Our economy has picked up and things are better for many people. Sometimes, though, we don’t hear about the more difficult stories, the families that are still struggling: The fifth-grader who goes to school and isn’t ready to learn because he didn’t eat breakfast that morning or dinner the night before. The elderly woman who is sick because she can’t afford the medicine she needs. For example:
- Over half a million people live in poverty in the four-county metro area.*
- In the past year, 1 in 4 adults living in poverty missed out on medical care they needed because they couldn't afford it.
- 1 in 3 ninth graders in the four-county area will not graduate high school on time.
The good news is that we can all help to change this. United Way of the Columbia-Willamette is founded on the simple premise: by acting together we can create positive change in the community that we could never achieve alone. We make this happen by using an investment strategy called Community Impact.
Community Impact is not the traditional style of charitable giving. While helping people with their needs today, it is also creating deep and lasting changes by addressing the three underlying elements that are the building blocks for successful lives and a successful community: education, financial stability and health. A coordinated investment strategy that focuses in each of these areas is the most effective way to reduce poverty in our community.
Here’s why these areas are so important:
- A child who has adequate access to quality childcare, nutrition and health care will succeed in school and in life.
- Full-time living-wage jobs with benefits are the key to making sure that people gain long-term financial stability and do not become homeless.
- Access to quality health and mental-health care prevents poverty, supports families and avoids costly use of emergency room services.
“United Way is an exceptional organization due to its ability to listen to multiple voices in our diverse community. They have the ability to see the intersections in disparities. United Way understands that often what seems to be a simple social disparity can in fact be part of a set of complex, interconnected systems. They are making those connections and making a commitment with their significant contributions. Their investments leverage real change in the places that need it most.”
President/CEO, The Black Parent Initiative
United Way raises and distributes millions of dollars each year. About half of the money goes to agencies chosen specifically by donors and about half goes to the Community Impact Fund.
How you invest is as important as what you invest in. That is the foundation of the Community Impact model. The model creates the highest return on your investment because it is based on data-driven investment decisions, use of best practices, performance measurement and accountability.
United Way works with Vision Council volunteers to identify the most effective strategies and collaborations of business, non-profits and community leaders. The process starts with a thorough assessment of our community's needs, research on the methods and programs that have had the greatest success in combating similar issues, then a rigorous competitive grant process that seeks out and funds the most effective projects and collaborations of non-profits, business and community leaders.
* Poverty refers to 200% of the federally defined level. Source: American Fact Finder