Monday, September 5, 2016

Why Do I Give to United Way?

As Development and Communications Director of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA), you might wonder why I would take the time to ask you to give to another organization. Well, allow me to explain.  

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas (UWMD) invests in Income, Education and Health, and is making measurable progress in these three areas. My organization, MDHA, leads the development of the homeless response system that will make homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties, rare, brief and non-recurring. How does that connect to what UWMD is doing?

Research shows that the only way to make real social progress is through collective impact – many organizations working together to achieve common goals. Research further shows that you need a strong backbone organization to lead the collective impact, in order for it to work.

Both of our organizations are backbone organizations. UWMD partners with many organizations to work on a number of really big overarching community goals: improving the Income, Education and Health of those in need. We, at MDHA, partner with many organizations to work on a specific narrower goal: making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring. That means that both of our organizations never ask, "What's another cool program we can fund?" We always ask, "What proven solutions will help us achieve our goals?"

Picture this: It is August 2015. There are tents and other temporary structures that have formed a Tent City under I-45. MDHA and its partners have been working with the folks living there for two or three months, getting to know them, building rapport, and connecting them to housing solutions. They know they are making progress, but it is a process.

Then, our VP, Rebecca, sees something she has never seen in any of her previous visits – a one year old baby. She immediately calls our CEO, Cindy, and they, being moms themselves, decide then and there, that this baby is not sleeping outside of a home that night. Rebecca asks the mom a few simple questions, and discovers that the baby's mom has a housing voucher and an apartment waiting for her. So, why on earth is she in a tent?
Well, she can't afford the $45 application fee for the apartment. And the program that got her the voucher is funded by a grant that does not fund application fees. So, she is stuck!

Fortunately, MDHA, with the help of UWMD, had just created the
MDHA Flex Fund. This fund is designed to pay for minor, but impactful expenses that can and do make a huge difference, in helping folks resolve their homelessness. So, Cindy had a $45 check immediately cut for the application fee. Rebecca ran back to the office to pick up the check and deliver it. The problem was solved. Mom and baby were housed. Since that day, with the help of the MDHA Flex Fund, we have helped more than 250 individuals and families, just like that mom and her baby. 

Now, think about the ripple effects of just those original $45. In the business world we would call it the ROI, the return on investment. Better still, think about what happens without those $45. Without those $45, that baby does not have a home. Without a home, how do you escape poverty? Without a home, how do you raise a healthy child? Without a home, how can you and your child concentrate on a kid's number one job, learning? Those $45 get you the package deal. They not only end that family's homelessness; they also give them a solid foundation for improving their Income, Education and Health.

That is why I run a United Way campaign at our office. That is why I give to UWMD. That is why I call on you to give to UWMD. So, do what I do. Figure out how much you can give, and then give that much, plus 10%.
On behalf of UWMD, on behalf of MDHA and on behalf of that baby and her mom, thank you for giving. 

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