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McMillin: Local United Way changes more than just its name

dfox • Nov 7, 2015 at 6:00 PM

What hasn’t changed is that whether someone lives in Wilson County, Putnam County, Smith County or elsewhere in our service area, a donor can expect and depend on their donation going to where they wish, which is usually where they live.

With fresh employees – we’re still only a three-person office – comes new ideas and new responsibilities. This year our United Way is rolling a new web-based application process. This will mark only the second year of going completely digital and the first year of being online. 

If you’re a donor, you probably don’t care, but if you’re an applying organization, the difference means no paper has to be expelled which is good for a few forests around the world and also good for small organizations that, perhaps, don’t have a lot of storage space to keep up with their reference files of applied grants.

Of course when you’re making this kind of change you might as well take care of updating the grant process as a whole so that the information you’re seeking is better suited for donors. 

With that in mind, the new application is a two part process designed to collect those organizations making the most positive impact on our communities and then allowing them to move forward to give us their expert opinions as to why and how United Way can help support their much-needed cause.

In return, donors will have better and more detailed information from these organizations in order to make giving choices easier in the future and should help our communities by locating and quantifying areas of need. 

For organizations applying for their specific programs, since the forms have been streamlined, the amount of time needed to complete the application is probably a wash in comparison to the old way applying for funds. It’s not enough to just do good deeds, our hope is that our United Way will become the go-to location when someone needs to know specifics about what the areas of need are in our county.

Of course, our allocations process in which we enlist tens of community volunteers to inspect, visit and evaluate local program facilitators will change to become more efficient, but the basic concept will always remain the same. Local money stays locally vested in donors’ communities doing only the work they wish and they, the donors, have the final say over what needs are the most pressing and deserving of aid.

Indeed, this whole year to date has incorporated many changes. Some are difficult and take a little getting used to, but the whole of our United Way is becoming stronger and more efficient for our communities and our donors.  

To learn more about United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland, visit givetouwwc.org. While you’re there, consider a donation to help in one our focus areas, education, income, health or rebuilding lives.

John McMillin is president of the United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland. Email him at jmunitedway@bellsouth.net.

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