United Way seeks applicant expansion

By Dawn Schuett

As the United Way of Olmsted County moves forward with a plan to create greater social change in the community, it's willing to consider applications for funding from more agencies.

"Our work going forward will be much more inclusive and collaborative," Karen M. Erlenbusch, United Way president, said Thursday at the Edison Building. "The United Way of Olmsted County alone cannot complete this work. It will take new and existing partnerships for us to collectively achieve a greater, stronger community."

About 70 programs at 31 nonprofit agencies received United Way funds raised during the 2003 campaign. This year, agencies that haven't received funding in the past may be invited to apply for dollars if they demonstrate the positive results they can have in the community in any of the four areas in the United Way Community Agenda for Change.


Last spring, the United Way board of directors approved the agenda, outlining four areas to improve conditions in the community. The list includes nurturing children and youth, promoting health, building skills for self-sufficiency and community basics.

In recent months, United Way volunteers serving on Community Solutions Teams identified what outcomes programs should strive for in each area and indicators of success that help to gauge whether the desired outcomes are being achieved.

The indicators of success were announced Thursday. Some indicators are to decrease the number of uninsured in Olmsted County by 0.5 percent and to increase the number of food shelves or pantries open to the community from four to seven.

The different aspects of the Community Agenda for Change address the needs of the community and individuals in a more comprehensive way, Erlenbusch said.

To make that kind of change, she said, it will take more than the current list of agencies that received United Way funding in recent years.

"Will some programs not be funded? Potentially, yes," said Betsy Koehnen, co-chairwoman of the United Way Community Building Vision Council.

"We need to have more players and strong players on our team" in order to have a greater impact in the community, she said. "With that, better things can be done."

United Way will accept letters of intent or pre-applications from tax-exempt organizations focusing on health and human services through Oct. 21. Invitations for full applications will be issued to agencies once the United Way has reviewed the pre-applications.


Programs that haven't received United Way funding before are eager to see if they might be considered this year.

Sue Swanson, director of the Displaced Homemaker Program, said she intends to complete a pre-application.

"I think we encompass a lot of things they're looking for but maybe are not so obvious," Swanson said. The program helps men and women to become self-sufficient.

Agencies that have long received United Way funding are approaching the application process with some nervousness.

"Yes, there's some uncertainty as to what the outcome will be for funding our programs and our activities here and our mission, basically," said Dean Stenehjem, executive director of the Rochester Area Family Y, which had three programs awarded a total of more than $250,000 from the 2003 campaign.

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