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Posted at 12:00 AM ET, 05/ 3/2009

A Bright Future for the United Way

By Marisa Katz

As a volunteer and supporter of United Way of the National Capital Area (UWNCA) for more than 15 years, I have witnessed many chapters in the organization's history. Despite dramatic changes in leadership, fluctuation in staffing levels, and the current perilous economic climate, UWNCA has continued to offer critical capacity-building support for its partner agencies.

Although 2 percent of its partner agencies have recently opted to pursue an alternative for workplace giving and membership [front page, April 29], more than 98 percent of the partner agencies that UWNCA serves will continue to receive crucial assistance from the organization.

While this development is unfortunate, it is not, as the Post story described it, "a blow to the United Way of the National Capital Area's efforts to move beyond its recent history." Rather, it simply illustrates the freedom of organizations to seek out what they feel is the best partnership to meet their needs. The 978 local nonprofits that have opted to continue their partnerships with UWNCA do so because they know the facts:

-- That UWNCA is an area leader in helping partner organizations expand their reach, stretch their resources and deliver key services to their constituencies.

-- That the organization dispersed $82 million over the past three years to support health and human service programs; that it offers multiple avenues for donors to give and provides numerous resources for partner agencies.

-- That UWNCA has used complete transparency to regain its most valuable asset -- the public trust.

To protect the best interests of partner agencies, UWNCA streamlined processes and reduced administrative fees by 50 percent this year. It charges a flat fee of 5 percent for all of the services offered to affiliated nonprofits. UWNCA continues to work to lighten the strain on smaller organizations and to save them precious time and overhead.

UWNCA will only offer its partner agencies more benefits and greater confidence as it welcomes a new chief executive, William A. Hanbury, on July 1 to provide fresh perspective and new leadership.

The UWNCA is a resilient organization -- a group of people who work every day to help other like-minded people improve our community. I have observed this first-hand as a volunteer with UWNCA. The organization has not only survived, it has persevered. Committed staff members, an army of volunteers and a dedicated board of directors have all worked diligently to help the organization continue to deliver services at the highest level.

It is no secret that there are a number of needs in the Washington area and in these trying economic times, it is harder than ever to rally support for these needs. Let's not waste time on the past. Let's focus our attention once again on the important task at hand -- repairing our community.

The writer is a member of the UWNCA's Women's Leadership Council Advisory Board.

By Marisa Katz  | May 3, 2009; 12:00 AM ET
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