In the past six years United Way of Steele County has had a pretty stable staffing model but it is about to be shaken up a bit. Tanya Paley, our Director of Strategic Operations, is becoming Assistant Director of the Institute for Freedom and Community at St. Olaf College. We will miss her very much in our work here but wish her success in a new position that perfectly suits her skills, talents and interests.
However, this gives me the opportunity to shed some light on how we staff United Way and why we make the decisions we do. Spoiler alert — it’s complicated.
Like any nonprofit or charity it starts with what we can afford. Most United Ways our size have a full-time Executive Director and full-time admin support — maybe a bookkeeper or a receptionist/data entry, etc. but there are some that have only part-time employees doing what they can to keep the organization moving along. For more than 8 years UWSC has been able to consistently afford at least two full-time staff, an Executive Director and an administrative assistant and sometimes a half-time additional person. We’ve wavered between 2.0 FTE (Full Time Equivalent) and 2.6 FTE of staff paid for from our locally raised Campaign funds over that time. For example, I started as Associate Director at the end of 2013 until January of 2015 when the Executive Director retired and I was promoted.
Tanya has been with United Way of Steele County for 8 years — 3 serving as the Project Coordinator for the Steele County Safe and Drug Free Coalition (SDF), a program housed at and overseen by UWSC but fully funded by a Federal SAMHSA grant; and 5 years as Director of Strategic Operations. She was with SDF when I started as AD and was hired on the United Way staff mid-year 2014. Her position was created to help manage the work of some amazing grants we’d been awarded from the Bush Foundation, Bremer Foundation, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of MN Foundation and others which have fueled our Community Impact efforts. Because this additional 1 FTE was paid for primarily out of those grants it kept the UWSC overhead costs low — perhaps unnaturally so.
This leads to another way we look at staffing our agency: need. We needed to hire Tanya to do the copious work required by having the grants and implementing their associated programs. The United Way of Steele County Board will be having some strategic conversations about the work that Tanya has been doing and what parts of it need to be continued regardless of funding pathway. When we wrote our first Bush Community Innovation grant, Owatonna Forward did not exist. Many of the new community processes we’ve joined, convened, facilitated, or aligned with were not yet happening but are now stable. On one hand, if other people are doing similar work we don’t need to duplicate their effort. On the other hand, the perspective of UWSC is to create and support pathways of participation and inclusion for those who might be overlooked by other community entities. Would this happen if we don’t have a staff member dedicated to that mission? What other work could or should UWSC be doing?
Another thing to consider in our staffing is the skill that show up with local pool of candidates or friends of the organization. A great example of this is our very own Andi Arnold Gaffke who has been with UWSC since January of 2016 as Project Coordinator of Steele County Safe and Drug Free Coalition. We don’t count the SDF staff toward the UWSC FTEs because their time is fully dedicated to the work of the Federal grant. Starting this month Andi will reduce her time with SDF and will be adding part-time responsibilities with UWSC as our new Marketing and Fundraising Coordinator. Andi is from Owatonna, graduated from OHS and has worked in the area for more than 10 years. She brings a lot of community knowledge and connection which will be highly valuable as we look to grow our fundraising over the next 5 years. Additionally, she is a visual artist and has experience in graphic design and other creative skills. She is a great fit for our work and the increased focus on fundraising.
Later this month the UWSC Board of Directors will be having the strategic conversation about our ideal staffing model — how many people are needed for us to be effective and grow as an organization and what skills and job functions are necessary for us to be able to serve our community the way we have for the past 5 years or what we envision for the future. We would love to hear your ideas about what you want YOUR United Way to be working on and the professional levels you want for UWSC. Please call or email me with your thoughts. Also, if you think working at United Way sounds rewarding, interesting or intriguing feel free to send me a letter with your interest in working with us. I don’t know yet what roles we’ll be staffing at what level, but I’m happy to reach out to you when we know.