With the United Way Oxford 2015 campaign underway, representatives are eagerly unveiling the organization’s exciting Journey to Community Impact, an evolutionary move featuring bold changes including a new investment framework.
“This is a natural evolution,” says executive director Kelly Gilson. “The new way of working will give us the opportunity to reach broadly across the community and to partner, invest and support when it’s appropriate. We’ll look at measuring that kind of investment and the impact it’s having on the community.
“The approach is more focused. We will be using our community funds to make those investments. It’s important to note we invest in ways above and beyond dollars – like volunteer resources, staff resources and connections.”
“We want our community to understand where the dollars go and the impact the money is having on the community, how United Way Oxford is a partner, not just by funding agencies but working with them,” said executive director Kelly Gilson.
“Anyone can make a difference by getting involved with United Way. We cover the boundaries of Oxford County and our organization is run by a local 15-member board of directors that decides everything from financial investments to strategic direction. All donations are invested locally”
This year’s goal is $1.2-million. The organization surpassed its last goal of $1,125,000, raising a total of $1,175,000. The figures are impressive:
· $752,264 was invested in the community.
· There were more than 3,600 donors and in excess of 600 volunteers.
· Funding/support was provided for 27 partners.
· There were 74 United Way funded programs, services and initiatives in 2014/15.
· Membership opportunities supported 8,300 individuals, improving their mental and physical health.
· Vulnerable individuals requiring nutritional support received 579 prepared, delivered meals.
· More than 10,000 elementary and secondary students received nutritious food.
· More than 600 young people took part in literary-based programming for the development of skills and self-confidence.
“We are very proud of our accomplishments in the past 51 years,” said Gilson. “We’ve had wonderful relationships with organizations that have done and continue to do amazing work. We provide opportunities people need to build better lives by connecting them to the resources and supports they need. United Way improves social conditions in the short term by addressing basic needs and in the long term by focusing on root causes.
“Our annual report talks about our community impact, reasons why we’re evolving and the need to focus on those community measurements. United Way Oxford targets the investment of resources into three key priority areas:
1. Moving people from poverty to possibility – helping them meet basic needs with dignity and respect, strengthening employment readiness.
2. Building strong communities – supporting mental health and reducing addictions, empowering people to feel they belong and are accepted for they are.
3. Helping young people be all they can be – nurturing them as they transition from early childhood to adulthood.”
Praising individuals, business, organizations for their exceptional generosity, Lachapelle suggested people consider a gift, volunteer some time, start a workplace campaign or participate in one of United Way’s signature events.
“Our work is grounded in the community with strategies and focus based on community conversations developed by community experts and partners,” she said. “The entire process is designed to better support the community and the work we do. The community-at-large and our donors in particular will be excited to see the positive change.
“It’s not just about the fundraising but where the funds go and what impact they have,” said campaign manager Shelley Lachapelle. “We can proudly announce a dollar sum but we want to explain what we want to do with that money, how it will touch individuals, how it stays local – essentially connect all the dots.”
Pointing out that member agencies were involved in the process of change since day one, Gilson said change has a way of creating a ripple effect, one that can alter the landscape for the better.
“The heart of what we do, helping people, positively changing lives and strengthening the community remains the same,” she said. The new approach will be much more fluid. As we make our first investments there will be changes. Our previous system did not have enough flexibility and fluidity.”
Praising the generous community and donor base, Gilson and Lachapelle said many people are not fully aware of United Way Oxford’s mandate.
“Some just see us as fundraisers from September to December,” said Gilson. “We want people to know we are so much more. This is a year-round organization here to make a real difference in people lives. This change in our approach is all about awareness.”
Future articles in this six-part series will look at community conversations, the people involved, the journey and opportunities along the way.