SJ-R Sunday Column – Help shape the future of United Way

kelker_sjrAs originally published in The State Journal-Register on February 1, 2015.

For more than 90 years, United Way has remained committed to making our community a better place to live, work and raise children. During this time, we’ve worked with partners throughout our community to address many of society’s most complex and pressing issues. After all those years, we’ve come to recognize three important facts:

  • as society becomes more complex, so does solving the needs of our community,
  • as our community becomes more diverse, the most pressing needs of our community are changing, and
  • all of our local health and human service needs are interrelated.

Recognizing these realities and adequately addressing local needs means our local United Way must be diligent in identifying community needs and bringing together our community to tackle those issues. As a result, United Way of Central Illinois is engaged in a strategic planning process designed to help us better identify, assess and solve our community’s most pressing issues.

The process of identifying local needs begins with you…a member of our community.

In the coming weeks and months, two important community surveys are being conducted. The first is United Way’s 2015 Investor and Community Survey. The online survey provides you an opportunity to sound off on the issues most important to our community and help shape United Way’s future. In addition, it provides respondents the opportunity to share their perception of United Way and provide feedback to help us improve our work in the community.

Naturally, people may feel uneasy when an organization solicits open and honest feedback. This is why University of Illinois Springfield’s Survey Research Office is administering the survey. Involving a third-party survey administrator ensure your anonymity and the integrity of feedback being collected.

The survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete and the results will be provided directly to United Way’s Board of Directors.
In addition to the 2015 United Way Investor and Community Survey, United Way is partnering with the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln and The Center for State Policy & Leadership at University of Illinois Springfield to conduct the 2015 Sangamon County Citizen Survey. In the coming months, UIS will survey hundreds of citizens in order to assess quality of life issues.

If you are contacted by UIS to participate in the survey, please take a few minutes to participate.

The feedback you provide through various surveys and assessments will not mean a wholesale change in the types of programs United Way funds. Rather, it provides us the ability to improve our work, encourage collaboration and evaluate community investments.

The results of these surveys will be carefully considered by United Way volunteers and United Way’s Board of Directors along with feedback and data collected through stakeholder meetings on basic needs, health, education and financial stability held this past week. More than 170 participants shared their experiences and expertise to assure United Way volunteers were fully aware of the many needs of our community.

This feedback along with quantitative data provided through research and community needs assessment reports will help United Way be better positioned to address our changing needs.

You can access and complete the 2015 United Way Investor & Community Survey at:

Thank you in advance for your time completing this survey and if you have any questions about this survey or the strategic planning process, do not hesitate to contact United Way of Central Illinois at (217) 726-7000.

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