The United Way of Chatham County is the largest annual provider of funds to Chatham’s nonprofit entities. This week, we speak with its executive director, Dina Reynolds, about the United Way’s annual fundraising campaign, which kicked off last week.
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The United Way of Chatham County is the largest annual provider of funds to Chatham’s nonprofit entities. This week, we speak with its executive director, Dina Reynolds, about the United Way’s annual fundraising campaign, which kicked off last week. In Chatham County, the United Way has a 30-year commitment to supporting community organizations that provide a variety of services to individuals and families in Chatham who need help. Reynolds has called Chatham County home for more than 25 years. A graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, she holds a B.A. in journalism, as well as a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke’s Continuing Education Program. She has worked in nonprofit fundraising and administration for 22 years — the first eight years as the director of development for the Chatham County Council on Aging and the last 14 years at United Way.
Let’s start with the obvious question: Why is important for those who live and work in Chatham to make a financial gift to the United Way here?
All funds raised in Chatham stay in Chatham and are directed toward programs addressing the most critical needs in our community. The United Way of Chatham County (UWCC) has informed knowledge of the changing needs of our residents. Through partnerships with local and statewide projects like the Chatham County Community Assessment and NC 2-1-1, UWCC is able to make data-informed funding decisions to solve community problems. Utilizing community data and assessments, United Way ensures that funds are invested responsibly in high-performing programs that are monitored for financial and legal stability. United Way donors serve as program evaluators in United Way’s funding process, which reduces administrative costs and results in more than 86 cents of every donor dollar being directed to those in need.
To fulfill its mission, United Way recognizes that one consolidated fundraising campaign is the most efficient way to raise money for its partner agencies. United Way also recognizes its responsibility to allocate funds to its participating agencies to meet the community needs of the county in a cost efficient and effective manner. Recognizing the dignity and importance of every resident of Chatham County, we envision a community that is committed to improving the quality of life for all. United Way is the largest annual funder to Chatham nonprofits.
Community impact areas of focus include: Assisting with Basic Needs, Nurturing Youth & Family and Strengthening the Community. United Way funded programs help thousands of Chatham County residents with services like daycare, after-school activities, assistance with utility bills, crisis intervention, transportation, emergency food assistance, safe housing, senior services and literacy programs. As a matter of fact, one in every three Chatham County residents has received services from one of United Way’s member agencies.
United Way support ensures that the 45 percent of Chatham’s students who are eligible for free or reduced-cost lunches are fed during the weekends and summer months. It ensures that the nearly 2,500 residents in need of emergency assistance this year will have a place to turn. And it ensures that the 14 percent of Chatham’s residents living in poverty will have opportunities to improve their circumstances.
Poverty, many agree, is among the most pressing challenges facing Chatham County. Can you talk about how our United Way-funded programs address that, and how the United Way itself is utilizing a “two-generation” approach to fight poverty?
UWCC fights poverty in Chatham by funding programs that meet residents’ need in moments of crisis, as well as provide long-term solutions to solve the root of these problems. For example, if a resident has an immediate food or housing need, a United Way funded program will be able to meet their urgent need. Additionally, there may be another funded program that can help solve the root cause of this crisis, like acquiring a job or completing home repairs. In this way, we can directly tackle poverty and help lift residents to self-sufficiency.
UWCC knows that poverty often traps families for generations. Studies have shown that a child born into poverty is at greater risk to raise their own children in poverty. For this reason, UWCC uses a two-generation approach to end that cycle. We do this by recognizing that there are separate, but linked needs within a family. For example, a parent who wants to increase their earning potential through additional job training or education may be limited by access to quality, affordable after-school care for their children. UWCC recognizes these types of barriers and focuses on removing them, while also embedding quality early childhood education, thus increasing the likelihood of the child succeeding later in life.
For a non-profit, becoming formally affiliated and designated a “United Way agency” isn’t easy. What are the eligibility requirements for local agencies?
The agencies that operate United Way funded programs go through an extensive review process every year. In order to be considered for program funding, an organization must be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency delivering human service programs in Chatham County. Each agency’s annual application package goes through a 31-point certification checklist covering financial, legal, governance and human resources issues. Documentation must be provided to demonstrate legal compliance and financial viability. They include an annual audit, IRS 990 tax form, NC Solicitation License and Articles of Incorporation filed with the state.
United Way invites campaign donors to review agency funding applications, conduct site visits and meet with agency representatives. The Program Review Panels analyze each agency’s funding request, annual budget and programs. They distribute funds by reviewing the need of the agency, the need for the programs, the impact on those served and the effectiveness of the agency to provide the programs. Approximately 600 hours per year are spent by community volunteers who serve as stewards to ensure every donor’s dollars are directed where they will have the most impact and make a difference.
In addition to assisting financially, United Way agency volunteers donate their time in the community — at last count, about 80,000 hours a year. That in itself has a value of more than $2 million. Why are those numbers important?
Those numbers are important because without volunteers, the non-profit community in Chatham County would have spent more than $2 million in salaries to pay staff members to fill those roles. More realistically, that means that our non-profit partners would be able to do much less for our friends, family and neighbors in need. The value of volunteer time cannot be overstated in Chatham County. This is a community that cares for one another. A community that works together to improve lives of their neighbors. That is powerful. That is the Power of “U.”
What’s the best way to give to the United Way?
Joining us in fighting poverty in Chatham County is easy. You can mail a check payable to the United Way of Chatham County to PO Box 1066, Pittsboro, NC 27312 or visit our website at www.UnitedWayofChathamCounty.org and make a donation online.