I recently went to dinner with a close friend so we could share holiday stories and exchange belated gifts. As I opened my present I was reminded that life is filled with so many wonderful surprises. To my delight my friend had made a donation in my name to United Ministries.United-Way-of-Greenville

Now here’s the twist… just that morning, I had spent four hours with 20 other volunteers evaluating agency requests for United Way’s three-year funding cycle starting in 2013; one of these requests had been made by United Ministries. Coincidentally, my role in this review process was to serve as the primary presenter and advocate for three programs offered by this wonderful Upstate nonprofit. Her gift could not have been more meaningful or timely.

This leads me to the question she asked me that evening.

I know you are a United Way donor and volunteer. Tell me how decisions are made to fund partner agencies.

For the past year, I have served on United Way’s Program Evaluation Team. This is a responsibility that more than 70 community volunteers take extremely seriously. We are entrusted with understanding and evaluating the program funding requests presented by local nonprofits. As part of our role, we serve as advocates and presenters for specific agencies.

You will be as surprised, as I was, to learn that this year United Way received requests from 93 health and human service nonprofits representing 135 different programs. What an incredible responsibility to choose where our community’s dollars will be invested.

I am proud to share that our local United Way is a national leader – we are setting the bar with our approach to community impact and how we allocate funding. One of our major commitments is to fund programs that provide access to healthcare and emergency assistance in times of crisis—right here, right now. At the same time, we recognize that as a community we must invest in long-term, forward-thinking and systemic solutions. Wouldn’t it be nice if we worked ourselves out of a job?

To provide a long-term, community-based strategy, United Way volunteers, staff and partner agencies came together to develop roadmaps in the following three priority areas:

  • School Readiness for Children
  • High School Graduation & Post High School Success
  • Financial Stability for Families

At first glance these roadmaps may appear complex. However, once you examine them it is evident that they thoughtfully illustrate a positive course for Greenville’s future. Moreover, they are invaluable tools for those of us making funding recommendations and decisions.

Each year, members of the Program Evaluation Team attend training workshops on United Way’s Community Impact Model and the following criteria, which we use to evaluate funding requests:

  • Community Need/Alignment with Roadmaps
  • Financial & Organizational Capacity
  • Collaboration, Innovation & Best Practices
  • Outcome Measurement

Once we on the Program Evaluation Team make our final recommendations, the next step is approval by the Community Impact Cabinet. More questions are asked at this point before final recommendations are made to the Board of Directors for their approval. You can rest assured that the United Way’s dedicated staff and volunteers are great stewards of our community’s contributions.

Last November, the United Way announced the results of a very successful 2012 campaign – the best in its history. As volunteers held their breath, Campaign Chair, Jim Bourey turned the final placard at a public event, revealing a grand total of $16,021,264!

I believe this remarkable success was a huge vote of confidence for United Way. And as a result, nonprofits will be funded, individuals and families will be made stronger, and the future of our community will be brighter.

Until next time,


Thank you to the Upstate Business Journal (UBJ) for inviting me to be a regular contributor to their publication. My goal in writing this column is to share my passion for nonprofits by bringing to light relevant information and success stories. This column is presented in a question and answer format. So whether you are a nonprofit professional, an active community volunteer or someone just looking for a way to get involved, I want to hear from you. I invite you to read all of my UBJ columns here.