What the United Way campaign means for community health

Recent reports of fundraising challenges for many nonprofits in town, including United Way, should be understood for what they are: economic indicators. While the Douglas County unemployment numbers are pretty low, changes at many of our local large employers are impacting opportunities in our community.

Over the next few weeks I will post some different perspectives on this, but I want to start with this... Are we measuring what really matters?

Dollars raised in this community through local organizations, foundations, and United Way are not the ends, but the means. With last year's campaign we facilitated some strategic alignments that are producing the following results:

  • More child care providers who are focused on preparing young children for school,
  • More parents who understand the importance of family engagement, and
  • More programs, outside of the school day, who are taking an active interest in academic success.

These are what we, as a community, should be talking about. As Jeremy Farmer will tell you, Just Food continues to feed more people. More families sought to be adopted for the holidays. Free dental day always begins in the middle of the night. Without changing how we build community and partnership, the economic indicator only reflects the input. Let's start talking about what we want to accomplish with that input.

Personally, I would like more kids entering Kindergarten with the skills to succeed because that will help teachers, parents, mental health providers and, in a few years, employers. I would like more families have the ability to provide for themselves. I would like to see more people taking responsibility for preventative health through immunizations and healthier habits.

How can we make this our community measurement of success?


Jon Stewart 5 years, 6 months ago

Great point, Erika.

In 'Good to Great', author Jim Collins points out that in the private sector, money can be both an input and an output. In the social sector, money can be an input but is rarely the right measure of success as an output.

The things we want to see, happier healthier more productive lives are more difficult to measure. But he points out that an imperfect measure of the right thing is far better than a perfect measure of the wrong thing.

I would personally like to see more people with an ongoing relationship with a primary care provider. One of the most important things one can do for their health is an annual visit while well.

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