United Way of Tarrant County leaders are bragging.
They should. Five years ago, they reinvented their organization. Now, halfway through a 10-year plan to prove their new approach, they’re seeing progress.
And at an economic summit this past week, they laid out a think-outside-the-box plan to assist people with innovative ideas for meeting local social needs.
To paraphrase a popular automobile advertising slogan, it’s not your father’s United Way.
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For most of its 94 years (it started in 1922), United Way of Tarrant County has been a “pass-through” social service funding organization.
Much of its effort was channeled into workplace donation drives, a once-a-year big push. You went to work, went to the United Way meeting, and you donated. It was over until next year.
United Way parceled out the money to agencies with proven track records.
UWTC’s president and CEO, Tim McKinney, is blunt: “That doesn’t work anymore.”
Not that they’ve abandoned workplace campaigns or local partners — far from it.
But donors these days are selective, and they want results. UWTC raised $32.8 million in its 2014-15 campaign, up from the previous three years.
Scott Spiker, board chairman, wrote in UWTC’s annual report that a recent marketing study showed “we have some great strengths on which to build, but we need to continue to tailor our work to maintain our relevance as generational behaviors change.”
In addition to helping fund other local agencies, UWTC chose in 2010 to target three initiatives, each with specific goals to meet by 2020:
▪ Learn Well, an effort to help 8,000 at-risk students graduate from high school on time.
▪ Earn Well, aiming to boost financial stability for 24,000 local residents.
▪ Live Well, helping 17,000 older adults with ongoing health concerns reach healthy-living goals.
Learn Well’s first 788 students graduated last year, Earn Well is halfway to its goal, and Live Well has helped 7,363 people reach health milestones.
On Thursday, UWTC launched Kernel, a “social innovation fund.” People with as-yet unproven ideas who demonstrate their potential to meet social needs can apply for Kernel funding. It’s risky, but with a potential for breakthroughs.
Definitely not the old United Way.