The recent news about United Way Capital Area having to lay off 10 employees is disheartening. UW runs pretty lean, and the people there work around the clock and even on weekends to accomplish their mission. When you work for United Way you take on a lifestyle, not just a job.
Andrea Ball’s story was on the money; what got me was the comments. Can it really be that United Way doesn’t have a place in the nonprofit environment anymore?
As a recent data-pull by Greenlights shows (see our third issue for the story, “Are There Too Many Nonprofits?”), Austin has plenty of frontlines service providers, maybe too many. The concern is that not all of these nonprofits are effective, so one idea is to increase collaboration and maybe even mergers. From what I understood in putting the story together, collaborations can be more effective and more efficient than what a nonprofit can accomplish on its own.
But who’s out there putting these collaborations together? Nonprofits individually can be so in the weeds trying to get their own work done that they can’t spend enough time looking around for help. That’s where agencies like United Way can come in.
I talked to John Turner, United Way’s director of marketing, to run by him some of the reasons why I think UW still has value. These are just some of the things I thought of off the top of my head:
1. Collaborations like Success By 6, which brings together more than 30 local nonprofits, community leaders, and concerned businesses to build more quality into the network of early childhood centers. SB6 has helped more than double the number of early childhood centers with a quality rating in two years.
2. Their 24×7 helpline 2-1-1 Texas, which fielded almost 200,000 calls last year from Central Texans in need of assistance, connecting them with help, whether with utility bills, finding a local food bank to escaping Hurricane Ike.
3. The over $140 million UW has raised in the past eight years for the community and nonprofits. What would happen if they were not here to go out and raise it? Most organizations do not have the resources or capacity to go out and raise that kind of money. It takes money to do it, and UW is an efficient way to collect and distribute donations.
4. The community engagement arm, Hands on Central Texas, organized and mobilized more than 2,500+ volunteers last year, and 3,000+ volunteer connection to agencies. They contributed over 6,000 hours to help local nonprofits and schools, again providing a valuable service to the local community.
5. Their new collaboration One Hour For Kids, which has several partners including E3, AISD and Manor ISD, and is recruiting volunteer mentors and tutors for middle school kids to help improve the drop out rate.
Again, these are the programs and accomplishments I can think of; UW does so much more than this. And I’m certainly not alone in my perception of UW being efficient. Charity Navigator, an independent online charity evaluator, gives it its highest rating for efficiency.
Thing is, United Way Captial Area does important work. And just because they’re reducing staff doesn’t mean they can scale back their mission. So how’s this going to work? There are only so many hours in the day…
If you think you can’t help United Way, think again. Any sized donation helps, but I invite you to share your thoughts about United Way with people you know or reach out to United Way to find out how you can support their work.
In fact, reach out to ANY nonprofit in Central Texas. They could all use a little more help these days.