How does United Way determine its ‘need’?

Published 12:40 pm Saturday, June 12, 2010

Every year United Way agencies go through an extensive application process. The process of determining the fundraising goal — or as we call it, the “need” — for the 2011 funding year began early in September of 2009, with a review of new programs.

The applicant agencies were required to meet certain criteria in order to be considered for United Way funding. The criteria included: operating as a 501(c)(3) organization, providing programs within Freeborn County, having a board of directors and following good financial practices.

When programs met those criteria, the sponsor agencies were invited to fill out a formal application. The application asks for a detailed program description including the population served, the number of individuals receiving services, future goals, and other community accomplishments. The application also includes a form to track program goals and outcomes.

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After completed applications were received at the end of March 2010, United Way volunteers and board members performed site visits and reviewed the programs. Goals and outcomes were discussed. This is a very important part of the process since United Way funding comes from our community, and our volunteers work hard to ensure that funds are spent on programs with a local impact.

Not every applicant receives the funds they request; this decision is based on many factors. Measuring program outcomes year after year is vital to indicate each program’s success. Allocations are based on current needs in the community; applicants are aware that funding changes as the community needs change.

A final meeting was held in mid-April to review program finances. Funding recommendations were brought to the board for final approval at the April board meeting.

After all of this, the “need” for 2011 is $650,000. Actual amounts paid out to programs in 2011 will be determined at the end of the 2010 fundraising campaign. If there is a shortfall in the amount raised by the community, agencies may need to adjust their future programs accordingly.

More than ever, donors expect the United Way to be accountable for the funds we raise and distribute. As a nonprofit organization, we are proud to present our information to the public. Documents such as our 990 IRS filing, bylaws, agency funding levels, etc., are available on our website: Specific program accomplishments for the 2009 funding year may also be reviewed under the “Give” tab.

United Way’s goal is to create long-lasting changes by addressing the underlying causes of the problems we face as a community. It takes everyone in the community working together to create a brighter future. We look forward to continuing to work with all of you.

Ann Austin is the executive director for the United Way of Freeborn County.