Dear Editor:
Imagine a Lancaster County where, in 2025: 
·         All of our children will enter kindergarten ready to learn;
·         All of our residents will have the educational credentials they need to secure a job;
·         The number of our neighbors living in poverty will be cut in half; and
·         All of our residents will have access to reliable, consistent, and quality health and wellness care.
That’s the vision the Board of United Way of Lancaster County embraced when we voted to focus on fostering change instead of just funding agencies. Making this vision a reality means that we are modifying how we distribute the funds we receive from donors. Like a growing number of foundations, government programs, community investors, and United Ways nationally, we are seeking to maximize our ability to truly impact complex community problems.
These issues are big, and resources are too limited and precious to continue to bandage chronic problems.  We must dig deep; we must address their root causes—poor education, poverty, and inadequate access to healthcare—and we must support inter-agency collaboration. That way we can extend the impact of funds beyond what could be achieved through simply funding individual organizations in an uncoordinated fashion. Our new three-year grant cycle will provide these impact partners a longer time frame and more secure funding to affect change.
As United Way of Lancaster County prepares to announce the first recipients of community impact grants next week, we’d like to answer some questions that have been raised recently in LNP and other venues. Our evolutionary move from funding charities to fostering change will make great things happen in Lancaster County. However, questions are to be expected, and we’re happy that loyal United Way supporters care so dearly about their United Way.
How did we identify the direction and goals we need to achieve? In setting United Way of Lancaster County’s direction and goals, we turned to the experts: national leaders on community impact, local leaders, Franklin & Marshall College’s Center for Opinion Research, local nonprofit colleagues, United Way investors, and our greater community. We will continue to leverage the Center for Opinion Research as we evaluate the success of these bold goals while striving to show investors and the broader community that their money is being well spent.
Lofty goals, you say? Indeed, they are. But if we achieve these four bold goals across Lancaster County, our community will truly be transformed.
But change is never easy. Nor is every service provider ready or positioned to make the transition to community impact. Our process was open and inclusionary, and nonprofit agencies have been aware for many years of this new direction. Moreover, we offered multiple learning opportunities for all nonprofit agencies.
As usual, we have many more requests for funding than we can fulfill, and some previously funded agencies will not receive funding this year. At the same time, there will be many new exciting impact partners who will receive funding for the first time.
Other applications clearly demonstrated that they needed more time to embrace community impact and build successful alliances. United Way is committed to continue to assist all local nonprofit agencies to become community impact organizations over the coming years.
In no way should anyone assume that a nonprofit agency’s failure to qualify for this first grant cycle implies that a specific organization is unworthy or that the many people they serve aren’t deserving of community support. United Way of Lancaster County will continue to offer choices to investors and welcome gifts designated to any nonprofit, 501(c)(3) health or human service organization. Any designations made to specific agencies during our 2014 campaign will be honored.
We expect the United Way of Lancaster County Board will approve investments in approximately 100 different impact organizations. In recent years we have been able to fund less than 30 for one year at a time. These impact partners will include nonprofit organizations, school districts, educational foundations, faith-based groups, government, and business, all working together to make bold change across Lancaster County.
We are truly excited for this new direction for United Way, our investors, and most importantly, for our fellow citizens of Lancaster County. We invite everyone to watch next week’s news to learn more about the many impact partners who will lead our first steps forward in community impact. We are confident that more and more will embrace this new direction.
Great things will happen when we LIVE UNITED.
Jennifer L. Craighead, Esq., United Way of Lancaster County Board Chair
Randy Patterson, United Way of Lancaster County Chair Elect
Sue Suter, United Way of Lancaster County President & Chief Executive Officer
May 21, 2015