United Way takes care with distribution

Monday, May 6, 2002

With the nation at war and the economy only beginning to look brighter, there is an unprecedented need for those in a position to do so to contribute to agencies that help the less fortunate.

However, due to bad publicity on the national level -- not the local level, remember -- for certain charities, even the most generous pause before they part with their money.

At the forefront of coordinating giving is the United Way, which sets up a means to solicit contributions for a number of organizations and then get the money to them. Many know about the United Way through the organization's payroll deduction plan, which helps employees donate without feeling the crunch in one lump sum.

The organization also accepts donations directly.

But to be noted is the method it uses for deciding which agencies receive distribution of the collections.

It is an admirable one. Committees of five to 11 United Way board members and volunteers review agency funding requests.

For eight days, one at a time, representatives from the 30 agencies requesting United Way money this year appeared before the various committee and made their cases. They explained their budgets and how the money would be used.

And it wasn't simply a formality. In some cases, committee members asked pointed questions about expenditures and administrative overhead. In recent years, the board has pushed agencies to strengthen their requests by documenting results of their programs.

Ultimately, the funding requests are reviewed by 11 members of the United Way board and then approved or disapproved by the 28 voting members of the board. The decisions are made in December after the annual fall fund-raising campaign is over and the United Way knows how much it will have to give.

The organization raised nearly $900,000 in the last campaign. With public understanding of just how intense the process of doling that money out can be and trust in that process, the number should be even higher this year.

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