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I have been on all sides of the United Way of Lane County.

Years ago, I helped write a grant to become a United Way funded agency partner. In this role, I wrote the quarterly reports to United Way that kept them up-to-date on how we managed the allocated funds. I was a speaker at countless worksites informing employees about our agency and how we coordinated with other agencies to provide services.

Once I left the agency, I volunteered as a 'Loaned Executive', one of many who help run the annual workplace campaigns. I've served on funding panels of both continuing programs and new agencies wishing to be part of the United Way 'family'.

United Way of Lane County has always held itself to the same standards to which it holds the agencies it funds: low administrative costs (especially when compared to other fund-raising organizations), collaboration in everything it does, and a pro-active response to community needs. United Way of Lane County uses its administrative dollars to provide technical support to agencies, write grants that fund multiple agencies, and staff the annual workplace fund-raising campaigns. No single agency can do this.

The tendency for nonprofit agencies to try to "be all" for the people they serve is an impossible task. United Way has consistently been able to bring these people to the table to identify and address our community's needs in ways that utilize each agency's strengths and avoids duplication.

Funding decisions at United Way of Lane County are guided by volunteers who come together to vet the programs that apply for funding. They read the grants, conduct on-site interviews, ask probing questions about outcomes, and prioritize the programs. Allocated funds go to specific programs (direct services to clients) within nonprofit agencies.

There is always more need than can be filled, even in a flush economy, and these volunteers must make the tough decision recommendations that go to the Board of Directors for final approval.

To me, being part of United Way is equivalent to getting the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval!