Thanks to Berks County’s incredible generosity, more than $10.5 million was raised during United Way’s 2017 campaign. Campaign dollars are invested into our community by funding over 50 programs, initiatives and grants benefitting more than 100,000 Berks Countians each year. United Way works with 34 agency partners, donors, volunteers, businesses and other community partners to tackle key issues with the focus areas of education, financial stability, health and safety net services.
The process of investing in these programs would not be possible without the dedication of community volunteers. Each focus area consists of its own group of Focus Area Panel (FAP) volunteers, which is led by a Chair and Vice Chair. With the help of 33 FAP volunteers in 2018, United Way appropriately allocated the dollars to the various programs through the annual review process. This volunteer-driven process ensures that donor contributions are put to work in programs and services that meet critical community needs.
As part of this process, in January, partner agencies begin to complete their annual reporting applications regarding their United Way funded program(s). The agencies use this opportunity to share information on how they have used the previous year’s investment to support the need of their clients through the work of their program. The application provides volunteers with the opportunity to learn about the work and growth of the program due to United Way funding. Community Impact Cabinet Chair, Scott Rehr, sees the value of this process because, “the volunteers take it seriously and hold the agencies accountable.”
FAP volunteers are provided with the detailed applications to begin to review prior to the FAP meetings. "This process not only provides volunteers with more knowledge about the programs, but they also learn more about the community and its needs,” Rehr shared. “Since volunteers see agencies from the same focus areas, they get a sense of what others are doing in the community within the same field.” Education FAP volunteer and United Way Board member Laurie Peer shared, “I’ve been impressed by the quality of the programs and how they take care of the needs of the community.”
FAP meetings are an extensive process, consisting of a total of 13 four-hour sessions over a three-month period. During the meetings volunteers have the opportunity to meet with representative from each Partner Agency and ask questions with regard to their applications and programs. Peer also shared, “These meetings provide such a broad view of the community needs and how they are being taken care of by the agencies.”
Once the FAP meetings conclude, and the recommendations regarding the annual investments have been made by each panel, all FAP Chairs and Vice Chairs gather to review and discuss the recommendations, which are then presented to the Community Impact Cabinet, and then ultimately to the United Way Board for approval.
Scott Rehr is grateful to be a part of this process, sharing, “It is very rewarding and inspiring working with the volunteers and the United Way team.” Rehr has the opportunity of experiencing this process in two ways. “I saw the process from the other side,” said Rehr, who prior to his current career, served as the Executive Director of a partner agency, Berks Connections/Pretrial Services. “I know how much work the volunteers and United Way put into ensuring the agencies are accountable.”