Have you ever wanted to be able to give away a million dollars to support a worthy cause?
Even if you agree with Charles Dickens that “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another,” you may not have a bank account that allows you to give freely. If you have always wanted to give away a million dollars, then volunteering with United Way might be exactly what you need.
Annually, donors join the fight against Escambia County’s most daunting social crises by contributing to programs that win by working together to improve community indicators. The dollar value of each donor’s gift does not matter because we believe as Mother Teresa did that, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
Donations don’t have to be at a pre-determined level for a donor’s feedback and contribution to be of value. In fact, United Way believes in using diverse views, unique life experiences and partner input to inform and strengthen the community investment process. It is a commitment to the community and a belief in working together to return measurable outcomes that is important.
This week and next, United Way will train donors of all levels on the 10 goals partners share as they fight for our community. Though the fight against crisis is different for each program applicant, the dedication and resolve to solve problems is present regardless of whether they are applying to improve educational, health or financial stability among Escambia County residents.
Donors who show up as volunteers (whether they gave a dollar or $100,000) will review a subset of the 40 applications for the focus area they chose to review. They will see programs in action and listen to oral presentations from nonprofit staff, volunteers and clients who believe United Way dollars can accelerate their outcomes to the benefit of the broader community.
Many of the nonprofit employees who present to the donor panels are United Way donors themselves and share the belief that United we fight and United we win. It is why many give money contributed to their workplace campaign to the community investment process, instead of designating to their own organizations.
In this year’s process, 40 programs are applying for funding requests totaling $1,101,367. Additionally, five programs are asking for funding continuations from last year that total an additional $98,410 that they will receive if they are meeting promised outcomes. With an anticipated $1 million available for awards, donors will have tough decisions on which $200,000 in requests are left unmet. All who have applied are promising outcomes that are needed in our community. Eighteen have applied to partner with United Way to accomplish educational outcomes by improving cradle-to-career success and their goals are aligned to meet needs along Achieve Escambia’s Roadmap that tracks community progress across five points in a learner’s journey to achieve desired success.
Eighteen have also applied to help achieve health outcomes that allow them to improve or maintain independence and several goals are aligned to solve health problems indicated by Live Well Partnership for a Healthy Community. Four programs hope to receive funding needed to meet basic and emergency needs so our neighbors and friends don’t fall further behind.
Sixty-nine donors have already signed up to participate in this year’s process. New panelist can expect to experience extreme gratitude for the dedication they will see among nonprofit professionals and volunteers.
Past panelist Jamie Cochran says, “Every year I am on the panel, it's amazing to see that there is a new person on the panel who says … Wow, this is our community and I had no idea.” For others, their favorite part of the process may be the same as Publix employee John Falduti who appreciated, “… getting to come together as the health, education and financial stability panels and see how it all came together in the end — to make the final decisions on where the community is going to invest the money.”
Cochran echoed Falduti saying, “It came down to each panelist knowing what program would be able use the money to its fullest potential within our community to make the biggest impact. That’s what it really came down to ...”
For donors who want to volunteer to see how giving changes lives in our community, the community investment process provides a window into this complex world of caring. To sign up for training where you can learn more, call Rebecca Cleary at 434-3157 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donors who choose to help make these important decisions must commit to the following:
- Attend a two-hour training.
- Review (on your own time) and score applications through an online portal over a two-week period.
- Attend two days of site visits/oral presentations and score both.
- Participate in a two-hour deliberation meeting where panelists decide where the funds can make the greatest difference.
To see more on this process, you can watch a video on community investment here.
After participating in the community investment process, you may come to believe our forefathers got it right when they founded this great nation … In order to live better, we must LIVE UNITED.