Pharos-Tribune

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April 13, 2014

GUEST COLUMN: United Way offers details explanation

It has been brought to the attention of the United Way of Cass County (UW) administration that unfair and inaccurate reports have surfaced regarding the recent decision by the UW Board of Directors to remove Mental Health America of Cass County (MHACC) as a Member Agency. The UW Board of Directors feels it appropriate to provide an accurate and detailed explanation regarding the removal to donors, citizens and others impacted by this decision.

Anyone who has been involved with the UW in the past fully understands the comprehensive approach to funding our Member Agencies, which ultimately benefit our community. The United Way provides training to agencies and volunteers with respect to the funding process and tools that are utilized in the process. Most significantly, the “Community Investment Process” is comprised of twelve community volunteers, serving two 2-year terms, which receive applications from member agencies, conduct site visits, review budgets, and preside over presentations from those agencies. The volunteers then utilize a scoring system to make ultimate funding recommendations. The process begins in early Spring and concludes in November. From an operational standpoint, the decision-making process of funding member agencies is the most comprehensive and time consuming task in our organization.

The 2013 application year generated many favorable member agency reviews. However, the Community Investment Committee did recommend that the MHACC not receive any funding for the 2014/2015 funding years. Pursuant to the UW by-laws, a written notice was provided to the MHACC by December 1, 2013.

From a historical standpoint, the process which ultimately led to MHACC’s removal transpired over several years. The United Way communicated with the MHACC through meetings and written correspondence regarding concerns over the following items: Poor financial management, unjustified program costs, lack of documentation of program outcomes, inconsistent and unclear reporting, communication issues, poor strategic planning and fund-raising strategies. UW acknowledges that MHACC addressed a few of the concerns but many of the concerns resurfaced and others were not effectively addressed.

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