United Way shifts focus for funding

Author: South Bend Tribune

Allocations slanted toward programs that are 'proactive'

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Decent revenue from its annual campaign helped the United Way of St. Joseph County boost funding to local programs by 1.7 percent, or $16,845, for a total of $985,000 in the funding year that began July 1.

And, in an effort this year to support more proactive programs, the United Way shifted the priorities for how that sum was divvied up among local charities, said United Way CEO Matt Harrington. Out of three funding categories, the pool of dollars to allocate to Education programs grew from 30 percent of the total dollars to 40 percent, and the Income and Financial Stability category grew from 10 percent to 15 percent.

Meanwhile, the Health and Basic Needs programs dropped from 60 percent to 45 percent of the dollars.

To claim their piece of the funding, programs had to prove they met the United Way's new goal of erasing poverty.

In all, 45 programs at 21 charities are receiving allocations.

La Casa de Amistad landed an extra $9,000 out of the growing Income and Financial Stability pool to help local Latinos cross the digital divide so they can secure jobs and further their education, said Director Sam Centellas. Many employers are requiring that job applicants and employees file everything online, from resumes to time cards, and Centellas said, "It really boxes a lot of people out."

Latinos, he noted, are among those with the least access to and knowledge about computers.

La Casa would use the grant to add staffing to help clients one on one, but he said it will tailor the program so it doesn't duplicate new efforts by Goodwill Industries of Michiana, which isn't a United Way agency. La Casa learned just recently that Goodwill has hired a bilingual staff member for a new career center that it's opening at its Western Avenue headquarters. Goodwill CEO Debie Coble confirmed that the new center would try to ensure no duplication of efforts with La Casa.


Even with both efforts, Centellas said, "We probably actually need more partners." In the course of a year, about 10 percent of La Casa's clients, or about 300 people, had asked for digital help.

Meanwhile, La Casa saw funding for its five other United Way programs remain steady.

Stone Soup Community shifted one of its programs to the declining Health and Basic Needs category, but the program still mustered $8,525 more this year than it did last year, for a total of $22,500, to help needy clients set and meet goals for self-sufficiency, including financial education and life skills classes, said Director Gina O. Robinson. In that same category, though, Stone Soup's Emergency Assistance program garnered $6,899 less this year, or a total of $16,097.

Fifteen programs saw funding increases this year, Harrington said, and another three programs combined with other programs to show greater impact.

Funding may have dropped in Health and Basic Needs, Harrington said, but each of the programs that applied, except for one, still got some funding, plus each of the six new programs got funding.

The 31 United Way volunteers who made the funding recommendations, which were then approved by United Way's board, he said, didn't consider what each program received in the prior year. They worked in three panels tagged to each of the funding categories.

"What's the strength of the program today?" he said. "It may have been strong three years ago, but not today."

The Alcohol and Addiction Resource Center, a longtime United Way agency, isn't receiving any allocations this year. Director Sharon Burden said the AARC proposed a new program this year in which it would help people who couldn't land jobs because they couldn't pass a drug test. AARC would counsel clients, who often are recreational marijuana users, and help them to address their use issues. Burden saw it as an innovative approach, but it didn't secure United Way funding.

Along with ongoing programs, the United Way agencies proposed a total of 16 new programs this year. Four of those didn't receive funding. Often, that was because the program lacked a good plan, a track record or other lines of financial support, Harrington said. Sometimes it's a good program but just not well known, or there are plenty of other good programs like it, he said.

Meanwhile, Burden said, the AARC's other United Way-funded program had ended last December, thanks to a change in other funding from the state. Since the program stopped, so did United Way dollars tied to it. The program had focused on preventing substance abuse among pregnant women. Burden said most of the program's funding had come from the Indiana State Department of Health, that shifted the dollars' focus from substance abuse to tobacco use. Statistics for St. Joseph County didn't show enough tobacco use among those moms to win the dollars.

The AARC will be OK, said Burden, a veteran of the local nonprofit scene who's used to the fickle nature of funding. She's grateful to receive strong support from a state grant for prevention efforts, up this year about $107,000.

Harrington emphasizes that United Way funding is never intended to cover an agency's operational expenses. Agencies make stronger pitches when they show that they've lined up other support, he said — and especially when they partner with other agencies.

Although the YWCA North Central Indiana saw a total of $102,930 in funding for three programs, it also saw a decrease of about $51,000 overall compared with last year, much of that for domestic violence services, said CEO Linda Baechle. It means that the YWCA won't be able to replace a sexual assault therapist with another full-timer — though perhaps with a part-time therapist who wouldn't be able to take on the same sized caseload: about 110 people per year, Baechle said. The therapist is leaving in an unrelated career move.

To make up the difference, the YWCA is exploring what reimbursement it can get through Medicaid's HIP 2.0 program. In the past, Baechle said, it always seemed that any funding from HIP 2.0 would have been eaten up by the expense of going through the right procedures.

The YWCA did well in yielding a total of $226,236 in the one-day Give Local campaign for 53 local charities that the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County hosted on May 5. But much of that will go to the YWCA's endowment and to daily expenses, which include mechanical issues in the building this year, Baechle said.

She said the YWCA programs are essentially the same as before, though the agency did try to present them with more of a focus on poverty. If you're coping with violence, she noted, you can't deal with poverty.



United Way's other impacts

The United Way of St. Joseph County emphasizes that it does a lot more than just allocations to local programs. It reports that it also used $902,000 in donations and grants to support the following programs over the past year:

• 4,059 tax returns completed through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program

• 14,842 calls answered via the 211 information and referral line

• 12 food pantries supported through the People Gotta Eat initiative

• 379 households received aid with paying utilities and 356 households in home budgeting classes via the Team HEAT program

• 450 months of utility payments, 134 nights of weather amnesty shelter, 65 months of mortgage or rent payments and more than 60,000 meals served or provided through local charities thanks to the government's Emergency Food and Shelter grant, which the United Way administers

• 25 schools received some help with Project Lead the Way curriculum.

Allocations on the Web

To read the full list of programs that are receiving funding from the United Way of St. Joseph County, find a link with this story at southbendtribune.com.