to three weeks. Before voting yes or no to fund each program, committee members score each proposal, which serves as a barometer for where the discussion will lead, said Osuch.
During the process, the committee gives priority consideration to organizations that can demonstrate the degree to which they can show the outcomes they intend to achieve with the program and how they plan to achieve them, as well as how they will align with and help United Way achieve the desired outcomes chosen under each building block. The committee also determines whether those organizations can collaborate with other organizations to achieve their goals and whether the proposed program can ultimately become a long-term solution for an existing problem.
“They had discussion in length about the value of a program, how the funds are being used, what people knew about it, how well the proposal had been presented,” said Osuch.
Born and raised in Bristol, Tucker said being involved in the allocation process was a great opportunity to learn about the variety of programs provided by organizations in the community.
Before serving on the committee, Tucker said she was not aware of the countless programs available to meet the needs of individuals and families in the community. One thing that opened Tucker’s eyes was the variety of food assistance programs, including the Weekend Food Backpack Program offered at Bristol Preschool.
“There’s a larger need than I thought there would have been,” said Tucker. “It’s an eye opener.”
Each organization approved for funding is required to submit an Outcome Data Report within the first 18 months and at grant end. This report serves as a tool for the organizations to see if their desired outcomes resulted after the funding.
“We really want them to…use it as a tool to monitor themselves as well as get the best results,” said Osuch. “We’re checking in with them to make sure everything is going as they want to, that they’re seeing the results they hoped to see.”
United Way not only serves as a funding source for local organizations, but also partners.
Being a funded partner of United Way provides many benefits in addition to funding.
Osuch said one of these benefits include the community’s awareness that the funded partners of United Way are “high quality” agencies. In addition, administrative fees are waived when people make a designation to a funded partner.
“Long-term, it’s the support system of working with a variety of different nonprofits in the community that have different missions but ultimately are trying to help their clients,” said Osuch. “It strengthens the nonprofit sector of the community.”
“There is a very tight bond in the communities we serve,” added Tucker.
Funding local organizations serves as just one way that United Way gives back. United Way supports a variety of initiatives and programs that benefit the entire community in the areas of education, income and health. These initiatives and programs include Kids in the Middle (KIM) and the Youth Board, the Adopt-A-Child Back to School Program, the Discovery Initiative, which ensures that all children are ready to learn when they enter kindergarten, and financial education classes, as well as the TRIAD program, which aims to unite law enforcement with older volunteers and aging network professionals to address the safety needs and concerns of older adults in their community and to alleviate the fear of crime.
In addition, last year United Way received $100,000 in donor designations.
“There’s additional dollars being spent,” said Osuch. “We’re trying to help programs in the community achieve outcomes through this funding, and at the same time we’re funding…higher-level community work with the same outcomes.”
To learn more about the programs recently funded by United Way, visit Bristol Observer’s website, www.BristolObserver.com.
By LISA CAPOBIANCO