United Way Merger and Refocusing Leads One County to Seek Alternative

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September 15, 2013; Newnan Times-Herald


NPQ has for years been following the permutations of strategy surrounding United Ways, and in this story a number of issues come together:

  • A community finding itself not represented properly after a merger of a smaller with a larger United Way. (This is not an issue just of United Ways but also with other federated groups merging larger with smaller areas.)
  • The increasing overlap of the work of community foundations and United Ways
  • A greater sense that fundraising may be done at many different levels fairly effectively

Since the United Way of Greater Atlanta decided to narrow its investment focus to include fewer types of programs a few years ago, many community organizations found themselves excluded from the ranks, and so 16 of them decided, according to this article, to launch their own collective fundraising effort, dubbing it the Coweta Together Foundation.

Now CTF has announced that it will be merging with the existing Coweta Community Foundation to form the new Coweta Community Foundation and doubling the size of its board. Its first fundraising push will occur in January.

“We don’t want to go into this thing until we fully get organizations on board for payroll deductions,” Welch said. Hopes are that local businesses will offer their employees the opportunity to have donations to Coweta Community Foundation deducted from their paychecks—just like they currently do for United Way.

“We’ve got to do a lot of legwork to see that these things take place,” Bobby Welch, director of the Rutledge Center, said. In the meantime, he encouraged donors to contribute to the organizations of their choice. Welch points out that in a way this is a return to norm in that the United Way of Newnan-Coweta County merged with the United Way of Metro Atlanta in 1997.

Past the first few years, that merger “hasn’t been that rewarding,” Welch is quoted as saying. “You just don’t have a community identify the needs and then have someone from outside the community tell you ‘you don’t need that anymore,’“ Welch said, referring to the denial of funding for some groups.”

The organizations include CORRAL (the Coweta Organization for Riding, Rehabilitation and Learning), Bridging the Gap, Breakaway Childcare Center, the Cancer Support Group of Coweta County, Coweta CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), Coweta County Special Olympics, the Housing Authority of Newnan’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program, Meals on Wheels of Coweta, Family Patterns Matter, One Roof Ecumenical Alliance Outreach/Coweta Community Food Pantry, Prevent Child Abuse Coweta, the Rutledge Center, Shenandoah GYSTC, Stepping Stones, and the Community Welcome House.

Marie Powell of CORRAL, a therapeutic riding program for children and adults with disabilities, commented, “We don’t line up with United Way. The money is not coming back to Coweta County…It took a leap of faith” to break from United Way.

“Everybody was scared to death,” Powell said. “We’re a little apprehensive because we’re still not really sure how it is going to work out and how long it is going to take to get funds for it, but the community is ready…We’re going to learn from what happened, what not to do….We’re excited about it and ready to move forward.”—Ruth McCambridge

  • Linda Duhon

    Alternative workplace federations have been around for a number of years. One of the most successful is:
    “Community Shares is Colorado’s Community Giving Fund. We connect Coloradans to the charities and causes they care about most. We have been broadening charitable choice in workplace giving campaigns in Colorado for more than 25 years. One dollar at a time, one donor at a time, we have collected nearly $24 million for local investment in Colorado nonprofits.”