"In past years, most United Way donors designated their gifts to specific participating agencies," said Jodi Kilcup, UWSEAK executive director. "But during the 2004 campaign, we introduced a place on the pledge form where people could give to the Community Impact program. This allows the United Way to act as a grant-making organization that decides how to disperse funds where they will most impact our communities."
UWSEAK invited its 33 partner agencies to submit proposals for the money based on four criteria. The projects needed to serve one or more of the United Way's four areas of care, which include helping children and youth succeed; supporting the elderly or disabled; promoting health and self-sufficiency; and meeting the basic needs of people in crisis. In addition, these groups had to show how receiving the funding would impact the community, what other funding they had available for project sustainability, and offer a clear, focused and achievable goal.
"We also let all of the organizations know in advance that preference would be given to agencies that historically were not recognized by donor designations," she said. "While some of these agencies might have a lower profile in the community, they still do great work."
Out of 18 grants submitted, eight organizations were chosen for funding. These included the Boys & Girls Club of Juneau; the Cancer Connection; Catholic Community Services; Ketchikan Homeless Shelter; Rendezvous Senior Day Services; SAGA; Sitka Counseling and Prevention Services, Inc.; and Sitka's Faith in Action. Grants were also provided to fund the United Way of Southeast Alaska's Day of Caring, as well as to help victims of Hurricane Katrina through the American Red Cross and the United Way of America.
"We received a number of really strong projects, which made it very hard to choose," Kilcup said.
"You've got to invest in your human resources so that you have the people to do the work."
Jay Wyatt, manager of the Boys & Girls Club of Juneau, said that its grant of $1,500 will help the club's teenagers to become better prepared for the workplace.
"We're going to use the grant to develop programs tailored to the teens that we have coming in regularly," Wyatt said.
"It's really nice when you write a grant for a worthy cause, and someone else feels the same way.
Rosemary Hagevig, executive director of Catholic Community Services, said that their organization was also very pleased to receive a grant.
The agency's Southeast Senior Services program in Kake will receive $1,344 to purchase a large freezer to support the Senior Services meal program and the Meals on Wheels program.
In addition to providing funds projects, the Community Impact Grant program also provides United Way board members with the opportunity to learn more about how its partner agencies impact lives in Southeast.
"It was a very meaningful project for our board members, who really dug in and in a very responsible and mindful way, assessed all of the projects and figured out what would make the most impact," Kilcup said.
Kilcup said she has seen a growing interest from those who give money to the United Way in participating in the Community Impact Grant program.
"It's one of the few examples of instant gratification in the grant world," Kilcup said. "It can often take a long time between when an organization applies for a grant and when they receive it. In this case, agencies applied at the end of 2005, and they'll have their checks by the end of this month."
To find out more about helping the United Way, visit www.unitedwayseak.org or call (907) 463-5530.