United Way Withdraws Resources and YWCA Steps Forward

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January 3, 2011; Source: Syracuse.com | NPQ is fascinated to watch how community organizations are working together to ensure that people’s needs are met when resources are very scarce. In this case, a Syracuse settlement house had been disaffiliated from the local United Way, costing it $200,000 or a quarter of its annual budget. It was one of two groups to get dropped. The United Way cites governance and management concerns as reasons for eliminating the group’s funding but does not suggest that there are legal, ethical or moral issues of any kind.

Approximately half of the eradicated funding was to have been used for badly needed after school programming and so this led to discussions between the Dunbar and the local YWCA about collaborating on providing those programs at Dunbar with the YWCA taking the lead and, in fact, applying to the United Way for the money to cover those services. The YWCA may also bring at least one additional program serving teenaged girls to Dunbar this year.

The president of Dunbar’s board, Louella Williams, says that the YWCA is a good match for Dunbar. “They are empowering families, women and fighting racism,” she said. The president of the United Way, Frank Lazarski seems supportive of the plan. “I think there is a real concerted effort among several not-for-profit organizations that want to see Dunbar retool and move ahead,” he said. “We really want to see the services for the people in that community and that neighborhood continue, however best they can be implemented.”

Everyone seems to be responding productively in public but the comments following the Syracuse.com article linked to above reveal some interesting perspectives on the United Way’s decision and its priorities.—Ruth McCambridge

  • Bruce Glasrud

    There is of course, an underlying lesson here. The YWCA had the capacity to reach-out and offer a collaborative solution. That they could, speaks well of their leadership … and probably of a favorable financial position. Yet,it also illustrates what was probably a lack, on several levels, from Dunbar leadership, in identifying possible collaborators to begin with. That there is *so* much duplication of effort, and therefore, wasted/underutilized capacity in this sector is something we still need to confront, much less address. Well, at least Dunbar and the YWCA can add a “plays well with others” gold star to their funder gradebook.