The Monadnock United Way recently announced a change to the way it will distribute funding for the remainder of 2020.
Over the past ten years, the annual campaign has been declining. At its height, the campaign brought in more than $2 million, but for 2019, that number dipped to just $1.3 million – $200,000 short of it’s $1.5 million goal.
“As the campaign started coming to a close at the end of December, it was becoming clearer we weren’t going to be able to reach our goal,” said Monadnock United Way President Liz LaRose.
The annual campaign brings in funds from a variety of sources, like traditional workplace campaigns in which more than 100 region companies took part in 2019, as well as one-time donations from businesses.
But with less funds to distribute, LaRose said they had to adjust their approach in providing funds to local nonprofits and service organizations in 2020. A total of 16 organizations covering 22 programs will stop receiving money from the Monadnock United Way on April 30, meaning they will only receive one-third of the amount that was originally anticipated for 2020 and none for the 2021 distribution cycle.
“It was a really difficult decision to make, one that our board and our team took extremely seriously,” LaRose said.
While LaRose said that the organizations in Hillsborough and Cheshire counties will loose funding for individual programs, a number of them fall under the umbrella of collaboratives and collectives that are comprised of a number of service agencies that will still receive funding. So for instance, the River Center in Peterborough had funding cut for its Money Matters program, but will still receive money as part of the Monadnock Parent Education Collective and Monadnock Home Visiting Alliance.
River Center Executive Director Margaret Nelson said this is the first time she applied for funds for the Money Matters program from the United Way. Nelson said the program is usual funded by the general budget. While the amount allocated, $7,000 for 2020, wasn’t as much as they asked for, any additional funding is welcomed and appreciated.
“You always know it depends on how the Monadnock United Way campaign goes,” Nelson said. “You know in the back of your mind that this is what they’d like to give you.”
Nelson said the Money Matters program, which includes free tax preparation, financial tools workshops, individual money coaching, will continue, “it just may not have all the bells and whistles,” she said.
“Yes it’s disappointing, but I totally understand,” Nelson said. “I’m very empathetic. That had to be a tough decision to make, but that’s the reality.”
Nelson said this is a god reminder for organizations to seek funding from a variety of sources.
“You don’t want to be totally dependent on any one source, especially an organization the size of the River Center,” Nelson said. “And the United Way has never wanted anyone to be completely dependent on their funding.
Home Healthcare, Hospice and Community Services (Friendly Bus, Meals on Wheels) and Monadnock Family Services (Acute Care Services, Monadnock Substance Abuse Services program, Monadnock RSVP Volunteer Center) also had funding for individual programs cut, but kept others thanks to their inclusion in the groupings still receiving money for the year.
But for Ellen Avery, executive director at Community Voklunteer Transportation Company based in Peterborough, the loss of funding beyond April 30 means the end of CVTC’s partnership with the Monadnock United Way that dates back a decade.
Avery said that funding for CVTC began in 2010, when she worked at the United Way, but it has slowly dropped as the years went on. Last year, she received notice of allocation that was half of what she had requested. And when the final campaign numbers came in, that funding dropped by 10 percent to $7,200. Avery said she had gone to the CVTC board to see if they should stay with the United Way since the funding had gone down so much in recent years.
“It was kind of a relief to be let go because it took the decision making out of my hands,” Avery said.
This year, CVTC was awarded $6,500, but will only receive one-third of it, $2,166.67 through April 30.
“There are a lot of reasons they had to do what they needed to do,” Avery said.
While Avery will need to make up for the remaining funds that were anticipated for the remainder of the year, she doesn’t expect to see anything change.
“As of now, I don’t think we’re going to cut anything out of our services,” Avery said. “I think we’ll be alright. We’re just going to keep moving forward. We’re not going to close our doors.”
Avery had a feeling if something changed with the way the United Way funded programs that hers might be among the ones cut out. She knew the directive was geared more toward children and families, and since CVTC, which provided rides to 300 seniors in 34 towns by 85 volunteer drivers, Avery expected any change would mean a loss in funding.
“Now we’re all going to be looking for funding in mass,” Avery said of organizations that serve seniors.
While the loss of funds hurts, CVTC still gets the majority of its funding from other sources, like the Federal Transit Administration, NH Charitable Foundation and local towns, to make up the budget for this year that is around $240,000.
“We don’t have any earned income, so we raise it all,” Avery said.
Other local agencies to lose funding include Monadnock Developmental Services, Maps Counseling Services, Southwestern Community Services and Samaritans.
In 2016, Monadnock United Way launched a strategic plan aimed at addressing areas of need for the long-term stability of the region including child welfare, educational attainment and financial stability. Community Impact was chosen as the foundation of its model, which brings programs together to work toward shared goals and activities. It minimizes duplication of services and maximizes outcomes for the people being served.
With their partners, the Monadnock United Way embarked on a multi-year transition process that provided training and transition funds. During that time, they increased fundraising efforts – both within the workplace campaign and by seeking new philanthropic streams of support.
The new funding streams are showing promise and steady growth with $160,000 raised in 2019 from sources outside of the campaign. However, LaRose said, the anticipated community support through the enhanced workplace campaign to return it closer to that $2 million didn’t happen.
“It’s declining at a rate where it wasn’t sustainable for us to continue funding how we were,” LaRose said.
Yet, the issues facing the community remain, LaRose said, with the latest data showing the region has the third highest rate of child abuse and neglect in the state; Children in this region score lower than the rest of the state in English and math, and the poverty rate in Cheshire County is 1 in 4. In the rest of New Hampshire the rate is 1 in 5.
So in response the decision was made for the Monadnock United Way to realign itself to a size that is sustainable and impactful.
Starting this month, MUW will invest $900,000 in a highly targeted group of partnerships and activities that support the overall well-being of children and families in the areas of emergency housing and access to food, early childhood success through supports including quality childcare, early learning and development of social-emotional skills, and family resources including access to services, parent education and wrap-around supports.
LaRose said that stabilizing families is proven to have a tangible impact on the success of children and on today’s workforce.
MUW will be working in a collaborative Community Impact model with the following programs and activities: Cheshire County Emergency Housing Collaborative, Monadnock Food Pantries Collective, Monadnock Home Visiting Alliance, Monadnock Region Afterschool Collective, Monadnock Parent Education Collective, provide financial assistance for six early childhood centers, the WIC Dental Program, Impact Monadnock Pyramid Model Initiative, and Impact Monadnock Business Ambassadors.
“We’ve got to stay laser focused and use the funds really well and use them for a targeted group,” LaRose said.
The remaining partners, LaRose said, will be transitioned away from funding. She said the decision was difficult for Monadnock United Way and its board to make because each partner plays an essential role in the health of this community.
“We were hoping the decline would flatten but that didn’t happen,” LaRose said. “So unfortunately we might need to plan for it to continue this way for a little longer.”
LaRose said the United Way is still committed to helping those losing funding in any way possible. And the goal is that the fundraising effort will rebound in future years.
“We’re hoping that will happen and this isn’t permanent,” LaRose said.
LaRose said the United Way is also reconfiguring its staff, dropping from eight and a half positions to six with re-aligned roles and responsibilities.
But even with the shift in its direction, LaRose said the promise to the community remains the same to collaborate with partners to support them and the individuals they serve by advocating and aggressively fundraising for the benefit of the community.
For a complete list of 2020 investments, visit https://www.muw.org/2020-investments.