United Ways new approach of focusing donor dollars on specific community needs starting with education has won the support of another corporation.
Cato Corp. announced this week that it is giving $300,000 to United Way for an endowment aimed at helping United Way agencies working on academic achievement.
The announcement follows a recent decision by Wells Fargo Foundation to give $200,000 for a Collective Impact pilot program that is collecting data from United Way charities that work with children.
Catos gift will go to an endowed fund that intends to use about $10,000 annually for training charity staff on how to work with kids at risk of dropping out of school.
Education is the top priority of the Collective Impact approach, which focuses United Way dollars on programs that improve graduation rates.
Sixteen of United Ways 87 member charities will benefit from the endowment, including The Learning Collaborative, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Communities in Schools.
In all, the 16 agencies serve 23,000 at-risk children, officials said.
Cato Corp. CEO John Cato noted Collective Impacts goals fall in line with his companys other philanthropic efforts on behalf of education, including scholarships.
He envisions the money helping with early child care, after-school and summer programs that have proven academic results.
Experts say such programs are the ones most likely to employ staff who may not have the latest training on dealing with such issues as challenging behavior or bullying.
Jerri Haigler of United Way said Catos public support for Collective Impact is another sign that the community sees it as the right direction. Her hope is that additional sponsors will be found for other parts of the initiative, which range from increasing parent involvement to helping students stay on grade level.
Finding money to launch the programs various parts has been a challenge from the start, agency officials said.
One of the primary questions when Collective Impact was presented to United Ways board was, who is going to fund this? At the time, we werent sure, said William Norton, a United Way spokesman. We just knew it needed to be done and we were going to figure a way out. For Wells Fargo to step up and Cato to step up does attest to the strength of Collective Impact.
United Ways move to a more focused approach came after a community needs assessment revealed what donors consider to be the most critical challenges facing the Charlotte area. Education was at the top of that list, followed by poverty/ housing and health/mental health. United Way is looking into Collective Impact initiatives on behalf of those other priorities.