United Way of Dane County Vision Council
Part 1 of 2
Barbara Nichols (l-r) and Dr. Timothy Bartholow are
United Way of Dane County’s chair and co-chair of their
“I volunteered when I was volunteered by Barbara, about five years ago,” Bartholow said with a laugh about his tenure with United Way.
“I think I started volunteering with United Way in 2014,” Nichols added. “I think that is amazing to be elevated in five years. We don’t know how we got selected, but
we decided not to ask. We’ve worked together for over 20 years on various medical and nursing specific activities. We’re very comfortable working with each
Nichols and Bartholow have a big task ahead of them, making the dream — the plan — of United Way into a reality. One of the big changes is that where there were
once six CSTs, there are now four of them.
“They took the six CSTs and merged into three: health, education and income,” Nichols said. “And the fourth is the new CST, which the co-chairs of the Vision
Council chairs, which is the Cross System CST. And the goal of the Cross System CST is to look at collaborations among education, income and health and to look at
commonalities in terms of collaborating for funding and sharing data resources. The goal is one, it would streamline the funding process. But more importantly, it
would strengthen collaboration because what United Way already knows is that there are many collaborations going on in the city. But they aren’t united when they
request funding necessarily with United Way. We think it is a way to strengthen the work of United Way with the community input and insight.”
While many of the issues that the community faces remain the same, how agencies and organizations approach the solutions to those issues have evolved and so
United Way is evolving its approach as well.
“What we found as the Self-Reliance and Independence SCT co-chairs was there were times when the health things we were working on actually overlapped with
Promote Health for Life,” Bartholow said. “We were unclear on who actually had the health ball. Essentially across the six CSTs, they each actually unite nicely in
the health, education and income areas. We believed it would be a more sensible way to actually manage the portfolio of responsibilities.”
While many of the traditional services that United Way funds will continue to be funded through the three traditional CSTs, the fourth CST, Cross System, will be
supporting innovations in how people approach the work.
“What you need to know in terms of the umbrella view is that 20 percent of the money raised this year or $1.5 million will go to the Cross System CST,” Nichols said.
“And we are in the throes of working that out. We cannot be specific except to talk in broad categories. But in order to get funded by the Cross System CST, one of
these three CSTs have to have two areas that they are working in, either health and education, or health and income or whatever. In order to get funded by the Cross
System CST, you have to have a program that relates to two of the categories. In terms of overall funding, the historic and traditional way of funding is still available
this funding cycle. What is new is the Cross System. That is what we are working out this year. So you can apply the way that you historically the way that you
always have and/or you can apply in terms of this new collaborative effort.”
Collaboration has been a funding buzz word over the last couple of decades. And it appears that United Way wants to take it beyond the traditional agency approach,
but short of any kind of merger of agencies.
“I think the philosophical intent is that United Way through its community activities has concluded that doing things singularly doesn’t give you as much traction,”
Nichols said. “And that to assist, enable or engage better outcomes, you need partnerships and team effort. And so, the whole idea of the Cross System CST in this
collaborative effort is to support, engage and encourage people to think about how we can do this together. The outcome of that is we should be talking a similar
language in terms of definitions so that we are all singing from the same page. And we will have data that is aggregated that is more useful in terms of the kinds of
things that you want to enact change in the community.”
“The United Way has been focused on making a community impact,” Bartholow added. “We have large problems, with a generous donor base and programs by
agencies that have been both vigorously supported by staff in those agencies and then crafty and resourceful in finding ways to solve the problem they are working
on. That system works pretty well all and all. As you know, each of the CSTs have gone out and carefully reviewed each agency. There is an every other year
dialogue that happens between the Community Solutions Team that funds that program and the program. That’s been a vigorous process. We also recognize though
that we have some careful data sharing, organizations can achieve more than they used to achieve on their own. So the funding that has been available through our
Vision Council will continue to fund many of the same programs with the same sort of scrutiny that has happened every other year. The Cross System Community
Solution Team will likely have some of the existing programs within the portfolio already come together and we’re going to challenge them to data share in a way
that they may not have before. If I have a little extra on one side of town for community members that I could share or maybe I have a need that someone else around
the county might be able to help me with, as much as they could share their information, they may together have a greater impact by working together to solve the
individual community member’s challenge.”
Next issue: More on collaboration
By Jonathan Gramling
Ever since the mid 1990s, United Way of Dane County has been changing and evolving how it provides
funding to impact community needs and issues. While $19.5 million — United Way’s annual budget —
may sound like a lot of money, the needs in the Dane County area are greater and so United Way needs
to be strategic in how it invests its money in community resources and organizations.
Back in the early 2000s, United Way created six Community Solutions Teams to focus on six different
need and issue areas as a part of United Way’s Agenda for Change. United Way is currently undertaking
another reorganization — or maybe mini-reorganization — to better achieve its agenda, in its view.
At the top of United Way’s organization chart is its board of directors. Directly beneath that is the Vision
Council, which coordinates all of United Way’s community investment activities. And at the helm of the
Vision Council are Barbara Nichols, the chair of the council and Dr. Timothy Bartholow, the vice-chair.
Nichols and Bartholow previously worked together as co-chairs for United Way’s Self-Reliance and