Outcomes are key to the United Way campaign

The OlympianNovember 2, 2013 

The United Way of Thurston County annual fund drive is underway. The giving campaign deserves widespread support to improve the overall health of the community.

Last year, United Way achieved its stated goal and then some as approximately 4,000 donors contributed a total of more than $1.5 million that United Way distributed to more than 60 nonprofit groups engaged in helping the less fortunate in our community.

This year’s goal is similar, but will be a challenging one to meet due to major cuts in employment at the Intel office in Dupont. Many of those employees live in Thurston County and last year their donations — partially matched by corporate contributions — totalled some $232,000 to the United Way of Thurston County fund drive.

But look at it another way. The number of donors equals just a small fraction of the population of this caring community. We can, and should, be able to exceed United Way expectations.

It’s important to recognize that the time-honored United Way drive has a new set of performance measures and goals, compared with the past when the big red thermometer inching toward a monetary goal was the prominent image of the campaign.

Nowadays, United Way measures its success by looking at conditions in the community around the core areas of education, income and health, then attempts to allocate funds to programs that improve those conditions.

Simply put, the name of the game is measurable outcomes, not just how much money can be raised.

There’s also an increased emphasis on the importance of volunteers. They can be, and often are, just as valuable as raising money to support nonprofit programs, reading programs in the schools, low-income seniors and other populations who need a helping hand.

With the help of its new Volunteer Connections data base, United Way can point to 1,000 volunteers who give their time and talent to worthwhile causes.

No doubt, needs are great as incomes and job growth in South Sound have yet to fully recover from the 2008 Great Recession, especially for lower-income families. Here are some examples of problems still facing our community:

 • Nearly two-thirds of low-income children start kindergarten without the skills to be successful. Early childhood learning programs need United Way donor and volunteer support.

 • Almost 30 percent of families in Thurston County earning less than $35,000 deferred basic medical care because of cost from 2008 through 2010.

 • Thurston County has the third-highest rate of adverse childhood experiences among all counties in the state. ACEs are a powerful indicator of future disruptive social behaviors and poor health.

A donation of money or volunteer time can make a difference. To learn more, visit unitedway—thurston. org. Renew your pledge from last year. Grow your pledge from last year. Become a new member of the United Way team. Build a better community together.

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