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THE FLIPSIDE OF COMMUNITY INVESTMENT
Community Investment for partner agencies of Heartland United Way is a critical process. It is not only our opportunity to share with the community what amazing work we have accomplished over the last year, but our opportunity to explain our need for funds donated generously by the community. For many, they may see the community investment process only lasting a few days or even a few weeks, depending on their involvement, but for agencies it is a 2-3 month process.
Partner agencies begin the community investment process in late January, as we begin working on our application. The application, which is completed by the end of March, is the first impression community investment volunteers will see of our agencies. It is a year’s worth of information “written on paper “– or new this year - online. We complete budgets for last year, this year, and next year. We answer questions about the need of the community and how our agency helps fill it. We explain how our program is unique and cost effective. And most importantly we explain how we are providing a solution to the needs of the community. Agencies provide “outcomes”, which are the goals we have set for the next year and how these goals will be met and measured.
After the written process is complete, all agencies prepare a presentation to deliver to the community investment team. During the presentation we provide similar information that is found in the written application, but with more detail. Not only is our agency staff involved in the presentation, but our board members, and volunteers. We also provide “testimonials” about our agency, by having someone who has been effected positively through our services.
After all of the agency presentations are done, we then receive feedback from the Community Investment Team leaders about our application and presentation. During the feedback session we find out how much money has been allocated to our agency for the upcoming year. Of all the steps in the process, I find this one to be the nerve racking. Did I do our agency justice? Did we present the importance of our agency clearly enough? And when you find out you did, there is tremendous relief.
As an agency director, I find the community investment process to be important beyond making a case to Heartland United Way for an allocation. The process also makes me stop once a year and take a microscopic look at our agency and ask the important questions. Are we meeting the need we say we are? Are you providing the services we say we are? Are we being effective with our dollars? Are there ways to improve what we are doing? So I find the process not only makes us more monetarily secure, but ensures we are effective at what we do. And now that it is over, I breathe a sigh of relief until next January, when we start all over.
Amy C. Bennett, MNO