United Way is working harder to be able to show that to supporters in black and white, as detailed in a new report.  

The report from United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region (UWBCKR) shows progress on long-term community goals, while new, three-year strategic grants totaling $6,567,096 will build momentum toward reaching those goals.   Click here to see specific programs in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo that receive grants from the United Way.

Chris Sargent, interim CEO at the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo region. TSM WBCK

Chris Sargent, President and CEO of UWBCKR, said this is the organization’s first-ever report focused specifically on United Way investments, partnerships and engagement strategies.

“This is the first time we’ve been able study the effect of specific strategies—dollars invested, programs supported, volunteers deployed—against measurable goals,” Sargent explained. “Now our supporters can know how their gifts, whether financial or volunteer, change the story.”

In 2016, UWBCKR announced specific regional goals in key areas of need:

  • In education, improve the regional graduation rate to 83 percent by 2030 and reduce racial and economic disparities in graduation rates.
  • In income/financial stability, transition 8,500 households to economic stability by 2025.
  • In health, improve infant mortality rates in families of color and low-income families to 6.0 per 1,000 live births by 2025.
  • In basic needs, ensure a safety net of basic services for people in crisis.

Matt Lynn, Vice President of Community Impact, said all UWBCKR grants, programs and collaborations now form around those goals. Partners report outcomes based on those measures. Through its partnership with AGS Data Analytics and Consulting, LLC, United Way can track progress at the regional, local and eventually neighborhood levels.

“Having the ability to measure our impact allows us to focus resources where they’re most needed,” said Lynn. “Now we’ll know where we’re making a difference and where we need to change to do things better.”

Lynn said this new capability guided UWBCKR’s latest round of three-year strategic grants, supporting 125 programs in Battle Creek, Kalamazoo and surrounding communities. Future grants, including shorter-term ones, will also depend on measurable impact as well financial support from community donors.

“People tell us loud and clear that they want to know how and where their investment is changing conditions. Now we have the tools to give them that level of detail,” Lynn said.

Examples of Impact

The report, titled “Our Impact,” offers key data on programs and engagement during 2017. A few examples:

  • 85 percent of African American mothers served through United Way supported programs gave birth to an infant of healthy weight. This is a critical outcome to reduce the risk of infant mortality, especially since babies of color are up to four times more likely to die before their first birthday.
  • 89 percent of students paired with volunteer reading mentors at three elementary schools in the region were able to read at or above grade level. Reading proficiency greatly affects a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school.
  • 61 percent of multi-racial workers who earned credentials through training and skill development programs gained higher wages and earned income. Earning more at work helps individuals and families become financially stable.
  • United Way supported programs and partnerships in basic needs helped feed 70,136 people, provided transportation aid to 9,933 people, and delivered utility assistance to 2,439 households.
  • UWBCKR engaged 5,192 volunteers, spearheaded three region-wide projects linked to its community goals, and launched new, immediate giving and volunteerism activities such as Pop Up Giving and Pop Up Volunteering.

Another important outcome is the added value of more than 300 hours of training, technical assistance and support that UWBCKR provided to 72 partner agencies during 2017.

“By coming alongside our partners, we help them build their capability to do more to drive change locally and regionally,” Lynn said.

A copy of the report can be downloaded from here: tinyurl.com/uwourimpact

New Strategic Grants Announced

United Way also announced a new round of three-year strategic grants in the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo region. A total of $6,567,096 each year will support 125 programs through 71 agencies. Highlights include the following:

  • $1,809,145 invested in 41 programs in education, including early childhood success, kindergarten readiness, early grade reading achievement, and social and emotional well-being.
  • $1,378,045 invested in 23 programs in income/financial stability, including stable and affordable housing, and workforce training and supports for working and low-income individuals.
  • $1,471,378 invested in 29 programs in health, including physical, mental and behavioral health for families and infants, and maternal and infant health education and engagement.
  • $1,908,528 invested in 25 programs in basic needs, including food, shelter, utility assistance, emergency support and other services.

A summary of the new investments is available online here: tinyurl.com/uwbckrgrants2018.

Sargent said UWBCKR’s ability to lead shared efforts and measure impact makes it unique among nonprofits.

“Our work goes beyond treating symptoms. We’re creating cures,” he said. “We’re funding programs that deliver lasting results. We’re gathering every resource and voice to solve problems. And we’re coming alongside our partners to strengthen their skills so they can do their work better. That benefits every person in our region.”