United Way to narrow focus of some donations Agency will also require programs to show impact

December 11, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

The United Way of Central Maryland voted yesterday to focus one-third of donors' funds on four critical areas and to require positive results from the programs it funds.

The four areas of need approved by the board of directors include investing in children and youth, strengthening families, building the work force and responding to crises.

The changes were designed to make the most effective use of donors' money so that donations have "a measurable, visible impact" on key social problems.

The allocations for these areas are "volunteer-driven" -- reflecting the preferences of the volunteers who participate in United Way's funding process. Agencies will make proposals next year for their programs, and United Way volunteers will decide which programs receive funds and which are dropped.

The other two-thirds of United Way projects will be unaffected by the changes.

Those include the seven major "contractual affiliates" receiving United Way funding, though their programs largely follow the new focus. Those seven groups, which receive one-third of United Way's funding, are the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Red Cross, Associated Black Charities, The Associated: Jewish Community Feder- ation Baltimore, Catholic Charities and Combined Health Agencies.

The remaining third goes to favorite programs and agencies designated by individual donors.

The four new areas replace nine previous areas of emphasis, although several of those, such as "strengthening families" and "expanding child care" are folded into the new designations.

Reflecting actions by United Way agencies elsewhere, the vote culminated a process begun last year when United Way announced it wanted to see positive results from donors' money.

Several sources were used to choose the new areas of emphasis: a spring survey of 3,000 Maryland donors, volunteers, community leaders, educators and others; data from more than 20 public and private agencies; and interviews with 17 health and human service experts and focus groups.

Next month, United Way will announce the final total of funds raised in this year's drive. The goal is $39.4 million; reports indicate giving is above the pace of last year, when $37.8 million was raised.

The board, headed by Benjamin H. Griswold IV, also spelled out detailed objectives for its four areas of emphasis:

Children and youth: greater access to a caring adult role model, safe places for after-school playing and learning, a healthy start in life, marketable skills and community service. Targets for these programs are children from low-income or working-poor families, victims of physical or sexual abuse, families getting drug or alcohol treatment and single-parent families.

Families: "To increase the physical, spiritual, economic and social health of families by increasing family supports, reducing substance abuse and increasing access to health services." Targets are teen parents, working poor, families with histories of abuse, neglect and limited social support networks.

Work force: Initiatives such as "building on community assets (local employers, schools, work force development agencies, etc.) and relationships of key stakeholders (i.e., faith-based organizations, health providers, adult education institutions, etc.)."

Crises: Continued programs such as shelter for the homeless, food for the hungry, care for the abused and more opportunities to stabilize people in crisis.

Pub Date: 12/11/98

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