It is truly an exciting time to be a leader in the United Way network. For more than 100 years, we have built upon the transformative model of payroll deduction in order to elevate communities through individual nonprofits, thus fundraiser on behalf of others. A true innovation in its time.
Decades later, the concept of outcomes was introduced, and United Way once again took the lead in ensuring that individual nonprofits knew how, what and when to measure their work so that they could tell their story and attract investments that lessened their dependency on one funding source.
Once again, when United Way was faced with rising to meet community expectations or staying the course, a decade ago, this United Way made the decision to rise. Although there was no path, no instruction manual to lead the way, a team and leadership that did not fully understand or were reticent to change, we believed change was the right thing to do to build upon the work United Way had accomplished in Manatee County over decades and engage in solutions that lead to community thrivability. Community impact through collective impact.
▪ Community impact — Our entire community benefits from investments in strategies that support theories of change.
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▪ Collective impact — the commitment of a group of important players from different sectors (citizens, government, media, nonprofits, businesses) to a common agenda focused on solutions for socially complex issues.
With no roadmap, we have created one of our own. With no “model” to emulate, we have forged one for Manatee County. It is a privilege to work with community leaders with intrinsic passion for the work. Leaders who have enthusiastically embraced change and those who have continued on, committed to learning and understanding along the way even when the view was not clear.
From researching best practices (and not so best practices), to recruiting, developing and training talent, to ensuring internal capacity, to engaging community voices through 400 conversations, to bringing the national Grade-Level Reading movement to Manatee County and engaging more than 40 community stakeholders in ensuring success, to engaging a leadership group of women in the story of ALICE and awareness raising, to sharing vision, passion and leadership, it is a privilege for this team to serve our community through the United Way. As a result, it is an honor to have community leaders turn to this United Way, for expertise, guidance, input and leadership.
If independent nonprofits had the ability to organize, focus efforts and bring in community partners to impact root causes, public policy and systems changes that address socially complex issues (such as one out of every two children in Manatee County not reading on grade level!), we might not need the United Way. That is not the case. One major fact elicited from speaking with community: We need the United Way to “make sense of it all,” to be that North Star guiding and leading community and making the hard decisions that will change the trajectory of our community.
We are on the precipice of realizing these efforts and it will take community to ensure success. Manatee Mind Trust: Brilliant Minds. Bright Future is a collective, child-focused vision for our county’s greatness. It is a multi-faceted approach to drive community thrivability — reaching individuals, but impacting the collective. Brilliant minds need health. Brilliant minds need education. Brilliant minds need financial stability.
It is unacceptable that half of our third-graders are not reading on grade level. It is unacceptable that 43 percent of our community members are working hard and struggling to make ends meet. It is unacceptable that every community member is not able to access healthcare and healthcare supports they need to create thrivability for themselves and their families. United Way is committed to changing the trajectory of our community.
Our focus is clear: We fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Manatee County. What makes our work so special is that we are of and by community. Join us at uwmanatee.org!
Bronwyn Beightol is the chief operating officer and senior vice president of United Way of Manatee County.