In what some see as the latest sign of United Ways recovery from the economic downturn, dozens of charities were told Thursday that theyll get more money next year, thanks in part to $1.2 million taken from reserves.
It marks the first time United Way has raised allocations for many of its 87 partner charities since a scandal in 2008 over benefits given to former leader Gloria Pace King. That controversy combined with the recession forced the agency to cut charity allocations by 35 percent the following year.
United Way officials say hundreds of new and former donors supported the most recent campaign, resulting in $1 million more raised than the previous year.
The agencys board voted unanimously Thursday to support a $16.5 million allocation package that increases money for 42 charities, maintains flat funding for 32, and cuts cash for 13 charities.
In all, 155 programs will get United Way money next year, to help an estimated 352,000 people.
The biggest increase ($77,644) went to Charlotte Community Health Clinic, which will use the money to help an additional 1,300 low-income and uninsured adults and children next year. Also getting big increases were United Family Services ($49,809), NC MedAssist ($40,308) and Charlotte Family Housing ($33,206).
Brett Loftis of the Council for Childrens Rights represents member charities on United Ways board, and he noted that even small increases will have a big impact.
Getting $4,000 more may not seem like a lot, but even a modest increase can make a big difference when other sources of funding are drying up, he said. It can mean the difference between providing health insurance for your staff and it can lead to hundreds of extra clients being served.
United Way officials noted the 13 agencies receiving cuts include some that asked for less money or no money at all. Still others consolidated programs for savings.
The largest single drop was $44,000 for the American Red Cross of Carolinas-Piedmont Region, which remains the fourth-largest recipient of United Way money at $682,977. In fact, all three regional Red Cross chapters supported by United Way will get less next year.
Angela Broome of the Charlotte-based Red Cross said thats because the chapters changed their requests to align with United Ways new focus on three community priorities: children and youth; health and mental health; and housing and stability.
Blood programs dont fit easily into those categories, Broome said, so the chapters didnt even ask United Way to support them.
We were being realistic, said Broome. We consider ourselves to be on the same page with United Way and the worst thing you can do is go in asking for money for a program that doesnt match (United Ways) assessment of community needs.
The new priority-based approach has been adopted by several other United Ways around the country, and is seen as a way to increase the impact of donor dollars.
United Way officials said 30.3 percent of its allocations next year will go to children and youth programs, an increase over the previous year. Meanwhile, money for health and mental health programs and housing and stability programs will drop slightly.
United Way Executive Director Jane McIntyre said that shift will likely continue, until the largest percentage of money each year goes to children and youth programs. By contrast, the largest percentage of money this year (39 percent) went to housing and stability programs.
McIntyre predicts this wont be the last year her agency dips into reserves, but she noted the need is lessening, due to the uptick in donations. Last year, the agency took $2.4 million from reserves and in 2009 it took about $3 million.