United Way’s innovation

The United Way of Snohomish County is one of those community totems, more nimble and effective than many might imagine. It’s an example of an old-school institution that doesn’t exhibit old-school thinking.

The organization, which has served Snohomish County for more than 70 years, announced its latest round of funding: $7.9 million for 107 programs over the next three years. Dr. David Beyer, president of Everett Community College, is the 2013 board chair and Jon Nehring, mayor of Marysville, serves as the 2013 campaign head.

The process of deciding where United Way money goes is inclusive and deliberate.

In 2013, volunteers spent more than 2,500 hours studying the community, hearing from experts and identifying priority investment areas. Here is one way that United Way addresses the immediate needs of our community — through existing programs that are doing good work.

When it studies the community and identifies long-term, systemic concerns not being addressed by the safety net, the United Way works with its community partners to launch initiatives that respond to the root causes. Here innovation and adaptability find expression.

In Marysville and Lake Stevens, the focus is child development. By supporting early learning, encouraging reading, and responding to the fallout of adverse childhood experiences, United Way is working to ensure that kids have every opportunity to succeed in school.

They also labor to ensure Snohomish County families are increasing the amount of money they have by helping them earn more, keep more, invest some and, more importantly, save. United Way’s free tax preparation centers for low-income families helped clients earn $5.1 million in credits that they wouldn’t otherwise have known about. Much of that money was spent right here in the community at our stores, in restaurants and more.

Working with local educators, the organization helped develop teaching materials and classes for ESL, creating opportunities for people with limited English to learn the language and not be as isolated.

United Way of Snohomish County has been adapting “Lean” management principles (typically found in manufacturing, espoused by Boeing and now state government) to fit the nonprofit world. It has done such a good job with Lean that Boeing recently awarded United Way a grant to teach other nonprofits .

All of these successes are possible because of the generosity of people like you. Each of us can still donate directly to United Way by going to uwsc.org/give.php. It’s one of the best ways to invest in Snohomish County.

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