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Heritage United Way

Manchester, New Hampshire, hosts many nonprofits, ranging from early childhood education to elderly transportation, from affordable housing to public health. Heritage, an important funder, serves fifteen communities. Heritage is representative of UWA chapters generally. Starting in 2000, donations began to decline along with its community influence. Heritage noticed and sought a solution by exploring the UWA guidance regarding strategic funding and community impact.

Yet, with a staff of ten and no experience in outcomes measurement, Heritage leaders felt it needed an experienced partner. Heritage approached the Applied Research Center (ARC) at the School of Community Economic Development in Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) for help. Heritage entered into a partnership with SNHU, cost-sharing a contract with the ARC. ARC was to design a needs assessment, a prioritizing process, and performance measurement systems to determine impact and show the added value attributable to Heritage donations, all through a broad community planning process.

The Intervention

The intervention consisted of a research, planning, capacity-building, and organizational development program designed by ARC and implemented in a sweat-equity partnership with Heritage. Research examined social and economic indicators in a baseline study. The planning program guided the overall strategy and convened community stakeholders to elicit data-driven discussion of community needs and priorities for Heritage's philanthropic programs. Training built capacity of member agencies in logic models and performance measurement and designed a new management-information system to report and monitor performance outcomes. As part of the organizational development program, Heritage created new strategic grants, shifted to a request for proposal (REP) model to fund agencies, reorganized its grant-making, and transformed itself into a strategic philanthropy. No agencies were defunded.

In 2005, Heritage agreed to transition to a community impact and performance measurement system to add to its community chest model the features of strategic philanthropy (Heritage United Way 2007). This new initiative was named the Community Impact Program. The ARC strategic philanthropy model entailed (1) periodic targeting of resources to address strategic priorities; (2) reflecting these targets in RFPs to community agencies, to be addressed in their ensuing grant proposals; (3) a UW proposal review and grant-making process based on target priorities and available resources; (4) periodic agency reporting (and UW monitoring) of program performance data based on specific program goals set out in their grant proposals; (5) ongoing use of program performance data by UW to realign resources and funding priorities for the following year and by agencies to adjust their program goals on the basis of missed and achieved goals; and (6) periodic redefinition of strategic priorities and targeting of resources by Heritage. ARC and UW anticipated that the model would entail a transition to multiyear funding adjusted (or discontinued) through annual review, seeking to

• Target grants at evolving areas of high and/or strategic community need.

• Make measurable and demonstrable change in those need areas over time.

• Allow Heritage to show donors how their money makes a difference.

Heritage decided to concentrate grant-making in public education, health, and housing/community development. Almost all their partner agencies fit into one of these. This decision realigned the philanthropic strategy with little disruption. Strategic targets were free to shift within a domain (e.g., community development). Agencies faced competition for funds in a domain – a common enough experience – hut not a shift in what domains would be funded. Agency grants would be based on need, and denial of funding on relevance or nonperformance.

The intervention was designed to take place over three years and included research, planning, training, and organizational development programs by ARC-UW teams. Heritage staff would later report to the board that community impact invigorates fund-raising by enhancing donor confidence: it highlights needs identified through data and community stakeholder input; links grants to specific program outcomes, showing donors how their money makes a difference; linked to marketing, it enhances UW's visibility as a leading, enabling community agent; and sets the stage to leverage other funding sources (e.g., foundation matching grants, municipal management contracts) in support of board priorities.


The strategic philanthropy role required Heritage to conduct analyses of community needs to then target priorities and allocate resources. But UW also needed to reestablish its role in the community. ARC recommended pursuing the role of a more activist philanthropy – convening community discussions and enabling problem-solving planning in its three funding areas. Heritage would shift from an intermediary fund-raiser to an active, leading agent. This shift focused on convener, enabler, partner, and leader roles.

In the first year, ARC examined regional social and economic indicators to identify community conditions. Findings were discussed with municipal and community agencies. This process illuminated issues and brought together groups with similar goals. Data were analyzed and organized into demographic and economic profiles for Greater Manchester and baseline profiles for UW in health, public education, and housing/community development. Results were widely distributed in a Community Indicators monograph (Camayd-Freixas et al. 2006).

Community Indicators democratized data and information, fostered informed civic discourse, elicited and prioritized strategies, and tracked progress on a shared

civic agenda to (1) provide a baseline against which to measure future progress and assess changing trends in community needs, and (2) identify startup strategic priorities and proportionately target resources to address them. The publication signaled Heritage's return to active relevance.

Planning Program

The planning program guided the overall strategy and designed a public convening process to elicit data-driven discussion of community needs and priorities. In early summer, Heritage convened stakeholders and held public forums in public education, health, and housing/community development. At each forum, ARC presented baseline studies and discussed community needs. The goal of the forums was to discuss the accuracy of data based on its fit with local knowledge and provide a data-driven context to elicit public input and priorities and recommendations. Ideas generated were captured and included in Community Indicators. Community stakeholders were invited to the forums using a search conference model to achieve broad representation (Camayd-Freixas, Baker-Smith, and Schon 1984). This approach entails the application of network sampling methods to select a balanced cross section of stakeholders, followed by a strategic planning process applied to entire communities.

The second set of meetings consisted of more specialized planning with UW partners. Heritage played an activist philanthropy role as convener, enabler, and partner. The goal of the meetings was to cross-fertilize ideas generated by the Community Indicators research and forums to identify new and innovative strategic funding initiatives. Each area identified problems and interventions designed to use UW funds to leverage existing resources in new ways. For example, research noted a high rate of tooth extractions among school-aged children – deemed a deficit in dental health insurance. The Health Department had operated a large bus equipped with dental chairs for preventive hygiene, but its staff had retired. A plan was proposed to remake the dental hygiene bus into a primary dental care program traveling between local schools; the city would redefine the Health Department open positions to hire a dentist, and UW would fund the program gaps. Leveraging resources to target need with a highly visible bus that offered a school-based direct service was a model approach to community impact and performance measurement. As such, it offered agencies preparing proposals for the 2008 REPs with a model.

A community impact goal is to reestablish the UW's role in the community to invigorate fund-raising through enhanced donor confidence. Marketing enhances visibility as an active, leading agent – an activist philanthropy engaged in convening community discussions and enabling problem solving. This goal cannot be achieved through dialogue between UW and its network. Yet this was not accomplished by planning even though the three forums addressed key themes and convened in fifteen municipalities. Since community impact entails follow-up convening and public events, Heritage contracted with a firm to implement a marketing plan.

Community Capacity Building

The capacity-building program was designed to train Heritage member agencies, staff, and select volunteers in logic models and performance measurement (Camayd-Freixas 2006). Agencies and Heritage staff were shown how to link programs to strategic performance outcomes and accountability. An additional benefit is it prepares agencies to submit proposals to other funders requiring logic models (e.g., federal agencies).

ARC trained UW staff and member agency staff to (1) target resources to address emerging and strategic priorities (new Community Impact Committee [CIC]);

(2) prepare member agency RFP submissions outcome/performance measures;

(3) review funding awards based on priorities and resources (reorganized Citizen Review Teams [CRT] and staff); and (4) use performance data to target resources and funding priorities for the following year. Following are training goals.

Member Agency/Applicant Training

• How to respond to an RFP incorporating community impact measures

• How to construct a logic model

• How to prepare and measure program performance outcome indicators

• How to report on measurement goals – as periodically required

CIC Training

• The RFP, target indicators, and criteria for funding

• How to propose allocation of funds to each target area and determine the funding cycle

• How to interpret and use program performance data CRT Training

• How to review and evaluate proposals, including site visits and funding recommendations

• How to interpret and use program performance data

• How to evaluate the implementation of the community impact process and identify gaps in service to which a targeted RFP can be developed

An example of how training was conducted is logic modeling. The logic model training was provided free to some fifty Heritage member agencies and to other agencies for a registration fee (grants were made available to these agencies); UW staff were trained along with member agencies. The logic model training module consisted of five training days over five weeks, including two field visits by ARC staff to assist agencies in building logic models for their programs. Through this process, agencies framed their program goals and outcomes to determine their potential impact on the community.

Given the role of logic model training in community impact, it was important to insure that participants built capacity to use it in the REP. The 2008 REP will include a second round of the capacity-building program as field-based consultation by ARC and UW staff with community agencies preparing submissions. This support is sufficient if trainees developed familiarity with the model and a positive attitude after exposure to training. Evaluation surveys were conducted before and after training, and focus groups after training, and showed that after training, 87 percent of participants were at a practicing or proficient level, 67 percent had already authored their agency's models, 93 percent felt the model is helpful to community organizations, 93 percent felt they would use the skills with other funders, and 79 percent felt they would use the skills in their work with other agencies.

Outcomes measurement was part of logic model training. UW members have often designed effective programs, but their efforts are not always recognized because the changes achieved by these programs are often not identified and/or measured. Practitioners can readily say what they do and why but are less certain measuring changes in the lives of their clients that result from their work. Difficulty measuring the impact of programs also inhibits the ability to accurately ascertain what activities, strategies, and approaches work best. Agency participants were trained to identify short-term, intermediate, and long-range outcomes on the basis of their program goals and objectives. This task was supported by national sources – UWA's Outcome Measurement Resource Network and NeighborWorks America's Success Measures Guidebook (NeighborWorks America 2006).

Transition to community impact entails changes that can be expected to generate anxiety among member agencies, even among UW board members. Heritage adopted a transparency policy and, to help assuage undue anxiety, created an FAQ on the process that was widely published, asking and answering the following:

• What happens to funding that agencies are accustomed to receiving?

• What does the CIC do?

• How will the RFPs differ from the current application process?

• How will the new investment process be different?

• How will we show “impact”?

Organizational Plan

The Heritage board agreed to reorganize to accommodate community impact. Like most UWs, Heritage is organized to deliver a workplace campaign but not to manage grant-making strategically like a foundation. It is like an athlete who favors and overdevelops only one well-muscled arm. Since workplace campaign fund-raising and strategic grant-making are seasonal, with loads concentrated over key periods, ARC proposed a reorganization plan that would balance the structure by retraining staff to play both offense and defense – fund-raising and strategic grant-making – as the new program officers. ARC first proposed to align corporate functions under a COO (existing), a CPO (new), and a CDO (redefined) to manage, respectively, operations, programs, and development.

Reorganization focused primarily on the community building division that engages with member agencies. A new programs and community impact division would lead strategic grant-making and the interface with member agencies, but its program officers would play offense and defense – working primarily in strategic grant-making but switching to development to help organize workplace and fundraising campaigns in their area. When playing that role, they would work under the guidance of the chief development officer, who has overall responsibility for fund-raising and development. This approach would integrate closely the knowledge of community impact and community needs with the development arm of UW. This new division would be headed by a senior program officer experienced in foundation strategic grant-making, who would supervise a department of three program officers each in charge of a program area.

A new CIC of the board would oversee community impact, including staffing changes needed to meet the demands of a new proposal review and approval process. The CIC would also oversee reorganization of a new CRT for each impact area, with anew composition of board co-chairs, stakeholders, domain experts, and traditional UW volunteers. The CRT works with program officers of the programs and community impact division in strategic grant-making (grant allocations), performance outcomes (program review), and strategic philanthropy (strategic priority setting).

Lessons Learned

Sometimes More Is Less

In retrospect, UW branches that implement strategic philanthropy by rapidly reducing their core funding areas and defunding a large share of partner agencies made a tactical mistake that created conflict with long-term partners and eroded their political base. Ample notice and multiyear transition funding is not enough. UW branches must understand that they are not foundations, they lack an endowment, and they rely on the goodwill of their network for annual drives to fund their philanthropy, administration, and operations.

Sometimes Less Is More

UWs are intricately bound to their community partners in a choreography of fundraising, decision making, philanthropy, and service. This is a strategic advantage and also serves the UW core integrative principle of building civil society. Actions that undermine this network and political base run counter to UWA's civil society principle. ARC'S proposition that realignment be operationalized within UWA's enduring civil society framework was sound. Heritage's decision to phase in the strategic grant-making process and buffer its network was consistent with this framework. Heritage's rule to “do no harm” or unnecessarily alienate its network may appear as less change over longer time, but it is more grounded and ultimately faster than other tactics.

Sometimes More Is More

The complexity of realignment should not be understated. It entails an ideological change in philanthropic strategy: from virtually guaranteed funding to designated member agencies to competitive impact funding through open bidding. It requires major changes in organizational function, staffing, and skills, and an adept hand to avoid political conflict. A three-year intervention that involves research, planning, capacity building, and organizational development is not overcautious. UWs that seek this extent of change with less may place themselves at risk of failure.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Heritage has proposed to be an intermediary for social program funding for small towns – to manage the grant-making process for these municipalities. This strategy leverages UW community investment and strategic grant-making capacity and enhances its annual funding pool. It is a form of entrepreneurial leadership not anticipated in the community impact planning that opens the door to a more involved relationship with the community and, perhaps, a new hybrid model of UW philanthropy.


This chapter derives from a research, planning, capacity-building, and organizational development program by the Applied Research Center for Heritage United Way. The authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution of all team members from ARC and Heritage.

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