United Way: Let the funding process begin — carefully

  • Some of the 300 backpacks collected for the United Way’s 12th annual drive. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon

Recorder Staff
Friday, December 29, 2017

GREENFIELD — Joining the allocations committee for the United Way, Sue Dillon quickly realized how much there was to learn.

The list of agencies that the United Way of Franklin County tends to work with is long, and many of these names are recognizable. Nonetheless, the specific work the nonprofits do on a daily basis, the way their annual funds are spent, is something that Dillon had plenty to learn about.

The yearly process of how much money the local chapter of the United Way gives to its partner agencies is often a rigorous one, Dillon explained. It’s one they want the community to understand better as the United Way approaches the start of the allocation process again in January.

“I think it’s important for people to understand it is extremely well thought out,” Dillon said. “There’s a lot of work put into it and it’s well worth it.”

For the 2017 to 2018 fiscal year, the United Way of Franklin County is partnered with 26 agencies, from Community Action to the United Arc and more. As the process begins to figure out who will receive funding and how much, Dillon and this year’s committee are thinking about what needs the community has and how they can best assist.

“It’s a huge learning experience and a good way to know that your donations are definitely being put to great use,” Dillon said.

Trust the process

Dan Kunhardt, board member and co-chair of the community investment process, has been a part of the decisions to distribute funding for about the last 15 years.

“The board and staff feel that community investment is one of the most important processes we do every year,” Kunhardt said.

With the deadline to apply for funding right around the corner, in early January, Kunhardt explained what will happen once all of these applications are in.

The allocations committee, which includes several volunteers every year, will review applications during their biweekly meetings. Over a roughly six-week period, committee members will meet with and visit all of the organizations applying for funding.

“We definitely want to help everyone, but we have to do it fairly and work carefully to make sure the money is used appropriately,” Dillon said.

The review process concludes with a night of decision-making on final numbers.

“We are so fortunate in Franklin County to have all of these organizations that want to help the residents of our county and they do it with so little money,” Dillon said. “So it’s very difficult to not give them everything they’re asking for.”

Oftentimes, requests will be about double of what the United Way can offer the organizations, Kunhardt said. Overall, the United Way will look to see if there is overlap between organizations in the county, seeking ways that agencies can potentially partner up to better serve the region.

“But each year we try to step back and look beyond the same agencies and the same programs,” Kunhardt said. “Are the community’s needs changing and how can our funding address those changes?”

Some of these cases are like that of the opioid epidemic and its continued effect on the county.

“For example, we’re now funding one or two programs that (deal with) the opiate crisis,” Kunhardt said. “We wish more were applying.”

As another year of funding and campaigning moves forward — with this year’s campaign co-chaired by The Recorder’s Publisher Michael Rifanburg — the United Way of Franklin County continues to try to address local problems with the help of local people.

“It really is quite an experience and says a lot about people in our community,” Dillon said.


The United Way of Franklin County is in the middle of its fundraising campaign for its 80th year.

2018 goal: $800,000

Under the guidance of Rifanburg and fellow campaign co-chair Maeve Shaughnessy, the organization is looking to raise $800,000 this year. The fundraiser started in September and goes until June 30.

Those who would like to make a contribution can visit the United Way of Franklin County’s website, www.uw-fc.org or call 413-772-2168 for more information.

Reach Joshua Solomon at:


413-772-0261, ext. 264