5 Reasons Why We Still Need United Way

The recent news about United Way Capital Area having to lay off 10  employees is disheartening. UW runs pretty lean, and the people there work around the clock and even on weekends to accomplish their mission. When you work for United Way you take on a lifestyle, not just a job.

Andrea Ball’s story was on the money; what got me was the comments. Can it really be that United Way doesn’t have a place in the nonprofit environment anymore?

As a recent data-pull by Greenlights shows (see our third issue for the story, “Are There Too Many Nonprofits?”), Austin has plenty of frontlines service providers, maybe too many. The concern is that not all of these nonprofits are effective, so one idea is to increase collaboration and maybe even mergers. From what I understood in putting the story together, collaborations can be more effective and more efficient than what a nonprofit can accomplish on its own.

But who’s out there putting these collaborations together? Nonprofits individually can be so in the weeds trying to get their own work done that they can’t spend enough time looking around for help. That’s where agencies like United Way can come in.

I talked to John Turner, United Way’s director of marketing, to run by him some of the reasons why I think UW still has value. These are just some of the things I thought of off the top of my head:

1. Collaborations like Success By 6, which brings together more than 30 local nonprofits, community leaders, and concerned businesses to build more quality into the network of early childhood centers. SB6 has helped more than double the number of early childhood centers with a quality rating in two years.
2. Their 24×7 helpline 2-1-1 Texas, which fielded almost 200,000 calls last year from Central Texans in need of assistance, connecting them with help, whether with utility bills, finding a local food bank to escaping Hurricane Ike.
3. The over $140 million UW has raised in the past eight years for the community and nonprofits. What would happen if they were not here to go out and raise it? Most organizations do not have the resources or capacity to go out and raise that kind of money. It takes money to do it, and UW is an efficient way to collect and distribute donations.
4. The community engagement arm, Hands on Central Texas, organized and mobilized more than 2,500+ volunteers last year, and 3,000+ volunteer connection to agencies. They contributed over 6,000 hours to help local nonprofits and schools, again providing a valuable service to the local community.
5. Their new collaboration One Hour For Kids, which has several partners including E3, AISD and Manor ISD, and is recruiting volunteer mentors and tutors for middle school kids to help improve the drop out rate.

Again, these are the programs and accomplishments I can think of; UW does so much more than this. And I’m certainly not alone in my perception of UW being efficient. Charity Navigator, an independent online charity evaluator, gives it its highest rating for efficiency.

Thing is, United Way Captial Area does important work. And just because they’re reducing staff doesn’t mean they can scale back their mission. So how’s this going to work? There are only so many hours in the day…

If you think you can’t help United Way, think again. Any sized donation helps, but I invite you to share your thoughts about United Way with people you know or reach out to United Way to find out how you can support their work.

In fact, reach out to ANY nonprofit in Central Texas. They could all use a little more help these days.

Update from GC HQ

Wanted to update you on some of what we’re working on…

1. GC3: This issue is our biggest to date, and the most hands-on effort so far. There are probably three times as many photographs and five times as many people included in this issue, and we have to check every single caption, name, word, punctuation, link, etc. Please keep an eye out for it via Facebook, Twitter, and email. We’ll let you know! Also, check out some preview pages below.

2. GC4: We are heavy in execution mode for the next issue with lots of content being made as we speak. We’re looking at a cover story on mentoring – why it’s so effective, why Austin needs it, and how you can support it or get involved. We also have stories planned about the State Employee Charitable Campaign, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the impact of the Serve Act on Central Texas, church plants, and a few other leads we’re hunting down. Look for a wonderful essay by Sarah Hickman, too.

3. We support and help Hands on Central Texas as much as we can by doing pro bono collateral and content as well as getting the word out about their volunteer opportunities. Right now there’s some fun stuff in the hopper, like a volunteer fair for Hispanics on June 18, some report that we’re making “look pretty,” and a number of volunteer project leadership training sessions over the next few months.

4. We’re looking for advertisers/sponsors for the upcoming issues. I meet so many people who appreciate what we’re trying to do, but the fact is we can’t do it ourselves. And we certainly can’t fund it ourselves. Our business model includes two bottom lines: profit and social impact. It also includes two forms of revenue: advertising and sponsors.

Local businesses, restaurants, consultants, and other professional service providers can really benefit from placing an ad in GC. First, because GC is read by people who really care about the community, these tend to also be people who invest in the community, and that means spending their money locally. Second, because GC is digital, pass-along is X5. And your ad it totally clickable – we link your ad to your Web site. So you can easily track the value of your ad purchase just by checking incoming links. For more information, check out our media kit.

I’ll be seeking advertisers and sponsors for the next few issues as we expand our readership. We’re about to enjoy some really exciting growth over the next few issues, and we’re super excited to help Austin nonprofits get their messages out.

5. As always, please continue to send me your news and story ideas. I can’t cover them all, unfortunately… but we’re working on it.

Thanks again for your support.





Guess whose blog posts made Blog Action Day 100 Best?

Armando Rayo didn't sleep for 42 hours so he could blog about poverty. Shhh! He's asleep now.

Armando Rayo didn't sleep for 42 hours so he could blog about poverty. Shhh! He's asleep now.

Ha. No, not mine. Mando’s.

Armando Rayo, like a lot of nonprofiteers, sees nothing but possibilities. And even better, he acts on them. When he told me he was going to take advantage of Blog Action Day on poverty and post the whole day, staying awake for 24 hours (which turned into 42 hours), I first thought, “Oh, no sleep? Welcome to my world.” But then I thought, “Wait, that actually sounds like a lot of work.”

Mando is director of Hands On Central Texas, which is the volunteering clearinghouse arm of United Way Capital Area. Despite the fact that his staff was cut in half last month, he still found the energy to post. He even shot, edited, and posted video, one of which featured me mumbling something or another.

Mando sent me this today:

Hey Monica! (Yes, you deserve an official thank you!) Thanks a bunch for doing the video for Blog Action Day: Poverty.  Here’s the link to your post!  http://unitedwaycapitalarea.blogspot.com/2008/10/blog-action-day-poverty.html You’re even more famous now! 😉 
Your thoughts and insights on poverty helped us engage more people & it created a platform for meaningful dialogue on the issue.  At the end of the day, our blog & posts ended up being on the top 100 list of the global Blog Action Day official website (http://blogactionday.org) & our YouTube Nonprofit Channel ranked #11!  Below is short write-up of the event….

Blog Action Day: Poverty – United Way Capital Area & Hands On Central Texas
On October 15, 2008, over 12 thousand bloggers banded together to discuss a single issue – poverty.  We raised awareness, took action, & shook the web! 
Mando Rayo, the Director of Hands On Central Texas (with the help of the United Way & Hands On staff) was one of the thousands of bloggers who participated in the global Blog Action Day (http://blogactionday.org).  Instead of blogging for an hour or just one post, Mando ended up staying awake for 42 hours, blogging for 24 hours straight, writing 31 posts, posting 13 videos & engaging hundreds of thousands of people in raising poverty awareness.
United Way Capital Area & Hands On Central Texas’ efforts did not go unnoticed.  Our Youtube Nonprofit Channel (www.youtube.com/unitedwaycapitalarea) ranked #11 for the day and the Blog Action Day official website featured our posts and videos on their 100 best list. 
You can check out all 31 posts at http://unitedwaycapitalarea.blogspot.com or go to www.handsoncentraltexas.org

BLOG ACTION DAY: Mando’s videos bring new voices to the conversation about poverty

There are people who talk about poverty every day in Central Texas, and there are people who live in poverty every day in Central Texas, and for the most part they are not the same people. They don’t even look like the same people.

All that is to say what I think lots of people don’t know how to say which is this: Poverty seems to be the lot of African-American and Hispanic Austinites, but the folks trying to lead the change are white.

You gotta give it to white Austin, though. They do try. I mean, go to any gathering of nonprofiteers and do-gooders and such, and it’s just about all white folks in the audience. This is a huge generalization, of course.

But this is why Mando’s videos are so compelling to me. He’s talking to the non-white people who are trying to have an effect on poverty and disparity.

In the interest of full disclosure, which is neither here nor there, I am Hispanic, from San Antonio, third generation Texican, and my husband is white. Just for whatever that means.

The important thing is to WATCH THE VIDEOS. If you do nothing else for poverty today, at least watch these videos. “Dialog!” as they say.

Mando won’t sleep until you know more about poverty

Mando Rayo at Hands On Central Texas and United Way Capital Area is going to stay up for 24 hours and post once every hour to the Unted Way blog.

Now, I’ve stayed up late before. I mean, like, sick-late until 3, 4, 5 in the morning. But then I try to get some sleep, and maybe go to be by midnight the next night. Because I may be a working mom with a moonlighting blog and magazine on the side, but I’m not crazy.

Mando has chosen crazy over sleep, and for the next 24 hours starting half an hour ago, he’ll be awake. I’m going to link to him again here because you ought to check this out. For one thing, he’s got video. For another, he’s going to lay down some information about poverty in Austin I think will surprise you.

Click on over there and check him out.

How to become a civic leader

Autsin offers a lot of opportunities to learn more about growing your civic leadership skills – Leadership Austin, Greenlights, United Way all offer some form of training. Here’s another opportunity for you to break in to civic engagement…

This Thursday, May 22, United Way, UT, and Hands On Central Texas will offer a free course, “Community Workshop – Innovation & Creativity,” from 6 to 7:30 pm.

Coming up with a good idea is difficult—putting that idea to work is even harder. Learn how to discover the needs and aspirations of the community, generate ideas to engage those needs and aspirations, and develop a plan for putting your ideas into action.”

Click here to learn more about the course and sign up.