Remembering Ron Drago

In lieu of flowers, Ron’s family has asked that memorial gifts be made to United Way of Forsyth County. Click here to make a memorial gift.

Ronald Joseph Drago passed away Sunday, May 20, 2018, after several years debilitated by Lewy body dementia. He was born on October 10, 1945 in Easton, PA, to Mae Bubba Holden. He was preceded in death by his mother, and his brother Robert Holden. He is survived by the loves of this life: his wife of 46 years, Lucinda Mahoney Drago; his son, Michael Drago (Paulette), Knightdale, NC; his daughter, Sarah Talman (Stefan), New York City; grandchildren: new born twins Grace and Ethan Drago, Gabby Phanor, and Jelena Cherubin; and his sister, Cynthia Holden Wimer. Emmaus, PA.

He graduated from Easton High School, and East Stroudsburg University, where he was also a member of Sigma Pi Fraternity. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer (1967-69), in Sierra Leone, West Africa. His international experience continued with the US Agency for International Development in Danang and Saigon, Vietnam (1971-75). Following the end of the Vietnam War, Ron led the staff of International Rescue Committee at Fort Indiantown Gap, PA, Seattle, WA, and Bangkok, Thailand, to assist in the resettlement of Vietnamese, Laotian, Hmong, and Cambodian refugees.

His 30-year career with United Way began in Harrisburg, PA, and included serving as the President of United Way of Northampton and Warren Counties (Easton and Bethlehem, PA), and of United Way of Wake County (Raleigh, NC). He retired after 16 years as the President of United Way of Forsyth County in 2011. He was passionate about the mission of the United Way to develop community-based collaborations to meet the needs of individuals in the areas of basic needs, education, financial stability, and health. His special forte was fundraising and strategic planning. He was inspired by the commitment of volunteer business and community leaders dedicated to creating positive changes in human services. Ron enjoyed filling his yard with pots of flowers, cheering for Wake Forest basketball and football teams as well as his lifelong loved New York Giants, meeting the early morning with a daily run, and adding to his Santa collection. He was always impeccably attired from his blue button-down lightly starched shirt in his African village to his coordinated running shorts with tucked in shirt.

A Memorial Mass will be held at St .Leo the Great Catholic Church, Winston-Salem, NC, on Tuesday, June 5, 2018, at 11:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the United Way of Forsyth County, 301 North Main Street, Suite 1700, Winston-Salem, NC 27101. Online condolences may be made at www.hayworth-miller.com.

Tocqueville Society Dinner Announced

We are excited to announce our annual Tocqueville Society invitation only dinner is just around the corner on Thursday, April 12, 2018.

We will celebrate philanthropic leaders across our community and showcase the spirit of neighbors helping neighbors!

Origins of the Tocqueville Society

Only 26 years old when he came to the United States and Canada in 1831, Alexis Charles-Henri de Tocqueville traveled extensively, recording his observations of life in the young nations.

Though he only spent nine months in North America, he gleaned many profound insights about American society. His observations, readings and discussions with eminent Americans formed the basis of Democracy in America, a detailed study of American society and politics published in two volumes, in 1835 and 1840.

Tocqueville recognized, applauded and immortalized North American voluntary action on behalf of the common good. He wrote: “I must say that I have seen Americans make a great deal of real sacrifices to the public welfare; and have noticed a hundred instances in which they hardly ever failed to lend a faithful support to one another,” eloquently capturing the essence of personal philanthropy that persists almost three centuries later.

The observations on philanthropy made by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831 are true today; North Americans understand that advancing the common good means creating opportunities for a better life for all. The name Tocqueville Society was chosen because of Alexis de Tocqueville’s admiration for the spirit of voluntary association and effort toward its advancement.

Membership Benefits

Specific local Tocqueville Society benefits differ by location; however, all Tocqueville Society members benefit from:

  • Joining a national network of philanthropic leaders who are engaged locally to create long-lasting, positive changes
  • Partnering with a quality organization and dedicated staff; ensuring that gifts, voice, and time are efficiently invested in local communities to maximize impact
  • The unique position of United Way as one of the world’s premier philanthropic organizations which can be used to convene community business and civic leaders focused on the building blocks of a good life: a quality education that leads to a stable job; income that can support a family through retirement; and good health.
  • Local Tocqueville Society leaders along with National Society and Million Dollar Roundtable members are invited to attend national and worldwide gatherings of Tocqueville and Million Dollar Roundtable Members.

Contact Cathy Coles at Cathy.Coles@uwforsyth.org or call 336.721.9370 to learn how you can become involved in the United Way Tocqueville Society and/or to inquire about membership benefits.

Turn Your Spring Cleaning into Community Impact

Spring is finally here, a time when flowers bloom, daylight lasts longer and the smell of freshly cut grass lingers in the air—unless you live in the northeast, where snow is blanketing the streets and smothering dreams of warmer days ahead. Whether you’re outdoors soaking in the sun, or inside staying warm, it’s time to start thinking about spring cleaning. This year, consider adding community impact to your list of things to do. Here are four ways you can give back through your spring-cleaning routine:

Change lives by cleaning out your closet: According to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report, there are more than 500,000 homeless people in America. When it’s time to conduct your spring cleaning, peruse your wardrobe—or your child’s—and see if there’s anything that can be donated to your local thrift store. An old sweater or pair of shoes may not be useful to you, but it could mean the world to someone in need.

Put your elbow grease to greater use: Have a slew of chores you need to tackle? When you’ve finished fixing the stairs and spreading the mulch, flex your muscles for the greater good—call your local United Way and ask if there are any community-building projects in the area. Around this time of year, building homes and creating community gardens is common. By volunteering your time, you can help house a family or rebuild a low-income community in disrepair.

Be mindful of your water usage: When you’re watering your lawn or plants, it’s easy to get carried away or forget to turn off the faucet. Today, in celebration of World Water Day, do your part by saving water when you can. From checking your pipes, faucets and toilets for leaks, to turning off the bathroom faucet when you’re brushing your teeth, you can help tackle local water shortages and contribute to a water-saving culture. Every drop helps.

Rethink your spring break: Switch up your family vacation this spring. Instead of trekking to the beach, head over to a local food bank and lend a helping hand. Food banks are always looking for volunteers to help with packing meals, sorting non-perishables and providing nutritious meals to those individuals experiencing homelessness or hunger. Not only will you be helping others in their time of need, but you’ll be teaching your kids the importance of volunteerism.
Unexpected snowfall aside, spring is a perfect time for you to make a mark in your community. So, slap on those sneakers, roll up your sleeves and get going—a few hours of your time will make a lifetime of difference for your neighbors in need.

BY: NICK THOMAS

3 Ways to Build the Workforce of Tomorrow

Kids who have hope for the future tend to be successful in school and in life. This hope can come from caring adults who make time to connect with kids. Especially if they can share how and why they work where they do.  This purpose and connection gives students reasons to hope, illuminate a path forward and contribute to developing the healthy and active workers our economy needs.

Here are three ways that volunteers can help students have hope today and build the workforce of tomorrow.

  1. Host a career fair. Career fairs are one way you can lift people out of poverty. For example, high schoolers attending the IT United Technology Career Fair talk with IT professionals about their work, watch demonstrations of innovative technologies, and imagine a better future for themselves. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County host the event on campus, so that teenage students can interact with college students like Katrina Hightower, who got a full-time IT internship at Manpower after volunteering at the fair.
  2. Invite students to the workplace. “Show, don’t tell” is Northwestern Mutual’s motto for how to plan a great experience for students. Students play games designed just for them to learn what it is really like to be a software developer, and interact with professionals throughout a day of activities.
  3. Teach the softer skills. United Way of San Diego County invites volunteers to help students with mock interviews and to visit classrooms to teach other essential soft skills, like being a good team player and communicator. Students also are hungry for “common sense” tips, such as wearing nicely ironed clothes to an interview and learning how to tie a necktie. Volunteers also organize professional clothing drives and “shopping days” at schools, where they help students choose appropriate attire for transitioning to the workforce.

These and other United Way volunteer opportunities address an increasing interest by companies in providing their employees with more personalized, skills-based volunteering. I hope you’ll volunteer to share your professional insights and skills, and inspire young people to stay in school, work harder while they are there and hope for a productive future.

By Mei Cobb

Dream Maker: Barbara Duck

“Through the United Way, I discovered a passion I never knew existed.”

Barbara Duck is a mom, mentor, and bank executive. Admittedly, Barbara was really only active in community service through her church prior to moving to Winston-Salem for her role at BB&T. But this relocation is where she found her passion for moving the community needle.

She discovered the United Way Women’s Leadership Council, which allowed her to become more involved in the bank and the community. It is here she learned the power of women connecting with other women, and how those relationships have led to community-changing philanthropy in Forsyth County. “The giving decisions of these women have changed educational outcomes in our community, and individuals are impacted by the collective work of women,” Barbara remarked.

Barbara’s newfound passion in the Women’s Leadership Council inspired her to create. She has committed time and resources to developing the Women’s Information Network at BB&T, also known as W.I.N., which focuses on ways to provide women with resources. With 70% of BB&T’s workforce being female, this gives them access to tools to help manage their careers and find mentors.

Today, we celebrate Barbara Duck as a DREAM MAKER. For leading innovative and systemic change in our Forsyth County!

Project Blueprint

Project Blueprint is a leadership development program designed to increase representation of underrepresented groups on local nonprofit boards and committees. The program consists of a series of training sessions that introduce participants to the roles and responsibilities of a nonprofit board while developing their skills to help them become successful board members.  United Way Worldwide launched Project Blueprint in 1987 as a pilot program funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the first Project Blueprint class from United Way of Forsyth County graduated in 1992.  Since then over 200 individuals have graduated from the program.  Project Blueprint is now a partnership between United Way of Forsyth County and HandsOn Northwest North Carolina.

 

 

Goals.  Project Blueprint seeks to:

  • Recruit volunteers from underrepresented populations for involvement in nonprofit organizations
  • Develop and improve leadership skills
  • Improve service delivery through volunteer involvement in the workplace and community at large
  • Ensure that local volunteer leadership is more reflective of our diverse community
  • Create a network of ethnically and culturally diverse professionals
  • Place program graduates on local nonprofit boards or committees where they can use their knowledge and skills to serve their community

Eligibility.  Project Blueprint seeks applicants who:

  • Are from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds
  • Exhibit or have the potential for leadership
  • Show an interest in community involvement and a desire to serve and strengthen our community
  • Will to commit to serve on a nonprofit board of directors or committee upon graduation from the program

What You Can Expect:

  • Acquire knowledge and skills needed to effectively serve on a nonprofit board or board committee
  • Build a peer group of other civic minded persons
  • Help with placement on a nonprofit board

Program.  Recruitment for the next Project Blueprint class begins in November and continues through the application deadline of February 16, 2018.  Class size is limited to ensure a high quality experience and more meaningful networking.  A half day orientation event will be held on March 14.  This event is followed by 9 consecutive classes that will meet each Tuesday, March 13-May 22 from 12-2 pm.  The program closely follows the Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards, published by BoardSource, a nationally recognized organization dedicated to increasing nonprofit board governance.  Participants are also required to attend a Nonprofit Board Speed Dating event on Tuesday, May 22, to talk with various nonprofits about board and board committee opportunities.  All classes include a networking lunch.

Requirements. Participants are expected to attend all classes, so check your calendar to make sure the dates and times do not conflict with other commitments.  You may miss only one class in order to graduate from the program.  If more than one class is missed, you will be required to repeat the entire program.

Location.  Training sessions will be held at The Winston-Salem Foundation building, located at 751 West Fourth Street, Winston-Salem, 27101, on the 3rd floor in the Neill Board Room.

Cost.  The cost to participate in the program is $75 per person and is due by March 13, 2018.  Many companies sponsor their employees’ tuition, but a limited number of partial scholarships are available.  For information on scholarships, please email KathyDavis@HandsOnNWNC.org.

New Survey Finds Majority of Millennials Stress Over Filing Taxes

new survey, conducted by United Way Worldwide, finds that 74 percent of millennial respondents indicate they felt some level of stress around filing their returns. The survey of over 1,000 millennials (those between the ages of 18-36) reveals that common stressors include making a mistake (48 percent) and not getting a full refund (23 percent).

Additionally, the survey found that millennials are not claiming the tax credits that they have earned. Fifty percent of those surveyed did not claim any tax credits last year; 67 percent of respondents were interested in learning more about tax credits for which they are eligible, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.

United Way is proud to partner with H&R Block (NYSE:HRB) to provide MyFreeTaxes, a valuable tool that can ease the stress of tax season by helping filers claim the tax credits for which they qualify. MyFreeTaxes is a free, easy and safe tool for anyone earning less than $66,000 to file federal and state taxes.

“United Way’s free tax preparation service, MyFreeTaxes, is the longest standing service provided by a nonprofit,” said Mary Sellers, U.S. President, United Way Worldwide. “Our mission is to help every person in every community achieve financial stability. With so many millennials experiencing stress during tax season, we encourage them – and any qualifying individual – to use our free and easy tax preparation service. The tool will help them claim all the credits they deserve and save on tax filing fees in order to pay down debt, increase savings and reduce the stress they feel around tax season.”

MyFreeTaxes is completely free for households that earned less than $66,000 in 2017. United Way and longtime partner, H&R Block, have provided free tax filing services for federal and state taxes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia since 2009, helping almost one million taxpayers claim every tax deduction and credit for which they are eligible. These tax deductions and credits lead to refunds, totaling $180 million since 2009, that enable individuals and families to improve their financial stability by putting more money back in their pockets. United Way believes that people everywhere should have an opportunity to advance their economic status and is proud to partner with H&R Block to provide a valuable tool to help people better manage their money and get on more solid financial ground.

MyFreeTaxes

Qualifying filers, those earning less than $66,000, can enter data into a secure website, MyFreeTaxes.com, anytime, from anywhere, making it easy to update the documents from home, at work or on mobile devices. The service also includes a helpline, 1-855-MY-TX-HELP, which operates through April 30 from 10:00 am until 10:00 pm EST Monday through Friday and noon to 9:00 pm EST Saturday.  The website also provides a live chat function. MyFreeTaxes is provided by United Way and H&R Block, which offers safe and secure software and guarantees that tax returns are 100 percent accurate.

About United Way Worldwide

United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. Supported by 2.9 million volunteers, 9.8 million donors worldwide and $4.7 billion raised every year, United Way is the world’s largest privately-funded nonprofit. We’re engaged in 1,800 communities across more than 40 countries and territories worldwide to create sustainable solutions to the challenges facing our communities. United Way partners include global, national and local businesses, nonprofits, government, civic and faith-based organizations, along with educators, labor leaders, health providers, senior citizens, students and more. For more information about United Way, please visit UnitedWay.org. Follow us on Twitter: @UnitedWay and #LiveUnited.

About H&R Block

H&R Block, Inc. (NYSE:HRB) is a global consumer tax services provider. Tax return preparation services are provided by professional tax preparers in approximately 12,000 company-owned and franchise retail tax offices worldwide, and through H&R Block tax software products for the DIY consumer. H&R Block also offers adjacent Tax Plus products and services. In fiscal 2017, H&R Block had annual revenues of over $3 billion with 23 million tax returns prepared worldwide. For more information, visit the H&R Block Newsroom.

MEDIA CONTACT

Southerlyn Reisig, United Way
southerlyn.reisig@uww.unitedway.org
Tel. 703.836.7100 ext.321

Christine Sanchez, United Way
christine.sanchez@uww.unitedway.org
Tel. 703-836-7100 ext. 564

Susan Waldron, H&R Block
susan.waldron@hrblock.com
Tel. 816-854-5522

Community-Wide and Place Matters Program Investments: FY 2017/2018

Click here to download this document as a printable PDF.

Program Name

Lead Agency

Community-Wide (CW) or Place Matters (PM)

Collaborating Partners

Revised Program Funding Level*

Outpatient Therapy Alexander Youth Network

(formerly Youth Opportunities)

CW

 

$85,011.10

Response Recovery American Red Cross

CW

 

$70,371.38

Therapeutic Day Program Amos Cottage

CW

WS/FC Schools

$101,133.04

Emergency Day and Night Shelter Bethesda Center

CW

Insight Human Services

$45,323.04

Big Achievers Big Brothers Big Sisters

CW

YMCA

$33,727.96

Therapy Bowman Gray Child Guidance

CW

 

$137,024.62

Learning for Life Boy Scouts

CW

WS/FC Schools

$80,508.02

Patient Advocate and Minority Outreach Cancer Services

CW

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center Novant Health

Multiple Area Churches

$184,817.27

Young Parent Support Program Catholic Charities

CW

Forsyth Tech

$82,719.71

The Nest Centers for Exceptional Children

CW

  $729,526.61
Integrating Primary Medical Care in a Substance Abuse/Mental Health Setting Community Care Center

CW

Insight Human Services

$44,605.07

Providing Access to Healthcare Services and Medicines for Low Income Uninsured Residents Community Care Center

CW

 

$117,910.21

African American Males Pursuing Educational Dreams Crosby Scholars

CW

 

$42,210.84

Day and Employment Supports Enrichment Center

CW

 

$198,353.97

Parent Aide & Welcome Baby Exchange SCAN

CW

 

$128,929.43

STA Safe Exchange SCAN

CW

 

$25,069.61

Asset Building Connectors Experiment in Self-Reliance

CW

 

$52,898.16

New Century IDA (Individual Development Accounts) Program Experiment in Self-Reliance

CW

 

$56,445.72

Pathways of Caring/Transitional Housing Experiment in Self-Reliance

CW

 

$86,451.08

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Experiment in Self-Reliance

CW

 

$38,422.70

Ways to Work Family Services

CW

 

$25,052.90

Strong@Home Family Services

CW

Habitat for Humanity

Goodwill Industries

Imprints

Financial Pathways of the Piedmont

$224,182.04

Mental Health Counseling Family Services

CW

 

$239,878.51

Safe Relationships/Child Abuse Family Services

CW

 

$37,416.78

Safe Relationships/Intimate Partner Violence Family Services

CW

 

$233,878.54

School-Based Counseling Family Services

CW

 

$58,917.53

Comprehensive Relapse Prevention Program Fellowship Home

CW

 

$95,041.46

Financial Capability Initiative Financial Pathways of the Piedmont

CW

 

$233,170.78

Prosperity Center Goodwill Industries

CW

Financial Pathways of the Piedmont

$166,714.67

Forsyth Integrated Health Network Insight Human Services

CW

ARCA

Bethesda Center

Community Care Center

Old Vineyard Behavioral Health Services

Oxford House

$210,401.27

Legal Advocacy in Family Violence Legal Aid of North Carolina

CW

Children’s’ Law Center of Central North Carolina

$191,226.47

Truancy Mediation Mediation Services

CW

WS/FC Schools – Social Workers Department

$41,615.48

Health Information & Referral Crisis Intervention Training Mental Health Association

CW

 

$101,143.84

Boys & Girls Club Salvation Army

CW

Insight Human Services

$294,654.94

Food & Shelter Salvation Army

CW

Insight Human Services

$280,338.67

Food Distribution Second Harvest Food Bank

CW

 

$169,759.94

Triad Community Kitchen Second Harvest Food Bank

CW

 

$19,046.60

Group Homes Springwell Network (fka Groups Homes of Forsyth)

CW

 

$94,743.43

Project Graduation Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools

CW

3 High Schools

3 Middle Schools

3-5 Elementary Schools

$838,291.00

Workforce Development Winston-Salem Urban League

CW

Forsyth Tech

$84,171.55

Education Achievers YMCA

CW

Crosby Scholars

$168,391.89

Literacy Works Program YMCA

CW

Forsyth Tech

Piedmont Triad Workforce Development

Forsyth County Libraries

Goodwill Industries

Knollwood Baptist Church

Bolton, Brunson, Wiley Schools

$101,035.14

Summer Learning Academies YMCA

CW

 

$138,923.31

Best Choice Academic After School & Summer Camp Programs YWCA

CW

Big Brothers Big Sisters

Crosby Scholars

Easton Elementary

Hall-Woodward Elementary

$210,477.21

Gateway to Success Integrated Medical Model Preventing Chronic Disease YWCA

CW

Novant Health

Wake Forest Baptist Health

$95,777.20

Second Chance Graduation YWCA

CW

 

$33,665.10

Supportive Services YWCA

CW

 

$97,628.78

         
         
Student Health and Resource Center Alexander Youth Network

(formerly Youth Opportunities)

PM

 

$57,327.80

Body & Soul Nutritious Eating and Active Living Cancer Services

PM

 

$45,623.46

Stay the Course Catholic Charities

PM

 

$101,289.44

Healthcare Services for Place Matters Neighborhood Residents Community Care Center

PM

 

$98,758.69

Healthy Eating Initiative Crisis Control

PM

Forsyth County Cooperative Extension

Grace Presbyterian Church*

$58,315.95

Pathways of Caring-Outreach for Strengthening Communities Experiment in Self-Reliance

PM

Salvation Army

$126,273.85

New Communion: Mobile Food Pantry First Christian Church

PM

 

$67,320.00

Girl Scout Outreach Program Girl Scouts

PM

 

$35,455.38

JRAMS (Jackets & Rams Achieving Maximum Success) Grace Presbyterian Church

PM

Winston-Salem State University

$29,868.92

Castle Heights Initiative Guiding Institute for Developmental Education (GIDE)

PM

Winston-Salem State University

Winston-Salem Urban League

Family Services

Smart Start of Forsyth County

$29,750.00

Imprint Cares, Community Matters Imprints Cares

PM

Children’s Home Society of NC

Smart Start of Forsyth County

$161,544.46

Insight Skills Development Insight Human Services

PM

Goodwill

Imprints Cares

Salvation Army

$43,300.58

Building Blocks for the Future in Our Neighborhood Liberty East Redevelopment*

PM

Experiment in Self-Reliance

Habitat for Humanity

$126,271.83

The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club and CiVIC Community Center Salvation Army

PM

Mental Health Association

Insight

$278,450.92

WS/FC Schools Be(e) Legendary Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

PM

 

$60,000.00

Rams Employment and Community Health Equity (REACHE) Winston-Salem State University: School of Health Science*

PM

Habitat for Humanity

$85,000.00

Neighborhood Empowerment Through Technology (NETT) Winston-Salem Urban League

PM

WinstonNet

Forsyth County Library

Winston-Salem State University

$126,247.85

CiVIC Child Care Solutions Work Family Resource Center

PM

Through Unity Reformation is N-evitable (TURN)

$126,225.00

East Winston STRIDE (Serving Together by Reducing the Impact of Diabetes through Empowerment) YMCA

PM

Novant Health

$84,195.95

East Winston Student Enrichment YMCA

PM

 

$10,000.00

Best Choice Academic After School & Summer Camp Programs

(Place Matters Focus)

YWCA

PM

 

$126,244.11

         
Other Funded Initiatives and Donor Agency Designations
Hospice & Palliative Care Center      

$178,099.65

         
         
Total Community-Wide Program Investments      

$6,097,477.96

Total Place Matters Program Investments      

$1,877,464.19

Total United Way Program Investments: FY2017/18

(including Hospice. Does Not Include  Additional Agency Designations and Other Funding Sources)

$8,153,041.80

The Powerful Questions behind Jeff Bezos’ Philanthropy Tweet

In mid-June, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shook things up – again.

I’m not talking about Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, although in many places that is a big deal.

I’m talking about Bezos’ tweet on June 15th, when he asked for ideas for his emerging philanthropy strategy.  Jeff said he spends most of his time working on ‘the long-term,’ but for philanthropy, he’s interested in the other end of the spectrum: the ‘right now.’

Jeff’s 140-character request gets at the heart of philanthropy.  How best can we create a happier and healthier society?  How do we balance support for urgent need with long-term solutions that attack root causes?

United Way works on both ends of this spectrum.  We support food kitchens, homeless shelters and health clinics.  We also bring community, business and government leaders together to examine long-term problems, like the jobs-skills divide, and find solutions that could take years to bear fruit.  Yet when they do, they create widespread positive change.

In response to Jeff’s tweet, I asked him to consider long-term needs in his philanthropy strategy.  One-hundred forty characters didn’t fully capture what I wanted to say, so I followed up with a letter.

In my letter, I told Jeff that he’s the kind of disrupting force that philanthropy needs.  He didn’t build Amazon into one of the world’s most powerful, game-changing companies without thinking about how technology would affect our lives or how we prefer to consume.  That’s why I think he should embrace a similar way of thinking when it comes to helping people lead better lives.

I asked Jeff, who started Amazon when the internet was in its infancy and now runs a revolutionary aerospace company, to ponder questions like these:

  • What systems can we change to help millions of people, not hundreds?
  • What partners can we cultivate to develop new technologies that allow people to do things like learn more – and learn faster?
  • What barriers can we break that keep us from coming together to solve our most difficult challenges?

In other words, I’m hoping Jeff is willing to disrupt philanthropy for the better.  Of course, he should address the many immediate needs facing our society – and his tweet received some great responses to that effect – but I’m hoping he’ll also apply his talents and experiences in creative, long-term ways.

I’m hopeful that Jeff will reply and ask how we can work together.  But I also want to know what you think.  How should non-profits and philanthropists balance short- and long-term needs?  How can philanthropy be ‘disrupted’ for the better?  How could technology play a part?

By BRIAN GALLAGHER , CEO, United Way Worldwide

5 Advocacy Wins We Accomplished Together In 2017

While 2017 was a challenging and politically divisive year, United Ways, partners and supporters stepped up to advocate for the communities we serve and managed to accomplish several policy wins to improve opportunity for all.

We would like to thank the United Way network for all the ways you advocated this year – Capitol Hill Days, letters to Congress, targeted outreach, site visits, social media and more. It made the difference. We will be calling on you to continue the fight in 2018 – particularly on tax reform and possible cuts to entitlement programs.

But, for now, we thank you for standing up and giving a voice to those we serve.

Here are just a few things we accomplished, with your help, this year:

1. Restored funding for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA):

This summer, the House Financial Services Subcommittee voted to cut the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) by 50% (from $15 million to $7.5 million) in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 appropriations bill. Fortunately, due to targeted outreach to members of Congress on the Appropriations Committee, local United Ways and supporters communicated the value of this critical program and worked with several congressional offices to restore funding to $15 million for VITA in a technical fix to the bill. The amended bill was passed by the full Appropriations Committee on Thursday, July 13th.

2. Met with nearly 300 members of Congress and sent over 9,500 letters to Capitol Hill:

This year, the United Way network met with and communicated the organization’s priorities to hundreds of members of Congress. Facing threats to the charitable deduction, budget cuts to safety net programs, and political uncertainty on health reform, United Way CEOs, staff and volunteers stormed Capitol Hill, met with members in district offices, and sent thousands of letters to Congress to fight for the health, education and financial stability of the communities we serve.

3. Fought for robust funding for Health, Education and Financial Stability:

Given the Administration’s proposed budget cuts this year and the current political environment, we expected an uphill battle to maintain funding for health, education, and financial stability programs. Fortunately, the United Way network and supporters rallied support for funding for critical community services and programs in the FY 2017 and FY 2018 appropriations bills. The FY 2017 appropriations bill, which funded the federal government through September 2017, was largely a success for United Way priorities, allocating level funding for programs such as EFSP, VITA, Head Start, CCDBG, and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.

The FY 2018 appropriations bill is still being debated in Congress. While we are gearing up for a fight, we secured several appropriations wins this year. The United Way network surpassed our goal to send 2,018 letters to Congress this year on the FY 2018 appropriations bill, for a total of 2,330 letters overall. What’s more, United Ways sent over 600 letters to Congress in one day in advance of an important subcommittee mark-up.

4. Launched the first-ever Advocacy Week of Action:

During August Recess, the United Way network and supporters around the country participated in a social media campaign to raise awareness about United Way’s top priorities. The week-long campaign, held on August 21-25, aimed to increase congressional and public support for United Way’s priorities in health, education and financial stability. As a result of this effort, 241 unique Twitter accounts contributed to the digital Advocacy Week of Action, garnering over 1.9 million social media impressions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. In addition, 50 United Way CEOs in the most influential congressional districts participated in a special policy call to strategize about communicating with their members of Congress during the August Recess.

5. Protected critical health programs from funding cuts and structural changes:

Through call-in days, action alerts, sign-on letters and digital advocacy campaigns, the United Way Health Advocacy Cohort coordinated grasstops and grassroots advocacy in support of the network’s health priorities. The Cohort now has over 95 local and state United Ways actively engaged in health policy-advocacy efforts. Despite attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, United Ways successfully advocated to ensure that these attempts did not result in a reduction of coverage for working Americans. In addition, United Ways worked to protect Medicaid from structural changes that could potentially have devastating consequences for state budgets, and healthcare coverage, and access for vulnerable populations.

 

By Sarah Yergeau