Published October 20, 2015 in Crain’s Cleveland Business
United Way of Summit County unveiled a new goal – moving 5,000 Summit County residents from financial dependence to independence – and a strategic shift in investing donor dollars to reach it.
In an Oct. 20 announcement, United Way officials said the shift is intended to speed up community change by investing to make a measurable difference. The organization looked at research and input from a variety of partners to come up with the income initiative, which will be fully implemented in two to four years, according to a news release.
United Way’s income area investments will directly be tied to financial independent results. United Way of Summit County president and CEO Jim Mullen said the strategy marks the first time the organization has used defined, community-based metrics to achieve its aims. Funding for a two-year cycle, beginning in 2016, will be invested in programs aligned with the strategies to reach the goal of financial independence for 5,000 residents.
“We are putting this high-level goal in place — a goal that essentially everyone will agree, when met, will make our community a better place for everyone,” Mullen said.
The income strategy is a three-armed approach, with its programs working toward building up individuals (knowledge and access to benefits, meeting basic needs, workforce advancement, among other initiatives), building up families (Summit County Fatherhood Initiative, Summit County Reentry Network) and building up community (community education, economic development, transportation).
“Everyday life is challenging for thousands of Summit County citizens,” said David Jennings, director of Akron-Summit County Public Library, United Way board member and United Way’s chair of Community Impact, in a statement. “This new strategy will align community efforts to help lower-income individuals and families, and empower them with the skills needed to maximize employment and grow a better financial future.”
Community leaders such as Summit County executive Russ Pry and GAR Foundation president Christine Amer Mayer stressed the importance of partnerships to achieve the goal.
“Partnership will be a critical element of success for United Way’s new income strategy,” said Mayer, also board vice chair for United Way, in a statement. “United Way board members and staff are committed to thinking differently about partnerships as the only way to make real progress toward this goal.”