United Way of Dane County Vision Council
Part 2 of 2
Barbara Nichols (l-r) and Dr. Timothy Bartholow are
United Way of Dane County’s chair and co-chair of their
CST, will be looking more at communitywide programming and will allocate 20 percent of United Way’s funds.
Ever since the 1990s, United Way has been increasingly counted on as a convener of groups and collaborations targeting community-wide issues and concerns.
While most of these have involved the establishment of taskforces, the Cross System CST is almost an outgrowth of that mandate, encouraging agencies to come
together to focus on specific issues that impact the community as opposed to the individual-focused services funded by the other three CSTs.
“The philosophical intent is that better collaboration and partnerships lead to better outcome results and data,” said Barbara Nichols, incoming chair of United Way’s
Vision Council. “That is intriguing to funders because funders are interested in community impacts in addition to what you are doing with individuals. To the degree
that you can paint this broader picture, I think you increase funding. When you increase funding, you can fund more programs. This affirms a philosophical intent of
United Way, which is the world is changing and in order to be successful in the 21st century, you have to collaborate with a team and be a partner. This is United Way’
s way of saying we’re moving in that direction.”
This reorganization means a lot of change for agencies and how United Way allocates its funds to address community needs. Now that the six traditional CSTs have
been merged into three, the newly created CSTs have to redefine what they are doing.
“When we were the separate CSTs, every CST had a mobilization plan,” Nichols said. “A mobilization plan is created with interaction with the community and experts
around the topics. For example, for Healthy Aging, we had people from the university and colleges from across the United States talk about what the major problems
of the elderly are and what our focus should be so that we aren’t just saying, ‘I want my grandma to have whatever.’”
As an innovative approach, the Cross System CST will have a somewhat different approach. In some ways, United Way hopes that these collaborations — which
must involve two of the three CST areas — will create efficiencies on the agency side that will lead to a more efficient use of the time that the individual seeking
services spends with agency staff.
“Right now, there is a large effort being undertaken to have many of the existing portfolio programs come together and think about how cross system collaboration
could happen and should happen,” said Dr. Timothy Bartholow, vice-chair of the Vision Council. “There are questions about, ‘Do we have a common infrastructure
that we could use?’ If we are going to move to helping families across several different programs and different agencies, we’re going to have to figure out that
answer. What does that infrastructure look like? As we make those kinds of investments, what we believe will happen — maintaining proper privacy is important.
You don’t give up making sure that the patients or the family’s privacy is maintained. But as folks are able to data share in a privacy-sensitive way, our expectation
is that we will be able to intervene with the least number of individuals with the broadest ability to bring what that nuclear family might have required. Instead of
having six different individuals who aren’t communicating, who don’t know when the last one showed up, might even be bumping into each other and believing that
they in overlapping time are going to have access to this family with need, what we hope to have happen is that someone coordinates, ‘Well, these three services
are really necessary this week and we would like them to happen sensitive to the nuclear family’s schedule on this kind of a timeline.’”
Overall, Nichols and Bartholow hope that the eventual success of the collaborations funded by the Cross System CST will help to grow the amount of funding for all
of the service areas that United Way funds.
“There are two ways that we hope this will work,” Bartholow said. “Number one is that there will be as much as there are direct services at this moment; they will
likely continue to be direct service investment. I want to caution us though that United Way donors have been so generous and the needs of the agencies so deep
that we wanted to recruit as many different funding collaborators in this work as possible. So the County, for instance, and the City have been terrific collaborators in
helping us understand how we can help some of our families and some of the populations of families. We think that this Cross System Collaboration will ultimately
make it easier — because of the impact that we these organizations to work together with important data sharing — with the greater positive impact to attract the
confidence of both public funders who exist already and maybe some folks who have not been participating in the United Way before.”
With change comes anxiety, but Nichols feels that the change is necessary in order to keep United Way viable into the foreseeable future. “We are excited about this
change even though we know change frightens a lot of people because we think it is an opportunity to grow in a new way and to be relevant in the 21st century,”
Nichols said. “We’re excited about being chair and vice-chair to sort of be the strategic thinkers or at least ask the strategic questions about what needs to be done
and raise these issues. It’s difficult at the moment to be specific because we’re just starting. But we’re hoping is that we will get input from the community constantly.
‘It sounded good on paper, but come out of your ivory tower.’”
As the 2020 funding process unfolds this spring, United Way is holding a type of two-step funding process to ensure that agencies who form collaborations and apply
for Cross System funding aren’t in an all or nothing proposition. “The Cross System CST may actually find that organizations and programs within organizations may
well designate themselves as a Cross System Collaborator and remove themselves from the current CST funding program and move them into an application for
Cross System,” Bartholow said. “If they are unsuccessful in the Cross System, we don’t abandon the agency. They go back into the pool. We think that in that setting,
we should be able to look at the current portfolio, have the funding continue with the same kind of scrutiny — every two years for a long time, there has been this
careful dialogue that has happened between agencies and the funder — that has made both of us stronger. We don’t sense a wholesale loss of funding for agencies.
One of the things that your readers may be concerned about is, ‘If 20 percent of the funding is going to this other thing, does that mean we’re leaving less funding for
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.
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
While most of the funding for 2020 will be allocated through three CSTs — Education, Income and
Health that will look at birth to end-of-life issues within those categories — a fourth CST, Cross System
a whole variety of other programs.’ That’s not the intent. The intent is to up our
collective game. Barbara and I will feel unsuccessful if doesn’t attract additional
funding. We would expect that the work that we are doing needs to make a greater
impact or we are doing the wrong thing. I think for the next 20 years, United Way
has got to be focused on how do we continue to make an ever better impact, to
make ever stronger executive directors, make ever better dialogues with the
agencies so as to strengthen both organizations. But the community has lots of
resources. And we need to be able to apply it as effectively with confidence from
And so, if this is late spring, the United Way funding process must be in high gear.
“The timeline for funding is during April and May, United Way will be accepting
ideas from agencies, the letters of intent,” Nichols said. “All RFPs are due in late
June. In late June and July, the Cross System applications will be done. By mid-
September, all applications will be reviewed and selected. Investment
recommendations will be prepared and finalized in October. The Vision Council will
review and approve the investment recommendations and make
recommendations for the new programs, which will begin in 2020.”
While in the past, the Vision Council has reviewed the recommendations of the
CSTs with few, if any, changes, it will now have to analyze how the upcoming
recommendations fit into the new structure and mission.
“The Vision Council has always had the role of making recommendations, but it’s
been more of what I would call a structural thing,” Nichols said.“The CSTs review
the programs. They make recommendations. The Vision Council talks about them
and unless there is some problem, you don’t usually counteract the
recommendations fromthe CSTs. But the Vision Council role now in this new goal
is to push these newly merged CSTs as to what they are thinking and how they are
arriving at the scrutiny that they are doing. We want to hear about that as to what
they are doing. So I think those are three things being undertaken. At the same
time, the board has to look at the new role of the CSTs and the Vision Council. I
think it is a time of change for United Way. I think it is both exciting and a little
nerve-wracking because we haven’t done it. Until you are in the pot and the stew
is brewing, we don’t know what we are going to get.”
We hope the change will result in a more equitable and inclusive community.