For over 50 years, United Way Oxford has been celebrating the successes of our community coming together. Individuals, corporations and volunteers giving the gift of time and money to help their neighbours, family and friends. In 2012, United Way Oxford was fortunate to participate in a learning project funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The purpose was to improve our Investment Strategies by Turning Outward, asking individuals in our community about hopes and aspirations and the barriers they experience. Those conversations were a critical turning point in United Way’s transition to become a community impact organization. What does that mean? It means truly knowing our community and targeting our work to have lasting impact.
It’s important that our community know and understand the process of how funding decisions are made. This month’s spotlight will focus on the work of our Impact Councils, an incredible group of highly skilled and engaged volunteers that share professional expertise and knowledge in human and social services, and/or lived experience. Last fall, their work began with reviewing Statements of Interest and selecting those applicants that would be invited to proceed with submitting a full application. The Councils are now in the process of reviewing applications, meeting with the agency representatives and determining which will be recommended to receive funding. These volunteers make a multi-year commitment as their work encompasses the full application review process as well as on-going meeting evaluations to ensure that we are measuring progress with a view to collective impact.
“Our Impact Councils truly work as one ensuring there’s a big picture lens on community resources. Although our three priority areas are distinct from one another the issues are often intertwined and complex,” says Kelly Gilson, Executive Director of United Way Oxford. “Because of our new open funding process we’ve seen a variety of great applications from many different organizations. Our volunteers have the difficult decision of determining which programs best meet the identified needs, where there is a readiness and opportunity, and how well they align with our targeted strategies. It is truly a challenge as the request for funding is significantly higher than the dollars available.”
United Way remains focused on multi-year funding. We know that, for many programs, it allows the time required to gather, measure and evaluate data. It also ensures that agencies can focus their efforts on the critical frontline services they provide to many people in our community.
Application approvals will be finalized by our Board of Directors in March 2017. Those organizations newly approved to receive funding will be revealed at our Community Celebration on March 23rd 2017.