United Way Forwards Awkward Rationale for Funding Cuts

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June 9, 2011; Source: Metro | There is always a chance that the following flows more from inaccuracies in reporting than from the speakers themselves, but if I were a promoter of the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa I might be pretty miffed about the way in which the United Way Ottawa CEO evidently portrayed the group’s worth.

This year the United Way allocated only $330,000 to the organization in contrast to the $440,000 it gave last year. But adding insult to injury the UW CEO Michael Allen apparently said to the local press that the group was not able to show measurable results. “They’re not failing . . . there are just other organizations who are doing it more effectively and for a better return on our donor investment.” This departure from vague funder-speak about funding cuts is probably not a good policy to pursue unless the United Way has good cause to believe that the agency deserves less support from the public in general.

All in all there were 55 programs at 37 agencies that received funding cuts.

Elsewhere it was reported that “gay groups are conspicuously absent” from the list of United Way recipients. Here also, the messaging seemed awkward as a spokesperson seemed to play those groups off against others such as Planned Parenthood who were scheduled to receive transition money to ease them out of the funding pool. The spokeswoman said that United Way’s commitment to the transition funds meant others were edged out including gay agencies that scored well in the evaluation process.

"A number of them [queer agencies] are very well positioned – based on what they proposed this year and based on how they were ranked – to receive funding from United Way in the future should they score equally as well as they did in this round," said the spokeswoman.

In NPQ’s humble opinion, this United Way might want to spend a bit more time on messaging as it embarks on the difficult process of publicly communicating a group of funding shifts.—Ruth McCambridge

  • Ken Knox

    Here we go again! United Ways thinking that the only worthy agencies are those that can “count” some objective result rather than understand that Boys & Girls Clubs are “preventive” organizations. It may cost $300-$400 a year per child to teach citizenship, fair play, respect, self-worth, and honesty at a B&GC yet up to $40,000 a year for society to pay for incarceration of a child gone bad! Not everything can be valued for what can be objectively proven. Time for public foundations and UW’s to understand this.

  • Brett

    I have had the pleasure of volunteering with the United Way, Ken, and I believe that the United Way understands your point only too well. The United Way also understands, as do you, I expect, that there is simply far more demand for than there is supply of the funds needed in our commuity (and damned near everywhere else, for that matter.) And the United Way also understands that it is the donors who expect a business-like accounting of the results of the investment of their generous donations. And we can all see that failure to meet that expectation will result, ultimately, in the withholding of donations and the failure of the United Way altogether. Failure of the United Way would be catastrophic for our community. You may not like it (and I may even agree with your math) but a very long term, derived benefit is not an attractive return on investment for the majority of donors.
    But perhaps you know of some better method for determining who will get how much of what is not enough to go around anyway. Who would you deny in order to fund the subject program at the B&CG? Which agencies’ work is worth less to you than the work done by the B&GC? Those are the questions that the United Way must answer. What is your answer?
    And nobody said the B&GC doesn’t do valuable work.

  • Kate Hoffmann

    Since each United Way makes it’s own funding decisions, and Metro is Multiple city publication, I think it’s really irresponsible that this article isn’t explicit about which United Way is being criticized here.

  • Keenan Wellar

    The coverage of this issue has been so incredibly unbalanced it’s hard to catch up to all of the misrepresentations. For whatever reason, the only voices that are being heard are from “legacy agencies” who have lost funding or had funding reduced, and the United Way themselves – what is missing is the perspective of the 99% of agencies who have never had United Way funding, and yes, some of them might actually be capable of delivering better results.

    I invite you to read my blog on the subject which is directed to issues specific to the “disability and employment” priority that has resulted in horrific media outcomes http://wp.me/p1rIOM-4s that are damaging to people with disabilities – and not doing the non-profit sector any good either.

  • Keenan Wellar

    This whole issue has been horribly misreported by most of the Ottawa media ad is completely lacking in balance – all of their information and perspective is coming from “legacy agencies” that are experiencing funding reductions. Where is the voice of every other organization in this debate? For an UNBIASED perspective please see my latest blog http://keenanwellar.wordpress.com which is backed up with solid information from the World Health Organization and the Canadian Association for Community Living.