Charlotte United Way investing in collaboration for impact

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — One year ago, United Way of Central Carolinas began working with 16 of its partner agencies to provide better data to track their impact on the academic performance of at-risk kids they serve.

This month, in partnership with the city of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, Foundation for the Carolinas and roughly 40 other nonprofits, United Way began spearheading a new effort to improve service to the homeless by improving the way agencies collect information from them and identify their needs for services when they first seek assistance.

Both efforts, each supported with $200,000 from the Wells Fargo Foundation, are part of United Way’s larger “Collective Impact” strategy of collaborating with a broad range of community partners to improve the delivery of health and human services.

And as it kicks off its annual fundraising campaign, United Way is working to help its supporters better understand its work, and the role and impact in the community of the 83 United Way partner agencies that their dollars support.

United Way is “the easiest, most efficient and best way to give because all the agencies work together,” says Jane McIntyre, executive director of United Way.

Chaired by Ed O’Keefe, legal chief operating officer and deputy general counsel for technology at Bank of America, the campaign likely will set a goal slightly above the $21.2 million it raised last year, the second straight year it exceeded its goal, McIntyre says.

The campaign kicks off today at the Chiquita Classic at River Run Country Club in Davidson, with net proceeds from Chiquita’s sponsorship going to United Way as lead beneficiary of the tournament.

With demand for services from United Way agencies rising in the face of continuing high unemployment and cuts in government funding, McIntyre says, collaboration among those agencies is critical to making sure those services are delivered as effectively and efficiently as possible.

For the initiative it launched a year ago to better serve at-risk children, United Way now has provided each of the 16 agencies in the project with aggregate data on how the children they serve were performing, before the agencies began serving them, on measures such as their grades, attendance and in-school and out-of-school suspensions.

In 18 months, the agencies will get a new report that will let them track the students’ progress in each of those measures.

For the new homeless initiative, United Way and its partners in the project are developing a “coordinated intake” system the agencies will use, when homeless people first approach them for assistance, to help match them with the services they need.

“It will change the ability to move someone who is homeless more quickly into the appropriate service model,” McIntyre says

That new system, scheduled to take effect in August 2014, will replace a fragmented system, with homeless clients “bounced” from agency to agency, based on a variety of factors, such as whether they are male or female, have children, are involved with physical or substance abuse, or are employed or not, McIntyre says.

“When you give to United Way,” she says, “we’re able to help all the different agencies that work together to help an individual work toward a stable life.”

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