Today, United Way of Summit & Medina announced a full advancement of their strategy that will include deeper community partnership and engagement, additional reach of their internal programming and more meaningful engagement of donors, corporate partners and the community at-large.
In April 2022 United Way first announced a new strategy to augment its Bold Goal model, focused on direct service programming, partnerships and a strong referral and communications network within Summit & Medina Counties. This strategy, known as the “ecosystem”, has made significant impact in its first 18 months.
United Way now aims to focus on capitalizing on these strategies and partnerships that have proved most effective. Mounting concerns about youth and gun violence, educational advancement, housing insecurity, economic development, and a lack of trust within our community are primary reasons for the needed and necessary streamlining of the ecosystem strategy. As this community faces transitions in multiple sectors, United Way of Summit & Medina is uniquely positioned to provide steady thought leadership, convening power, community engagement, targeted interventions and most importantly timely outcomes for those they serve.
Over the next 9 months, UWSM will launch an ambitious plan that will allow their clients, donors, advocates and partners to be part of the strategic process. This plan will include surveys, focus groups, community development conversations and one on one conversations. The goal of the process is to ensure United Way strategies continue to best align with community need and create stability that allows our community to move ahead in a way that creates successful opportunities for all.
“To effectively address the issues facing our community, United Way needs to continue to evolve and step up,” said Jim Mullen, president and CEO of United Way of Summit & Medina. “The only constant is change, and we are in the middle of a major shift in our local community. United Way will work to achieve better outcomes on critical issues for all those that we serve.”
This advancement will also allow United Way of Summit & Medina to have better data and more timely outcomes. The goal is to foster deeper partnerships with organizations that augment and advance United Way’s direct service programming through tightly aligned goals, targeted populations and data collection. To do this, the organization will change its approach to its funding process and strategy. From March 2024, moving forward, community organizations funded by United Way will no longer go through an outdated and cumbersome grant application process, but instead engage in deeper strategy sessions with key United Way staffers that will build on mutual shared vision and co-authorship of programming. Organizations asked to work with United Way through a funded partnership will be engaged in conversation and planning beginning in the spring of 2024. There will not be an open application process for funding. All current funded program partners will continue to receive their committed level of support through March 2024.
United Way is continuing to grow the amount of money it invests in the community, even though fewer community partners will be funded in 2024 and beyond. Moving to this new funding model will help support United Way of Summit & Medina’s growing investments in its own direct service programs. Over the past 10 years, the organization has evolved from a traditional pass-through fundraiser to an organization primarily engaged in direct services to clients, while continuously increasing its community impact spend. Today, United Way of Summit & Medina programs serve clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Through programs like 211, its Financial Empowerment Center and its Family Resource Centers, United Way has created an ecosystem of services that help residents find lasting stability. Strategic community partners who will be funded by United Way in the future will be key to growing this ecosystem.
“We are proud of our Bold Goals and the work we have done over the last near decade,” said Annie McFadden, United Way of Summit & Medina’s chief of staff, impact and communications. “But we also know that our community is still struggling, so we need to make targeted adjustments to our investment strategies now to capitalize on what’s working. This change will allow for us to go deeper, with fewer partners who are embedded in the community, to achieve better results sooner.”
As part of this change, UWSM will be moving their annual Report to the Community, which is normally held in April, to August 2024. During the event, details and key partnerships of the strategy advancement will be discussed, along with highlights and outcomes from program partners, donors, corporate partners and, most importantly, the clients they serve.