United Fund – 140 Years and Still Growing
The world moves pretty fast. Technology advances faster than we can keep up, with not only for business, but at home too. In the nonprofit world, staying current at a reasonable cost is challenging.
Keeping our office tech savvy is one thing – what our clients go through is just as challenging. What must it be like for our elderly and poor folks (who can’t afford internet service let alone a computer) to fill out an application for a job or sign up for their medication online? Using the computer to do many things online is now expected.
Over the years, our Board created and funded programs that addressed current relevant problems of that era. For example, during World War II, we raised money to help with the war effort. As a community funder, we have to research current needs – not just keep programs in place because we’ve always done it that way – but change or create programs to help people with today’s issues. You may think you’re keeping the status quo, but what it really means is you’re losing ground. The universe moves too fast.
Although some of today’s problems look like problems we had 50 years ago, there are new ones to consider. Stats from Job & Family Services show that in the year 2000 8.1% of our Huron County population was in poverty. In 2011 & 2013 we hit highs of 14.6%. As of July we were down slightly to 13.1% – which is still a huge number of folks.
Like many communities, we have basic-need programs that help people everyday with food, shelter and clothing. Our United Fund puts 29% of our funding toward this kind of humanitarian assistance. These resources, although meant to be short-term, sometimes continue longer than expected…all the while watching our poverty numbers grow. We need to look deeper, more long term.
Education is a critical component to help people get ahead for the long-term. Many kids in the “old days” dropped out of school and got a job. My dad, for instance completed the 8th grade as required and apprenticed in the family business. Grandpa didn’t think his kids needed any more than that.
Not any more. There are institutions that pave the way for folks to get their GED, technical skills training, and continuing education. Sounds easy to get an education, right? It’s not. There are still barriers.
The barriers of poverty – that mental mindset – can keep you where you are (not getting ahead). What happens when too many of our potential employees can’t pass the drug test, don’t have the work ethic or skills to get or keep the job?
Started in 2004, our Board initiative “Move Forward Move Ahead” is addressing those poverty concerns. If you have heard about Bridges Out of Poverty training for professionals, that’s a great start. Our United Fund, with the help of Chrystal Stover, an intern who will be with us until next June, is charting a process that will take professionals through training to understand and apply concepts to fight poverty, hold workshops for folks in poverty who wish to “get ahead” and continue their training through the Pipeline for another 12-18 months.
We are partnering and collaborating with many organizations and institutions and are looking for more. Stabilizing families, establishing consistent training for professionals and those in poverty, creating a successful workforce is a lofty goal. We need to build on our established programs and use tools like Charity tracker, 2-1-1, and establish monthly resource meetings to help us measure success.
We’re all affected by what poverty brings to the table: undereducated kids, under resourced families, drug use. As educators, health workers, police officers and the court, social services and churches, businesses – we can partner and make this proven national plan work in our communities too.
At 140 years old were not only keeping up – we’re just getting started! Give us a call to find our more. Let’s Talk.
The United Fund has provided programs and funded community programs in the communities of Monroeville, Norwalk, Collins, Wakeman and surrounding area for 140 years. 419-668-0269
Transitioning – Who are we? What we fund and why.
by Pat Krause and Linda Bersche
Started in 1877, what is now called the United Fund, started as a community philanthropic
movement to provide programs in the community. Done at a time in which
providing help was meant to be temporary, they collected basic need items, temporarily
housed families and provided a list of jobs in town.
After several years they added ‘community funding’ to their list of programs – always
keeping current with what was needed at the time. As an example, we raised money
during World War II to support our troops.
Throughout the years, we changed as the needs of that era dictated…and even today,
we continue to re-make ourselves – transitioning – from what our community was experiencing
yesterday to what our community says it needs now.
Transitioning means we listen to our donors and community members about what is
happening in their businesses and their lives. Their real life concerns, backed up by
statistical data that is collected in the county, the state and nationally, is part of our
decision-making process to make the biggest impact in our community. Data from areas
including poverty, health, substance abuse, court and educational statistics are all
taken into consideration.
What our Board of Directors decided to tackle were long-term solutions to help families
change and get ahead. We are changing systems that include Education, Health
and Changing Families for the better. It’s about prevention not daily crisis, empowering
people and educating.
Education as a foundational priority: The Board funds programs such as bookshelves
of kids books throughout our community, quality day care and pre-school tuition, after
school tutoring and one-on-one mentoring. These programs assist our youth in becoming
successful, independent thinkers… and our future employees.
When we can support parents in their children’s educational needs, we allow them to
free up other resources to provide for their own basic needs. Additionally, they can
move forward too – educate themselves for a good job (maybe even a career) that will
stabilize their income and their lives. We even fund a program to help them create a
One of our programs is called Bridges Out of Poverty; training for professionals who
work with and mentor those in poverty. We also provide Getting Ahead Workshops for
folks in poverty who wish to stop the circle of crisis. Those two programs along with
‘the Pipeline’ (a continuing speaker/discussion series) are working simultaneously –
three elements of a big puzzle – that tackles poverty issues at the core.
Of course, poverty is multi-pronged. Life isn’t simple even for the most organized person,
and poverty creates day to day crisis situations that are hard to overcome. So the
other two areas of funding – Health & Changing Families – help with those pieces of the
In the series of articles this week we will talk about more about what we do and hopefully
answer your questions about what your donation accomplished this year, results
of the programs you fund with your donation, and how lives are changed. What is our
future for the next 140 years? Let’s talk about that too.
What Your Donation Accomplished last year.
By Howard Wilde, Budget & Admissions Committee co-chair
Our annual Campaign for 2018 starts this week. Your donation, whether you pledge and ask us
to bill you during 2018, do a payroll deduction with your employer or pay your pledge now, will
fund 29 programs next year.
But before we tell you about 2018 plans and funding (in other articles this week), let’s first talk
about what your donation did to change the lives of families in our community last year.
Every organization that applies for funding through our community fund fills out a budget request
form that asks many questions. Questions that give us “results” of what the funded program
accomplished for the families they serve.
Questions such as: How many individuals were served by the program? How many units of service
provided. Numbers are good to know, we need those, but it’s not just about numbers.
The deeper questions we ask are about identifying a need in the community and filling it. What
data did the organization use to back the need for the program? What short and long term goals
have been developed? How are you making a difference in the lives of those you serve?
Answers to these questions require thoughtful insight not only into what families need in today’s
world but what trends are happening in the community. Five decades ago we didn’t fund cancer
or kidney services – people just didn’t live as long with those diseases. Eight decades ago, the
“senior center” where our grandparents could go get lunch with friends and play cards all afternoon,
was the only program available. Now Senior Enrichment Services is doing so much more,
including one-on-one mentoring with school age children to help them succeed in school.
Measuring success is different for every program we fund. Funded organizations ask their
clients for feedback, they check to see if they are reaching all of their potential clients (kids who
need day care, seniors who need Meals On Wheels, etc) and make sure they reach strategic
One of our organizations answered the question How do you measure your clients success?
this way: “By observed improvement in social skills, family relationships, school attendance,
improved grades, high school graduation with the goal to further their education. Also in extracurricular
activities and avoidance of drugs and alcohol.”
Taking the circle of service one more step is the fact that the United Fund asks for referrals to
Getting Ahead. Most of our funded organizations have clients who can benefit from a more
hands on approach to change their family for the better. If we can work with several programs to
help with short-term needs they will be stable enough to join others in a workshop to learn tips
to getting ahead. We can go from helping to educating for the future.
For our community’s families to get better, and not be in day to day crisis, we have to work together
as a community and have a plan to take people from crisis, to short term assistance, to
education, to a job – all the while and hand in hand, finding their strengths along the way. If we
can help the people we serve know themselves and this community, they will be the future of
change for their children too. And lower that poverty statistic from highs of 13-16% to between
It is the United Fund’s goal to bring people together. We can’t do it without the whole community
funding exceptional programming and working with local individuals, agencies and businesses.
We have to measure our success too and we’re watching the data and looking for community
As a funder, and on behalf of our donors, we ask really hard thoughtful questions. We cannot
change our families and this community if we don’t.
by Ken Russ, 1st VP
It’s about prevention not daily crisis, empowering people and educating. That’s what Pat said in her
article on Monday. And it hits the nail on the head.
In listening to our donors, community and businesses, and our Getting Ahead Grads, they want to see
results – for different reasons maybe, but results nonetheless.
Our donors want to see their hard earned gift fund effective local programs that help people change
their families for the better. Programs that are working with other programs to minimize the day to day
crisis so they can move forward and maximize your donations. Programs that are needed in today’s
In response to those conversations, we have been working on a 10-year plan – well, 13-year plan!
Starting in 2004 we held our first Bridges Out of Poverty training for professionals; 2-1-1 was
established in Oct 2014 through a $50,000 grant from Ohio Department of Job & Family Services;
Charity Tracker Assistance Network in Oct 2015; our first Getting Ahead Workshop in the spring of
2016. All good things take awhile but we’re on a roll and continuing to make positive changes.
One of the groups we listen to closely are our Getting Ahead grads. They come from actual experience
in trying to make it from day to day. They express frustration in the fact that they go from agency to
agency and still not find the help they need. What agency? What time are they open? What’s their
contact number? It is why we are invested in having this information available through 2-1-1.
The hitch is making sure all of the organizations in Huron County are listed and current. It’s a lot of work
to keep the databases up-to-date with program descriptions, but it’s a powerful resource. The 2-1-1
specialists will give you information 365/24/7 to make connections to social services and includes a
veteran representative (Tim – a veteran himself). The information is at your fingertips. Don’t hesitate to
call for assistance.
We talked about a community database for several years, but finally set up the Huron County Charity
Tracker Assistance Network after a call from a local church who wanted to have a seamless and
continuing network to help people in a better way. It’s working, and we now know what types of
situations families are facing so we can do more to address a variety of circumstances.
Funders everywhere are looking to make sure they make the greatest impact with the programs and
initiatives they fund. The use of these data collection sources leads us in the right direction. Talking to
area organizations to build collaborative efforts to tackle today’s issues, developing new initiatives, and
providing grant money to fill gaps for immediate needs will keep us fresh and up to date.
We are putting the pieces together but we will continue to ask for your assistance in letting us know,
from your perspective – family or business – what we need to do today. We’re smarter because of your
input and have better insight when it comes to making critical funding decisions. We are Better
2-1-1 Help Line for Huron County
by Wayne Babcanec
If you have an emergency and need the police or fire department, you call 9-1-1. If you have an
emergency involving basic human needs such as food or shelter, a more appropriate call should be to
Whether a family is searching for rent or utility assistance or is facing a health crisis, they may not know
who to call. In an effort to help families looking for a solution, and not experience the frustration of
making numerous calls to find an answer, the United Fund Board of Directors funded our county’s 2-1-1
program beginning in October 2014.
For many years “information & referral” to area human and social services had been a big part of our
call volume at the Norwalk Area United Fund office; normally 500-700 calls per year and almost 1000
calls in tough years. The same can be said for other county organizations and churches.
Whereas in the past area organizations received calls, now these calls are received by one source. We
can now collect data to have a better, broader understanding of the number of families who are asking
for assistance, and more specifically, what issues they face.
Our United Fund grant funding committee, along with other health and human service organizations in
our county, will know how to help our residents for the real, current needs of today through data given
to us on a quarterly basis.
We need results to prove the effectiveness of 2-1-1. The quarterly reports help us to understand in
detail the types of calls received and how many. The reports act as a social barometer helping us
manage our limited resources more efficiently and allow us to allocate these resources where they are
most needed in our local communities.
The quarterly reports we receive include a breakdown of needs in areas such as housing, education &
employment, health and mental care, transportation, and basic needs such as food, clothing and
utilities. We also know the where the calls originate by town or township and whether or not the need
was able to be met.
Data from 2-1-1 includes results of the calls. Huron County’s quarterly report shows that 88% of clients
discovered new resources or information, and that upon follow-up, 86% of the clients received help or
reported help was in progress. In addition, we also know that 97% of clients would call 2-1-1 again if the
Every year 111,000 updates are made to the 2-1-1 databases. Databases are constantly being updated
to make sure families are helped with information in a timely manner. But as Ken Russ mentioned in
yesterday’s article, it is imperative that all of our Huron County organizations are listed and are current
with their program descriptions, hours of operation and contact information.
When the need arises, don’t hesitate to call 2-1-1. You will reach a trained, caring professional 7 days a
week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Its efficient, fast and easy to use. And the call is free and
Progress on Bridges Training and Getting Ahead
by Chrystal Stover, Intern
For those who didn’t grow up in poverty, you may not know about the ‘hidden rules’ that regulate the many aspects of life for those in poverty. If your business or organization works with people from poverty, a deeper understanding of their everyday lives, challenges and strengths will help you partner with them to enhance your relationship and increase their chances for success.
Bridges Out of Poverty is a very successful national and international program that takes all the best practices of the social work/counseling world and teaches professionals a new way of looking at their clients in poverty. In the 2-day workshop the first day helps you understand the constructs of poverty and the second day helps you apply those constructs.
The United Fund started offering Bridges Training for professionals in 2006. First presented at a Norwalk location and then in Erie County with our partners, we offered professional training to staff of organizations and churches, police and court system, those in the business, education and health fields. It’s a dynamic training that over 200 individuals in Huron County have taken. But we’re looking for more participants to train.
The staff members of area organizations who have not yet attended a workshop can get great value out of this exceptional training. If enough of us take Bridges, in all of these disciplines, we can become true collaborators in helping our folks in poverty ‘get ahead.’
Bridges constructs are already integrated into about 50 Ohio towns and institutions like The Ohio State University. It is successful. We are part of that success and still growing.
We are working with Marion Matters in Marion County who organizes not only professional training but Getting Ahead Workshops for those in poverty in their county. They are willing to share their experiences and expertise, and we are grateful for the chance to learn from their success. We are partnering with them to bring professional training covering an 8 county area each spring and fall. Our professionals can attend within driving distance and continuing education credits are available! Call us for more information about the upcoming October 2-day professional training.
We mentioned Getting Ahead Workshops in our articles this week. There are 8 graduates in Huron County so far – not as many as the 150 in Marion County – but we are on our way. The third workshop is starting in a couple of weeks. If you or someone you know would like to take this incredible opportunity to learn more about yourself and this community, we need to talk.
During the 9 weeks, 2 hours twice per week, our facilitators will steer you through 10 modules that address topics such as: My Life Now, Theory of Change, Hidden Rules of Economic Class, Eleven Resources, Personal & Community Plans and Personal Plan for Building Your Future.
But it doesn’t stop there. We are creating a program called “the Pipeline.” This 12-18 month series includes financial and budget development, health & lifestyles, parenting, community service. Special speakers will talk to our grads, and others invested in Bridges on a weekly basis.
This big program is essential in our community. We have 13-16% of our families in poverty at any given time during the year. Let’s create partnerships. Let’s make this effort successful – because we can. Let’s Talk. We are…Better Together.
What’s our future for the next 140?
by Linda Bersche & Taylor Russo
“We stand on the shoulders of the people who came before us.” That’s what board member Ed McClendon said several years ago when we were talking about how innovative our ancestors were when they started our community philanthropic movement 140 years ago.
It was innovative…and we expect to keep innovating. You’ve heard it before: If you’re not changing you’re standing still. We beg to differ. If we’re not changing at the United Fund, we are going backwards. The world moves so fast – the behinder we get. (We know that’s not a word, but it works.)
Because we address our community’s problems through philanthropy, we have to be really smart about our decisions to fund and/or collaborate with other organizations to help. People’s lives depend on it.
For instance, although we have Huron County 2-1-1 available, we still get calls in the office for assistance and referral. One of the things we talk, and worry, about here in the office is what it must be like for our elderly and folks in poverty (who can’t afford internet service let alone a computer) to fill out an application for a job or sign up for their medication online. Using the computer to do many things online is now expected.
We fund what you might call basic needs or safety net services. But the goal is not to keep families continually needing those services – that assistance is meant to be temporary or short term. If we perpetuate a cycle of dependency on those programs families can get stuck in a circle that is hard to move out of. But, if we instead use those short term programs to keep people from sliding further into crisis – they can then, with help from our community organizations, find the stability they need to work towards a successful future.
Likewise, in choosing to fund health programs, we can help families avoid debt that can cause the loss of home and livelihood. We understand that mounting bills could cause a family to spiral into a financial crisis. Using safety net services wisely can offer the opportunity to redirect monies to other family needs.
Prevention and long-term funded programs include those in our education area of funding. Providing kids with quality child care and pre-school; keeping our 123 Read to Me bookshelves full; one-on-one mentoring for kids who need supportive adults and positive experiences; Bridges training and Getting Ahead Workshops are more than just important. They are life changing.
Prevention, Empowering, Education.
Our community volunteers do it all – everything from stuffing envelopes to putting book plates in books for 123 Read To Me; from organizing an event to serving food; brainstorm about how best to serve this community; make critical funding decisions. It’s all about the people in this community stepping up to make our community’s United Fund work.
As you can see, it’s what Ed said. It’s all about people. Some of us need help from time to time, some of us volunteer – and in the best circumstance – it’s both at the same time.
It takes supportive donors, many dedicated volunteers and a well-oiled office to keep this movement going into its next 140 years. Are you in? We are…Better Together.