Refocused United Way allocates funds
By Suzy Valentine
The United Way of Miami-Dade has allocated its first round of funding since adopting a results-focused approach to project selection.
The agency chose 143 programs that are to receive a share of more than $14 million based on the ability of the 58 non-profit beneficiaries to record measurable impact on the community.
Each program has devised its own targets - none is imposed by United Way, said President Harve Mogul.
"We are using our resources to help prevent situations rather than targeting situations that have happened," he said. "It's more humane and less costly."
The recipients of the funds fall into three of the four areas the non-profit's board decided to focus on in 2003.
United Way has earmarked almost $8 million for child and family programs, about $4 million for health education and more than $2 million for basic and emergency needs.
Staff and volunteers will support the fourth priority of "encouraging neighborhood and civic involvement" through an in-kind educational program.
"Instead of funding by the number of projects that groups are undertaking, the organization is asking, 'Who has outcomes?'" said Barbara Shrut, vice president of passenger loyalty and e-marketing at Royal Caribbean and a United Way volunteer for more than 10 years.
"We spent two to three years deliberating what the greatest needs were across the county," said fellow volunteer and IBM Business Development executive Fred Jackson. "A community like Miami-Dade has a tremendous amount of needs that no one organization can address."
"We have only three projects that were funded in the past and weren't this year," said Ms. Shrut, "together with a number of others that received less funding. The organization consulted with them on how they could improve objectives."
"We took our agency partners through the training using national models," said Mr. Jackson. "Many said they were in better shape by just going through the process."
Funds for the project are to be released in July.
"Next year, we expect another $14 million to be allocated in the same areas," Mr. Mogul said. "In the third year, there are no guarantees. We will look at the outcomes against objectives."
He presented some examples of how attitudes in non-profit funding have changed. "Take child-care centers," Mr. Mogul said. "The real purpose of child care is getting youngsters ready to learn. We're not in the stewardship of kids. Likewise, the Salvation Army isn't a hotel - its purpose is getting people off the streets for good, into jobs where they become taxpayers."
The change of approach results from research that wasn't available before.
"It's practical," he said. "Brain scans show that 80% of brain cells are connected by the time a child is 3."
The setup of these operations would dictate outcomes.
"There is a formula," said Mr. Mogul. "Children exposed to a certain square-footage inside and outside and balanced nutrition will be more successful."
There is still a lot of work to be done in this area, he said.
"There are 1,500 licensed child-care centers, tons more unlicensed," Mr. Mogul said. "Of those, 285 are accredited entities - that's only 13% of the licensed centers."