Investing more than $2.3 million in our community

As originally published in the Our Towns section of The State Journal-Register on Sunday, May 31, 2015.

Community Fund InfographicLast week United Way of Central Illinois was pleased to announce $2,320,749 of investments resulting from last year’s campaign.  Among these investments was $1,656,493 in Community Fund investments benefitting 38 local health and human service initiatives.

An increase in pledges to the Community Fund means that currently funded programs will experience a 1.4% increase in funding.  This is welcome news to many agencies which are facing potential cuts in state funding this coming year.  As always, we wish we could do more; especially when you think about the turmoil occurring within state government.

This year’s Community Fund investments were made possible by the generosity of more than 7,000 individuals who made an investment in United Way’s Community Fund during the 2014 campaign.  On behalf of United Way: Thank You too our investors and the Becker family for caring so deeply about our community.

We also thank the 9 local companies who continue to underwrite the administrative and fundraising expenses associated with the Community Fund.  Thanks to their generosity, we are able to assure that every dollar given to the Community Fund goes directly to local initiatives.

Traditionally, this would be the time of year in which we would discuss how Community Fund investments are allocated.  However, United Way is currently evaluating the scope of its work in our community.  In the coming months, volunteers will be evaluating community data and investor feedback to determine how United Way can best serve our community and develop results-oriented solutions to our community’s needs.  The end result will be establishing deeper relationships with community partners in order to work together to invest United Way resources in a manner which advances the common good.

As a result, United Way’s Board of Directors voted this past February to extend funding to currently funded initiatives through June, 2016.  Although this limited the opportunity for new initiatives to apply for funding this year, it allows United Way volunteers and partners to more deeply focus on assessing community needs and developing collaborative solutions.

In addition to the Community Fund allocations, this year’s community investments include funding for United Way’s Venture Fund, 2-1-1 and Get Connected.

This year’s investments included $33,806 to continue funding of 2-1-1 services in Sangamon and Menard Counties.  2-1-1 is a toll free hotline that connects individuals with resources in our community including: utility assistance, food, housing, child care, after school programs, elder care, crisis intervention and more. Individuals dialing 2-1-1 (or 1-888-865-9903) will reach a highly-trained call specialist who will assess their needs and provide referrals to community resources.  2-1-1 is available 24-hours a day. Last year, calls to 2-1-1 increased by 25% and we expect call volumes to continue to increase as we work with community partners to increase awareness of the resource.

In addition, $5,000 of the community investment included sponsored-funding from U.S. Bank to provide Get Connected, United Way’s volunteer website and management platform.  Get Connected connects members of our community with local volunteer opportunities, nonprofit events, wish-lists and nonprofit job postings.  Through Get Connected, individuals, organizations, schools and businesses can set up groups, track service hours and receive volunteer notifications.  More than 1,500 people have registered on Get Connected; responding to hundreds of volunteer opportunities from local organizations.

United Way also set-aside $33,276 in venture funds which provide one-time funding to support new local programs or assist in the expansion of current programs.  Unlike the Community Fund which provides for ongoing programmatic expenses, the Venture Fund is designed to help new initiatives get started.

Finally, we are pleased to announce that donors directed $591,840 in gifts to other nonprofits through last year’s campaign.  Although we believe the Community Fund provides the best way to invest in our community, we celebrate the many causes which our donors support.  For this reason, we do not limit donor choice during the annual campaign.

Naturally, the question arises as to why there is a difference between our $2,700,000 campaign announcement and $2,320,000 investment announcement.  The difference represents the gifts from the 9 local companies that underwrite the expenses associated with the Community Fund.  These companies have gone above and beyond traditional levels of corporate support to underwrite operations and assure that 100% of your gift to the Community Fund goes directly to local initiatives.

To learn more about how United Way is making a difference or to learn more about our strategic planning process, visit www.springfieldunitedway.org.

John Kelker is the president at United Way of Central Illinois.  Look for United Way columns weekly in Our Towns.