In the News

Reimagining a new United Way

Augie Napoli Headshot for UseWhen I joined United Way of Greater Cleveland as President and CEO a little more than a year ago, the Board of Directors gave me one directive – to reinvent United Way. Why? Because despite the more than $2.2 billion United Way has helped raise and give back to our community since 1913, the success of our annual campaign model has declined, while the need for the types of community services we fund has increased.

With the full support of our board, executive team and a special strategic planning committee of the Board of Directors, we’re ready to begin sharing the results of a year-long effort to develop a three-year strategic plan and a recently completed community assessment.

The Community Assessment was a huge undertaking, involving surveys of more than 26,000 individuals and organizations in seven counties, 23 focus groups, interviews with 50 individual stakeholders and many other data and information gathering tactics. What we learned will drive how we allocate funding to the community and help restructure our operations to be more responsive to agencies and organizations we support.

Another important information-gathering resource was the United Way 2-1-1 Helpline, which has an expansive database of information. With more than 4,000 points of contact and the ability to track and identify trends on incoming calls to our navigation specialists, we were able to add a great deal of substantive information to the plan.

The 2017-2020 Strategic Plan envisions a new approach to engaging donors and addressing the greatest needs in our community. The three-year plan, which incorporates a new vision, mission, values and guiding principles  for United Way of Greater Cleveland, identifies four goals:

  • To create a more collaborative culture of philanthropy to address Greater Cleveland’s significant levels of poverty – we will re-establish United Way as the leader in the community on the issue of poverty by being a convener of those aligned with our key goals, allowing us to achieve the greatest social impact.
  • To focus on fundraising, creating more impact by implementing a robust, donor-centric approach that inspires more people to give of their time, talent and treasure. This fresh approach to fundraising will give the donor the power to choose what causes and issues best align with their philanthropic desires.
  • To modify resource distribution to be even more transparent, integrated and data-informed, with a focus on long-term solutions in the four critical impact areas of education, financial stability, health and basic needs – those identified by the Community Assessment.
  • To improve operational performance through a collaborative culture, high-performing teams, integrated infrastructure and enhanced technology. Simply put, we are reorganizing staff to align with the Strategic Plan, and investing in new technology, software and data analytics to support execution of the plan.

I am extremely excited by this new direction for United Way of Greater Cleveland and am ready to work with our talented team to bring this plan to life. Please join me on a journey that will require passion and perseverance, and the ability and desire to remain focused and invigorated as we work to achieve these goals and fulfill our new mission to “mobilize people and resources by creating solutions that improve lives and our community.” Because it all begins and ends with the people in need throughout our community, and each and every one of you play a role in changing our region for the better.

Complete details of the Strategic Plan and Community Assessment will be shared via various outlets in the very near future, so please stay tuned.

The power of rock n’ roll lives in Cleveland

By Heather Light, Associate-Affinity and Association Campaigns

Heather Light - Headshot - WEBIt’s been a bucket list item of mine for quite some time now to attend a Rock Hall induction. I can now cross it off my list with a little help from the Rock Hall’s new Power of Rock Experience.

On Thursday, June 29, I was granted VIP access to the debut of the Rock Hall’s latest exhibit, but I might as well have been front and center at an induction. Name an influential rock and roller and they’re most likely in the 12 minute-film that starts with Ruth Brown singing “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean,” highlighting the start of rock’s roots and ends with Prince’s infamous guitar solo during “While my guitar Gently Weeps” from the 2004 induction of George Harrison.

I’ll admit my emotions were a mix of wanting to shout out “long live rock!” and jump up and down and also cry contemplating of the talent that we’ve lost. It wasn’t by coincidence that Greg Harris, President and CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, explained that the whole point of the exhibit is to take you on the emotional journey so many of us have while listening to music.

After the film, people will be able to interact with Rock Hall inductees and have personal memories captured in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In the Say It Loud story booths, presented by PNC Bank, fans are interviewed by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees, including Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple, Smokey Robinson, Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas, Mary Wilson of The Supremes, Alice Cooper and others. The interviews can then be shared on social media.

You’ll be able to do all this September 23 during this year’s Fall Ball. Your ticket grants you access to the world renowned Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If you went last year, it will feel like a whole new museum. Another exciting announcement is the addition of Cleveland’s “rock star chef’s” Jonathan Sawyer Greenhouse Tavern, Noodlecat, and Trentina), Rocco Whalen (Fahrenheit) and Fabio Salerno (Lago) have now added their flair to the Rock Hall’s food choices; and I’m happy to announce to Fall Ball’s menu as well.

Learn about Fall Ball

Eaton holds 5k, wellness fair to raise money for those in need

It was a beautiful day for a run. On June 8, Eaton held a 5k run/fun walk at its corporate headquarters in Beachwood, Ohio. Roughly 250 employees participated and raised more than $2,700 to support United Way of Greater Cleveland. Along with the 5k, Eaton hosted more than 20 companies, including seven United Way Partner Agencies, for a Wellness Fair. Hundreds of employees stopped by the fair and were able to get information on various services and benefits throughout the community. The fair concluded with a short program where the winners of the race received trophies. United Way agencies were also able to speak about their respective services and the people they serve.

Eaton is a long time supporter of United Way of Greater Cleveland. Each year, they raise enough funds to put them in the top two employee campaigns in the region. This year, they are holding special events leading up to their kickoff that are geared towards United Way impact areas – health, financial stability, education and basic needs. Along with health, they will hold events around education and financial stability.

Their official employee campaign will kick off in August.

Free meals during school break for our youth

By Taneisha Fair, community resource navigation specialist, United Way 2-1-1 

Taneisha Fair HeadshotSummer is here, leaving Greater Cleveland kids and teens excited for warm weather. Some are anxious for family trips and barbecues and others about replacing the meals normally eaten at school, which is now lost over summer break.

Feeding America reports four out of five of the more than 22 million children who receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch at school will not have access to these meals over summer break. Fortunately, there are community programs to help.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), a federal program, has filled this gap for more than 40 years. SFSP prevents summer hunger by supplying free and nutritious meals to those 18 and younger from low-income households while school is out of session. Individuals who are over 18 with mental and physical disabilities and involved in school programs are also eligible for the free lunch.

Meal sites operate in various locations throughout the community as “open,” “enrolled,” or “camp” sites. Open sites are usually in low-income communities, but are available to any child in the community. Enrolled sites provide free meals to children who participate in an activity or program at the site. Camps that participate in SFSP can receive a payment to cover meals for children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

Many do not know access to free meals for their children is just a phone call away! Residents can call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE to identify their local sites. There are other helpful resources, such as food pantries and hot meals that callers can learn about by dialing 2-1-1 or 216-436-2000.

Family Connections brings families together, strengthens bonds

By Joanne Federman, executive director, Family Connections of Northeast Ohio

For 35 years, Family Connections has been building connections with families and their children from birth through six years old. At Family Connections, we invite every family into a nurturing community to find their own path that promotes effective parenting for children that are prepared for success in school.

Our five staffed playrooms – three of them located in public libraries – offer a total of 65 hours per week of instructional playtime in the City of Cleveland, as well as Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights.  Through our home visiting, school readiness program called SPARK (Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids), we are currently serving families in the City of Cleveland, East Cleveland, Maple Heights and Warrensville Heights.

United Way specifically funds our Family School Connection program, active in all seven elementary schools in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District, one in the Shaker Heights City School District and another in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.  Our family liaisons partner with parents to help young students master pre-reading skills.

Research, along with our experiences, shows that the same family support principles that worked 35 years ago are still as impactful and relevant as ever. That is why the valued support of United Way is critical in helping us strengthen families and improve early literacy.

Learn and Lead with United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Loaned Executive Program

Josh Womack - Laugh Staff at Progressive InsuranceBy Josh Womack, head writer at Laugh Staff

I was fresh out of college and just wrapped up an internship. I needed a place where I could learn, grow, make a few mistakes…and did I mention, learn?

A friend from high school, who just happened to work at United Way, introduced me to the Loaned Executive program. They say it’s not what you know; it’s who you know, right?

Through that friend, and the interview, I learned that LE’s (as they’re called) are exposed to a variety of business settings, such as problem solving, strategic planning and public speaking. These were all skills needed to help United Way raise funds throughout workplace campaigns in the community.

The more I listened during the interview, the more I realized this is exactly where I was supposed to be: a professional, nurturing environment where I could give back, and in turn develop the skills needed for success. Here’s a little more about the exciting role of a Loaned Executive.

The Role of Loaned Executives

Loaned Executives are seasonal temp employees who help the fundraising staff (better known as Resource Development) at United Way. With thousands of workplace fundraising campaigns happening all over Cuyahoga County, Loaned Executives are a combination of:

  • Executives from the community ‘loaned’ by their respective companies
  • College grads looking to gain experience in non-profits and fundraising
  • Established professionals who want to give back to the area

LE’s manage fundraising campaigns, speak to groups in various business sectors and act as a feet-on-the ground representative supporting United Way’s mission to advance education, income, health and basic needs in the community.

You’ll get a lot for giving back

Like I mentioned in the beginning, United Way’s LE program was a great way to learn about Cleveland and philanthropy. More importantly, it provided me with the skills I could utilize throughout my professional career. Here are a few opportunities being a Loaned Executive offers.

Networking – I can’t think of a non-profit better connected to Cleveland’s movers and shakers than United Way. The people you’ll meet at events like the United Way Annual Meeting and Campaign Kickoff are second to none. Better yet, like you, they’re determined to make Cleveland a better a place for everyone. Over 90 volunteers serve on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee and hundreds more throughout the organization! Many of the professional and personal relationships I have today are a direct result of my experiences at United Way.

Problem Solving  – As a LE, you will work with not only United Way staff, but also with the Employee Campaign Managers at companies throughout Cuyahoga County. Together, you will learn about the company culture and help inspire and motivate people to believe in United Way’s mission and vision. Developing working relationships with the Employee Campaign Managers gives you great experience in account management and interpersonal communication.

Public Speaking – I saved this one for last because I know it scares some people. Don’t worry! United Way’s Resource Development staff will coach you up on how to convey the importance of donating. Speaking in front of groups in manufacturing plants and boardrooms helped my confidence grow. It can do the same for you! You’ll be well versed in passionately communicating gratitude, facts and urgency behind the organization’s mission.

Ready to make a difference? Apply today to make an impact and leave your mark on the community!

About the Author

Josh Womack was a Loaned Executive for United Way in 2007. He currently lives downtown and is the head writer at Laugh Staff and a copywriter for Progressive Insurance. He also recommends eating at Juji’s.

Young Leaders hold successful speaker’s series event at American Greetings

American Greetings Young Leaders Networking EventOn June 7, more than 40 young professionals met at American Greetings headquarters in Cleveland, near Crocker Park, to attend United Way of Greater Cleveland’s second quarterly speaker series of 2017.

After first being led on a tour of the new, state-of-the-art building that houses American Greetings and exemplifies the company’s dedication to collaboration, attendees listened to an engaging, audience-driven talk by Group Vice President of Social Expression, Steve Laserson.

Laserson shared his journey of professional growth and recalled how he navigated various career fields at different organizations before discovering American Greetings, the organization he is truly passionate about and has been for more than 22 years.

He advised audience members on how to attain the same successful transitions by working hard and consistently producing positive results no matter what position they were in to ensure future employers would recognize their achievements.

He also answered questions from the audience surrounding the importance of community and volunteer engagement, goal-setting and mentor and mentee relationships. The event moved to the nearby Burntwood Tavern for refreshments and networking when the event concluded.

Thoreau Park Elementary gets new Reading Room

Sam Ameen HeadshotBy Sam Ameen, communications coordinator, Public Relations, Parma City School District

Thoreau Park Elementary Principal Jamie Franko was anxious to see the Reading Room the school was receiving from United Way of Greater Cleveland courtesy of the of Young Leaders and its Readers Become Leaders initiative. On May 12, the room was revealed to the students, faculty and staff.

“We’ve been really excited that we were given this opportunity. I’ve been really excited since they reached out to me in December and said that we were going to be the recipients of the room,” Franko said. “It totally went above and beyond my expectations for what I thought the Reading Room was going to look like.”
Readers Become Leaders Thoreau Park Elementary

The room has an outer-space theme and was furnished with comfortable places to lounge and read a book, such as beanbag chairs. The Reading Room was supplied with 500 books, which were donated by the Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank.

“It’s just another space in our building that really focuses on literacy and helps our students with early literacy and growing as students here,” Franko said.

Every student in the school was given a drawstring bag with two books, a coloring book, and crayons. The school also had a special visit from the Cleveland Browns mascot Chomps.

“Kids were saying this is the greatest thing ever, they were thanking the Young Leaders, the volunteers for everything that they’ve done and I think just really made their day and it has already impacted our building,” Franko said.

The Reading Room is located outside of Principal Franko’s office in the main hallway for ease of access.

Live tour of Cleveland Rape Crisis Center

According to a 2015 report by the Office of Criminal Justice Services, nearly 100 people per 100,000 within Cuyahoga County’s population experience some sort of sexual abuse or assault. This data is among some of the highest within the state.

United Way of Greater Cleveland believes that sexual assault, rape and human trafficking are issues that must be tackled with strong resolve. That is why United Way funds programs at the Cleveland Rape Crisis center, a nonprofit that supports survivors of rape and sexual abuse with a focus on prevention. Serving more than 28,000 people in Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula Counties, their ultimate vision is to completely eliminate sexual violence.

Today, CEO of Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, Sondra Miller, gave a live tour of the center – showcasing how your volunteerism, financial support and philanthropic passions can manifest into real actions.

Watch the tour below…

United Way part of exploratory group to bring “Say Yes to Cleveland”

United Way of Greater Cleveland is proud to be part of the exploratory group working to bring Say Yes to Cleveland.

Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C)The bold promise of Say Yes is to bring together an entire community to ensure each of its children has the opportunity –and the support – to go to college. Using last-in-dollar scholarships as a catalyst, Say Yes partners with communities to create systems intended to help every child progress along the pathway to post-secondary success.

Partners from the public, philanthropic, nonprofit and private sectors are working together over the next 12 to 18 months on the complexities required for consideration by Say Yes.

We’re also glad for the ongoing support and encouragement from the Say Yes team. As Say Yes Chief Operating Officer Eugene Chasin says, “it’s clear to the senior leadership of Say Yes that Cleveland is a community with a fierce desire to give its young people access to higher education, armed with the support to succeed in obtaining a college degree or other postsecondary credential.”

“At United Way, we know it takes a village to ensure our community’s kids have everything they need to succeed academically and ultimately pursue higher education,” said United Way of Greater Cleveland President and CEO August Napoli. “If Cleveland is successful in becoming a partner community with Say Yes, we are excited about the opportunity to wrap holistic services – everything from tutoring to health care – to elementary, middle and high school students. Say Yes is an innovative strategy that will create new excitement about education in our community.”

In the coming months, our work includes:

  • Determining the parameters and criteria to provide last-dollar tuition scholarships to qualifying students admitted to an in-state public college or university
  • Establishing a local fundraising committee and raising a significant portion of the scholarship fund as part of the approval process
  • Identifying the necessary in-school and out-of-school supports and services and related public and philanthropic funding sources to meet the development needs of every child

If Say Yes ultimately approves Cleveland’s application, the organization would commit to invest $15 million in the community over six years, as various milestones are achieved. Those funds are not intended to be used to pay for scholarships. Rather, they would help to finance the scaffolding of a communitywide governance structure to manage the local Say Yes partnership and to seed student and family supports that, in other Say Yes communities, have included school-based social work; mental and physical health; legal services; college and career counseling; tutoring, and robust after-school and summer enrichment programs.

United Way is a member of the Cleveland exploratory group along with City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Cleveland Foundation and College Now of Greater Cleveland.

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