FAQ

What is Middlesex United Way? What does Middlesex United Way do?

Middlesex United Way is a locally-based, volunteer-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to to strengthening lives, helping people, and improving community conditions in the fifteen towns in Middlesex County. United Way partners with local agencies and town organizations to provide these needed services and programs and find solutions to chronic community problems, like substance abuse among youth and the need for affordable, decent housing for low-income families.

Our focus areas and goals reflect the priority concerns of our residents and top human care needs of our county. We also believe that these four areas are the building blocks needed for any person to lead a better life. Our focus areas are:

  • EDUCATION: To increase children's readiness to learn by school entry.
  • INCOME: To increase the economic self-sufficiency of individuals and families.
  • HEALTH: To reduce the rate of risky behaviors among youth and adults and improve the health and increase the safety of individuals and families.
  • HOUSING: To increase the ability of individuals and families to attain affordable housing.

How were these focus areas determined?

We have established an agenda for Middlesex County that reflects the values and concerns of our residents and provides direction for our funding priorities. To do this, we looked at local needs assessment results, input from residents during United Way-sponsored "community conversations" held with residents of all 15 towns, and calls to Connecticut's 24-hour crisis and information hotline, United Way 2-1-1. These sources helped us identify issues that consistently rank as top concerns and present ongoing struggles for our residents.

How is United Way tackling community problems?

Middlesex United Way assembled teams of volunteers, including town officials, concerned residents, service providers, community leaders, and experts to focus on chronic community problems that present ongoing challenges for our residents. Their recommendations shape our work and inform our funding priorities.

To tackle these social problems effectively, we have to address the root causes and invest in long-term solutions that can improve community conditions and prevent problems from happening in the first place. That means investing more in prevention-based programs that serve a larger population than those identified as needing assistance.

  • Healthy Communities-Healthy Youth (Health): this substance abuse prevention initiative, developed after extensive research by the Search Institute, brings all sectors of a community together to focus on activities that promote healthy youth and adolescent development.
  • School Readiness (Education): this early childhood mental health initiative coordinates the efforts of local pediatricians, day care providers, and preschool teachers to identify and serve children ages birth to five with behavioral problems with the goal of increasing their school readiness.
  • Affordable Housing for Working Families: United Way is initially focusing on helping working families along the shoreline who are living in motels, their only affordable housing option. United Way is funding HOPE (Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere) to create more affordable housing units in Old Saybrook. We are also working with Middlesex Habitat for Humanity and are a key participant in the Middlesex County Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness.

What does volunteer-driven mean?

Approximately 1,000 volunteers, including concerned residents, business and community leaders, human service providers, and educators, are involved in managing all aspects of Middlesex United Way. Volunteers make up the board of directors, lead the annual fundraising effort, review all United Way funding partners, and oversee United Way's work creating real, substantive changes in community conditions in our focus areas. All funding decisions are recommended and approved by volunteers.

Is Middlesex United Way just a fundraiser?

Middlesex United Way does much more than just fundraising. United Way is a partner in change, working with a broad range of people and organizations to identify and resolve pressing community issues. Our fundraising efforts are one way that we bring about positive change in individual lives and community conditions because the campaign gives us the ability to fund needed services, programs and town-based initiatives. However, United Way also works to:

  • Identify community needs and priorities
  • Facilitate the efforts of those who can help bring about needed positive changes
  • Monitor its funding partners to ensure they are using United Way dollars as effectively and efficiently as possible
  • Promote volunteerism county-wide

Where does the money that Middlesex United Way raises go?

Your gift to Middlesex United Way stays in Middlesex County, unless you designate it elsewhere. Middlesex United Way is the largest non-governmental funder of local community programs and services in Middlesex County. United Way dollars are targeted to meet critical community needs in the county not funded by other sources and invest in long-term solutions to top social problems, like the need for affordable housing for working families, substance abuse prevention among youth, and assistance to preschool-aged children with behavioral problems.

Who decides how to spend the dollars raised by Middlesex United Way's fundraising efforts?

All United Way funding decisions are made by volunteers. Each year, all services, programs and town-based projects currently funded by United Way are reviewed by volunteers, who are experienced in analyzing budgets, program efficiency and effectiveness. Organizations seeking funding present written proposals to United Way and its volunteer teams. Funding decisions are based on dollars available, community need and on the ability of the applicant to meet that need.

How is Middlesex United Way different from other United Ways?

The United Way system includes more than 1,300 community-based United Way organizations in the United States and around the world. Each is independent, separately incorporated and governed by a local, volunteer Board of Directors. Because of the unique conditions in diverse communities, the issues United Ways address are determined locally. Middlesex United Way is unique in that it is dedicated to addressing the most pressing community needs and issues facing the fifteen towns of Middlesex County (Chester, Clinton, Cromwell, Deep River, Durham, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Killingworth, Middlefield, Middletown, Old Saybrook, Portland, and Westbrook).

Does Middlesex United Way have its financial condition audited?

Yes, each year an independent CPA firm audits the books and provides an audit and management letter to United Way's Board of Directors. Independent auditors also audit funded agencies. Click here to read more about our accountability.

How big is the United Way staff and what do they do?
There are 5 full-time and 3 part-time staff at Middlesex United Way. The staff is responsible for the coordination of approximately 1,000 volunteers who work to fulfill United Way's mission mobilizing the caring power of communities to strengthen lives and help people. Supporting the work of volunteers, United Way staff:

  • Secure the necessary resources, including $1.8 million annually, to support needed community programs, services and town-based projects that meet residents' basic needs and address pressing community issues.
  • Coordinate United Way's efforts tackling chronic community problems, like the need for affordable housing for working families, assistance to preschool-aged children with behavioral problems, and substance abuse prevention for school-aged youth. To accomplish this work, staff coordinate the efforts of a diverse group of partners, including concerned residents, town officials, schools, services providers, and community leaders.
  • Ensure strong financial management and governance at the highest level of accountability and transparency in United Way's operations.
  • Participate in various community collaborations aimed at addressing critical community needs and improving the provision of health and human services, including the Healing Racism Coalition, Opportunity Knocks for Middletown Children, and the Middlesex County Coalition on Housing & Homelessness.
  • United Way staff also operate a Volunteer Center that matches the interests of individuals with local non-profit agencies in need of volunteer help. The Volunteer Center coordinates United Way's Day of Caring, an annual event that involves hundreds of local employees working at various community service projects throughout the county.

How does an agency or organization become a United Way funding partner?

Any registered not-for-profit agency that provides health and human services to the people of Middlesex County and meets identified critical community needs and priorities may apply for United Way funding. Agencies must submit detailed financial statements, a certified audit, as well as information on programs and services to be provided. Volunteers review all applicants and make decisions about funding. For more information about applying, contact United Way staff.

How much money actually goes to community services, programs and town-based projects?

Nearly 82 cents of every dollar donated to Middlesex United Way supports local services and programs that meet basic needs, improve community conditions and help get to the root causes of some of our most pressing problems. Middlesex United Way's low overhead rate of 18.19% is well below than the standard of 35 cents recommended for charities by the Better Business Bureau.

What is Middlesex United Way's relationship with United Way Worldwide?

United Way Worldwide is the international organization dedicated to leading the United Way movement in making a measurable impact in each community. Middlesex United Way pays dues of less than one penny of every dollar contributed, or less than 1% of money raised. The value of benefits received from United Way Worldwide, such as national government relations, free marketing and advertising support, trainings, support to national companies running campaigns, is always far more than is paid in dues and helps keep our local costs down.

Why should I give to United Way? Why not just donate directly to an agency?

There are many valuable non-profit organizations in the area you may care about. United Way provides an opportunity for your one gift to support a variety of local needs, such as preventing substance abuse among youth, literacy and job training, affordable housing for working families and individuals, and emergency food and shelter. Through one gift to United Way, you can accomplish so much good!

You can also be assured that your gift to Middlesex United Way goes directly to fund programs that help people most in need. United Way conducts periodic needs assessments to ensure donor dollars are addressing the most pressing community needs. We also monitor funded programs and initiatives annually to make sure they are efficiently and effectively improving people's lives and making a positive impact. Middlesex United Way volunteers ensure that contributions are doing the most good in the community.

United Way offers the convenience of payroll deduction through the support of local employers, allowing employees to give a substantial annual gift through small weekly contributions. You may also decide to give online through our site.

I give to United Way but still get solicitations from its funding partners. Why?

Middlesex United Way support provides only part of the operational expenses of our funding partners. In other words, United Way dollars fund specific programs and initiatives of each funding partner. United Way does not fund the entire agency.

All funding partners agree not to solicit through payroll deductions at the workplace and not to solicit corporate gifts during the United Way campaign. They can fundraise in the community throughout the year to help support programs and operating expenses. If you are already supporting the United Way campaign, you know you are already making a significant contribution to the community and assisting that agency's mission.
 

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