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United Way leaders share Community Assessment Findings, introduce New Funding Model at City Club Forum

Ralph J. Davila, APR
Director, News & Community Content
216-436-2205, c. 330-207-5167

CLEVELAND (July 20, 2017) – United Way of Greater Cleveland’s President and CEO, August A. Napoli and Vice President, Community Impact and General Counsel, Helen Forbes Fields shared findings of a year-long assessment of the communities’ needs and social issues, as well as the organization’s new funding model with a capacity crowd at its community forum held earlier today at The City Club of Cleveland.

The presentation revealed a wide spectrum of sobering statistics regarding issues facing Greater Clevelanders and people throughout Cuyahoga County, including: poverty, homelessness, infant mortality, education and graduation rates and household income.

Marc Byrnes, chairman of Oswald Companies and chairman of the board for United Way, welcomed attendees and shared brief insights into the year-long process that led to a comprehensive community assessment. He also discussed how The Center for Community Solutions and Case Western Reserve University were pivotal in the creation of this report.

“The community assessment was a huge undertaking. It involved incredible amounts of data collection. Just a few examples include responded surveys of more than 1,500 individuals and organizations in seven counties, 27 focus groups and interviews with 50 individual stakeholders and our 2-1-1 staff members, among a long list of other tactics,” said Byrnes, who then introduced Forbes Fields to share the main findings of the assessment.

As Vice President, Community Impact and General Counsel, Forbes Fields is responsible for overseeing the investment of United Way dollars back into the community through its 115 partner agencies and programs that serve the most vulnerable of the population. To ensure those funds are efficiently and effectively allocated, they must be informed and strategic in every aspect of that process.

“We cannot allocate funds properly if we do not fully, and in detail, understand the needs of our community,” stated Forbes Fields. “The community assessment has been a nearly year-long endeavor, using the experience of residents and agencies across Cuyahoga County to identify key issues and trends in the communities we serve.”

She went on to discuss the key issues and trends affecting those in need, as well as a new strategic funding distribution model.

Community assessment identifies key issues, trends

Forbes Fields shared statistics about things many residents of Greater Cleveland and Cuyahoga County struggle with on a daily basis, including: unemployment, literacy, housing and food, access to transportation, chronic health conditions, infant mortality, mental health and violent crime.

There was one central theme that arose throughout the entire assessment. It was that these struggles were not unique to themselves; they were part of a larger issue – the issue of poverty in our region. The Community Impact team found that these individual areas made up five key areas where poverty stems from. Those areas include:

  • Workforce development
  • Education
  • Basic needs
  • Health and human services
  • Community safety

“As we continued to learn about the community’s barriers, we asked our partner agencies and others what their thoughts were on the trend of poverty in our region,” added Forbes Fields. “And without hesitation, many of them agreed that this fundamental issue needed to be addressed. This was a clear indicator that we needed to reform our funding model to focus on qualifications, versus just ideas and proposals. This philosophy is what ultimately led to our new Community Hub Model. This model is truly a philosophy that will allow us to provide funding for program capacity, while creating opportunities for programs to collaborate.”

The Community Hub Model will change how United Way responds to community needs by:

  • Having volunteers review proposals and make recommendations about which programs to fund; with program funding computed through a standardized algorithm promoting collaboration
  • Requiring programs participating in ad-hoc work groups convened by United Way to address critical community issues through a solutions-focused process
  • Reporting indicators to United Way every six months; setting and measuring meaningful outcomes
  • Funding for program capacity
  • Leveraging the broad United Way network to convene and amplify the service provider network

Community assessment drives organization’s strategic plan

After guest speaker, Janet E. Jackson, retired president and CEO of United Way of Central Ohio, spoke about her organization’s position on poverty, Napoli then took the stage.

He discussed how United Way recently approved and launched its new 3-year Strategic Plan with a focus on poverty. “This plan is rooted in the findings of our community assessment and clearly shows us that the needs of the community drive, and amplify, how we deliver funding and support to service providers within those specific areas of need,” said Napoli.

He added that it is of great importance that United Way follow this “guiding light” to ensure accountability and better transparency, while creating greater efficiencies and less redundancies in the work that is done. To reduce these redundancies as much as possible, Napoli discussed how “regaining our foothold on being the conveners of people and organizations surrounding key issues” will allow all of us to rally around a central cause.

“In the end, it comes down to focusing on the message, not the method, in which we do our work. This message will be broadcast loud and clear by identifying pressing issues in our community and allocating funds to them, while also bringing together other organizations aligned with these issues to maximize impact and effect,” said Napoli.

The funding model will go into effect fiscal year 2019 (July 2018), which will coincide with the next funding cycle. The Request for Qualifications to all organizations interested will be released at the beginning of December and submissions will be due early 2018. For more information about United Way of Greater Cleveland’s community assessment, Community Hub Model and strategic plan, visit

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United Way of Greater Cleveland is committed to addressing the effects of poverty throughout our community. Through the work of our 115 funded programs and the generosity of our community, United Way strives to ensure families and individuals are healthy and financially stable; our children are well educated and on the road to reaching their greatest potential and even those carrying tremendous burdens are safe and provided with resources to become self sufficient. For more information, visit

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