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John McMillin: Online process local programs and local individuals

John McMillin • Updated Apr 10, 2016 at 12:00 PM

Last year we moved to a completely online process for agencies and their programs to apply for funding, eliminating the need for paper applications. We were at least saving trees as one of our staff put it. This year we have become a little more targeted in our approach working with specifically developed software to improve the process and to improve the data from applying agencies and their programs to better inform donors about where their funds go and where they may help.

Our local United Way is in the process of conducting allocations panel meetings in which about 40 local volunteers will review about the same number of agencies with programs hoping to be awarded funds. These funds, if awarded, will battle hunger, help seniors and victims of abuse, help to tutor children and perform dozens of other different necessary and heart-warming tasks to improve our community.

Let’s look from the donors’ perspective for a moment. You can go online and give to one of thousands of different, niche causes. On any given day you may be asked for your money multiple times to help with one cause or another. We believe, as do our local volunteers, that making an informed gift is helpful for the donor and just makes sense.

Giving through United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland provides a donor with something unique; that is the knowledge that your undesignated financial gift will go to a program, which has been reviewed to ensure that your gift has real and lasting impact for your community.

This week, we brought in our allocations panelists for training on how to use our software to review all applying agencies and their programs. For the first time in several years, the process has been opened up to include new programs as well. Some applying programs have been partners – vetted by United Way volunteers – for years while some programs are not only new to us, but are relatively new in the non-profit world as well.

Our volunteers will visit and review programs serving residents from Mt. Juliet to Cookeville and beyond. Our service area has increased, but one thing stays the same: your financial gift stays where you live unless you designate it elsewhere. The new allocations process also is a step in our move toward targeting our giving to areas, which may need more attention. We hope to provide solutions for problems before they arise by focusing on areas such as early learning and health and human services.

Allow us at UWUC to add that we are very proud of our partner programs. They work on the “front-lines” in our communities to help senior citizens stay independent, to help students perform better in school and with less barriers. They give the gift of seeing a smile on the face of child who has been burdened by illness and they give hope to those looking to improve their circumstances, as well as to those who want to help themselves.

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

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