Last September, more than 400 volunteers began the important task of assisting Lycoming County United Way with the launch of the 2013-14 campaign. Under the leadership of campaign Chairman Dr. Bill Martin, they tirelessly gave of their time and talents to raise needed funds in support of the vital human service programs operating throughout Lycoming County under the United Way umbrella.
Beginning this week, another dedicated group of 60 community volunteers will tackle the equally important task of allocating campaign proceeds to the organizations that provide the programs.
The process, commonly known as Funds Distribution, is designed to ensure that the funds contributed by the community are put to work in the community, guided by a review process that is conducted by the community itself.
"Our entire mission, 'mobilizing resources to improve lives,' is intended to make our Lycoming County community a better place to live, work and raise families," said Scott N. Lowery, LCUW executive director. "The funds we are able to raise are the direct result of the community's response to our efforts. It only makes sense that the contributions the community provides are reinvested in the community through the direct involvement of community volunteers themselves.
"Each local United Way organization throughout the country, although members of the worldwide United Way system, maintains their own responsibility to distribute the funds raised in their campaigns," Lowery added. "Processes used will differ. Some United Ways use their boards of directors, some use members of their campaign team, some use small groups of volunteers. The process we have developed is a lot more inclusive and the number of volunteers we engage is much larger than other United Ways."
Led by LCUW Director of Funding and Community Relations Carolyn Hawk and experienced volunteer Tom O'Connell, the organization's chairman of the Allocation Steering Committee, the process begins in February when invitations are sent to community volunteers seeking to fill the 60 available openings. The selected volunteers are seated on one of five review panels that will meet with each program seeking United Way funding. Earlier this month, volunteers received training on their important task that will begin in earnest on Monday.
"It is an extensive, well-developed review process that is conducted annually to insure that the contributions entrusted to LCUW by our contributors are distributed in a transparent, efficient, financially sound manner and will be directed to meet identified community needs," Hawk said. "On Monday, each panel will meet and hear from program facilitators to review their funding requests, gain insight as to how each program operates, measure the community impact gained during the past year, and ask pertinent questions. On Wednesday the panels reconvene independently to review each of the program requests and determine recommended funding levels."
Following the assimilation of information, the chair and co-chair of each of the five panels will meet on April 28 to finalize the funding availability.
"We call it finals night and it is an intense review of the various program's funding requests," O'Connell said. "Despite how successful our campaigns may be, the simple truth is the human service programs are always in need of more funding than we have available. Through the review process, the panels become strong advocates and desire to maximize the dollars their programs request. Finals night is an exercise in budget reality, with the understanding that each of the programs we fund provides vital services to those they help. Unfortunately, there is always a shortfall between what is requested and what we have to give. That is why this community volunteer process is so important. I am extremely proud of all those who volunteer and I think most would agree that the fulfillment and understanding received from taking part is well worth their time."
Funding approved via the process is provided to the participating programs by either monthly payments or purchase-of-service agreements in compliance with LCUW's July 1, 2014-June 30, 2015, fiscal year.
"United Way is all about community engagement and people helping people right here at home," Lowery said. "It wouldn't be possible without the tremendous volunteer help we annually receive. We are truly grateful for the community's response."
If you would like to learn more about any of the programs funded by Lycoming County United Way, visit or call 570-323-9448.
Wertz is the Lycoming County United Way's director of resource development and communications.