United Way of Greater Toledo Is Using Partnerships and Data to Achieve Community Wide Goals

July 9, 2015

In 2013, the United Way of Greater Toledo (UWGT) embarked on a new approach to goal setting. With the creation of Live United 2020 goals, for the first time, the organization will hold itself accountable for community level goals rather than program level goals. The Live United 2020 goals are aimed at improving education, health care and family income in the counties of Lucas, Wood, and Ottawa over the next five years. According to Jane Moore, Executive Vice President for Community Impact, this sharpened and strategic focus on improving these areas has also transformed the way they operate.  “We must rely on other coalitions and systems. If we work collectively, we should be able to move the needle on these community goals,” Moore explains.

To tackle this important work UWGT announced a competitive request for applications process last fall to create new partnership opportunities and realign existing partnerships. Through a series of information sessions, United Way explained their new focus to existing and potential partners. Laura Roether, former manager of health programs at UWGT says, “The process allowed our partners to re-evaluate their programs and motivated them to be more aspirational in their own vision by honing in on what type of community impact they wanted to have.”  The process culminated in 56 partners  receiving a three year UWGT investment for 85 programs.

These 56 partners represent a mixture of long-term, systematic programs that drive progress toward Live United 2020 goals, while providing much needed direct services for vulnerable populations. One program will ensure children enrolled in free and reduced lunch programs will receive healthy meals on weekends. Another program uses the national medical legal partnership for children model to train healthcare providers about advocating for their patients.

United Way of Greater Toledo staff believes the investment in these partnerships is essential.  “Making a three year commitment solidifies our partnerships,” says Roether. “With this level of support, we hope these organizations will have even deeper roots in the community, expanding sustainability so the work will continue long after United Way funding has ended.”

In addition to choosing the right partners, data was critical to United Way’s new approach. Data was gathered from a number of sources including county level data provided in the County Health Rankings as well as public input from nearly 300 community conversations. Community members, volunteers, and stakeholders gathered to share their ideas about the health needs of the community. Laura Roether says, “Data is fundamentally important. Without having accessible data we don’t have a baseline to help define goals. This information also helps us illustrate urgent needs in our community as we mobilize and rally people toward action.”

Now that the data has been analyzed, goals have been set and partnerships have been established, United Way of Greater Toledo will begin the process of tracking their investment in the community.  “In the tri-county area with more than 600,000 people we cannot meet our goals without multiple sectors agreeing where they want the community to go, and then working together to make it happen,” says Moore.

As new programs begin to take shape, UWGT will assess what should be modified, and what should be replicated.  Roether explains, “The next few years will give us a chance to be responsive to emerging trends and community needs.  We’ll see what we missed and make adjustments in time for setting the next set of goals.”