June 18The United Way of Greater Stark County is in the process of unveiling its latest strategic plan, which the not-for-profit agency will use as a road map for future endeavors to improve education, reduce poverty and build an overall better community.
The plan builds off the "Bold Goals 2020" initiative United Way began embarking on last year. The new initiative stresses education, health and financial stability, addressing everything from school readiness and success, healthy lifestyles, physical and behavioral health, as well as affordable housing, job training, asset building, financial coaching and household stabilization.
The framework of the plan touches on six points:
Address the root causes of community need through collaborations and collective impact.
Maximize revenue generation to address community need more significantly.
Develop and implement a strategic engagement plan that promotes community impact and donor development.
Leverage staff and resources to accomplish work efficiently and effectively.
Tell the agency's story more effectively.
Collect, analyze and distribute data to be used in decision making and for reporting measurable results.
Those objectives are rooted in such concerns as the retirement of high-end donors and the need for broadening fundraising through better workforce support, making the best use of employees' skill sets and finding ways to offset potential funding reductions from state government, including cuts to Medicaid.
Maria Heege, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Stark County, said that on a national level United Way is striving to better define itself. The community needs to be aware that United Way is "fighting" against its most daunting challenges. Those include a high infant mortality rate, the opioid epidemic, unsatisfactory graduation rates and a need to lift people out of poverty.
Tackling the latter holds great promise, in large part due to to partnerships United Way has established in the community. One of those partnerships is with the local OhioMeansJobs office. Both agencies are leveraging each other's assets to make inroads with people who are struggling to find work, pay their latest utility bill or put food on the table.
Earlier this year, United Way opened its Prosperity Center inside the OhioMeansJobs' location on 30th Street NW in Canton.
"It's the perfect example of what collaboration looks like in this community," Heege said.
The center assists people through a budget coaching program, for example. The program has helped 30 percent of enrollees improve their credit scores, 70 percent meet two or three of their financial goals and 21 percent increase their net worth. Workshops are held for out-of-school youth, ages 16 to 24. Those programs are part of OhioMeansJobs' comprehensive case-management employment program, which is funded through the state's Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014.
Opened during tax season, the center and dozens of community volunteers were able to assist people with their tax filings. The 73 clinics held throughout Stark County helped return more than $3 million in tax refunds. It saved people an additional $268,000 in fees. For every $1 invested, the program generated a return of nearly $30.
In exchange for OhioMeansJobs' expertise in job placement, resume building and interview coaching (among other areas), it receives United Way's ability to connect people in need with resources they might not realize exist.
If you've never needed the services of United Way, chances are someone you know has or will. That United Way continues to shape (and reshape) its goals means it will be best positioned to meet the needs of Stark Countians. The partnerships it has established, and will continue to build in coming years, offer us great hope. Because, as Hegee notes, "Not one agency alone can fix the issues" facing our community.
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