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John McMillin: Volunteers train to distribute donor funds to organizations

John McMillin • Updated Apr 4, 2017 at 6:00 PM

I know it’s spring because in our office, I have to walk around stacks of applications from agencies seeking funding for their programs. Thankfully, we have volunteer allocations members to help us get through this process. These volunteers from our communities will ultimately decide to which programs any undesignated funds we have collected will be awarded.

Every spring at United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland, we complete some of our most important work, and that is allocating donors’ funds. Just like almost every other United Way agency anywhere, we collect funds, primarily through payroll deduction of community members for most of the year to help support local health and human programs.

The allocation process begins when nonprofit organizations that serve Wilson County residents submit a funding request. Organizations may have more than one program for which they are requesting funding. This application tells us what services they provide, how much money they need in the coming year and how they impact and improve the community.

Recently, we met with these volunteers to explain this year’s duties. Our panels of local volunteers will review each program. While most applying agencies seek funds for one program, we do have a handful of agencies that apply for funds to help multiple programs. Volunteers are assigned programs to review, where they will become are neither an advocate, nor an adversary, but someone who is well informed about these programs. After thoroughly studying the programs’ application for funding, the volunteers spend some time at the applicants’ facilities. The volunteers may ask questions, meet staff, see the facilities and possibly even meet some of the people who are helped by that program.

Finally, on one of the four evening panel hearings, someone from the non-profit organization makes a 15-minute presentation to the panel of volunteers. After hearing the presentation, volunteers make funding recommendations based on the application reviewed, the need for services and the issues covered in the presentation.

After the board of directors approves funding for the nonprofit programs, notification of funding is sent to each program. Funding will begin in July of each year and will run through June of the following year. Each organization is required to reapply for funding every year.

Allocations volunteers are stewards of donor dollars, ensuring they are wisely invested in local programs that demonstrate real needs of our communities. These volunteers ensure programs are managed efficiently, and donors can be happy to know their dollars are working to help others here at home.

John McMillin is president of United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland. Email him at john@givetouwwc.org.

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