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How Do We Grow at United Way?

How Do We Grow at United Way?

In the seasons of United Way we have just completed the Grant-Making Season; and we are just about to begin the Fundraising Season. There are planning and reporting seasons in between but most people know our work by these two activities. I am very proud to let you know, that for the fifth year running we have increased the amount of funds distributed to local nonprofit agencies. In fact we have increased that amount by over $123,000 since 2014. We are usually pretty quiet about this because we consider this our responsibility to the community and to the agencies we serve. We never publicize individual grant amounts because it is the privilege of the agencies to decide how they want to share that, if at all.

But you deserve to know that we’ve achieved this measure of growth and it’s thanks to you and the trust you’ve shown our organization that we’ve grown our fundraising over $103,000 in the same time. We decided in these rebuilding years to invest in our agencies the amount we increased our fundraising over prior year. And for those accountants, financial planners, and bookkeepers who are reading — yes! we increased our giving more than the surplus raised. This is because, in addition to raising extra money we’ve also managed our budget so efficiently that we had some overage funds. You gave us those funds to help our community so we increased grants to the agencies. For our budgeting process we use our grant award history and letters of intent from the agencies to decide what our grant budget will be. Conversely, we use our fundraising history and analysis of local conditions to predict what we will raise; and then we work really hard to make sure those two figures match — or come close.

Our agencies have in the past few years asked for between 25% and 30% more than what we’ve been able to give them in grant awards. United Way of Steele County has not been able to keep up with increased agency costs and economic inflation rates. Grant awards and fundraising trends are partners/best buddies/close family. We can and will continue to give the agencies the additional money they need to thrive and solve community problems — as long as we continue to grow our fundraising.

So, how are we going to do this? The United Way of Steele County board and staff are building a plan for the future to ensure our sustainability. There will be a number of concrete plans which will be developed and communicated to you in the coming months. But prior to those plans let me tell you generally what we’ve been doing and what we think will be involved.

We have increased our engagement with and transparency to the public. We’ve been writing these columns monthly for two years, either myself personally or a Board or staff guest. We have chosen topics meant to give you an insider’s view of the work and processes of United Way of Steele County. We’ve demystified and concretized the systems we use, and will continue to do that. UWSC staff and Board have also given speeches throughout the community. We want you to know who we are, what we do and the passion with which this organizations acts.

We have engaged volunteers. United Way of Steele County Women United (formerly known as Women’s Leadership Council) has been active bringing the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to our county. They do that by conducting the highly successful — and fun! — Power of the Purse fundraiser to cover the costs of this program. They also get together quarterly to have lunch and learn about important topics to our community. United Way Worldwide calls this an Affinity Group because each of these ladies are UWSC donors. They have another affinity group model that I would love to launch in Steele County called Student United Way. This model encourages high school kids to learn about local philanthropy and social change by choosing a local issue to work on and participate in raising the funds to affect that change. (Interested students should give me a call!)

Other rough plans include building programs to work more closely with retirees, families and small businesses. We are considering a wide variety of avenues to engage with rural and out—county residents, young people and diverse populations. We want and need to hear from you about this. United Way belongs to the community and is a successful supporter of the entire nonprofit ecosystem in our area because of the effort and involvement of our donors, volunteers, and community leaders. How would you like to get involved?


Kim Schaufenbuel is the President of United Way of Steele County. Contact United Way at 507-455-1180 or via email at Our website is