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United Way of Story County: What happens next?

The United Way of Story County (UWSC) 2013 LIVE UNITED campaign concluded last month, and we’re sure you’ve heard that the generosity of Story County has resulted in another record-breaking total - $1,905,388! That’s a significant amount of money, and you might be asking yourself, “What happens next to all that money?”

Well, to put it simply, the money is allocated. But it’s not just divvied out randomly. The money is allocated through a unique and effective process called ASSET (Analysis of Social Services Evaluation Team). The ASSET process has existed in Story County since 1985, and it includes five major funders of human services programs: City of Ames, Department of Human Services, Iowa State University Government of the Student Body, Story County and UWSC. The funders work together in a collaborative, volunteer-led effort to coordinate local planning, assess needs, evaluate the capabilities of agencies to provide programs and recommend funding for programs.

ASSET holds annual hearings in January for review of agency budget requests. Each human services agency completes an application and attends the hearings to advocate for their programs, with the hope their financial needs will be met by one or more of the funding sources. UWSC brings our money to the table, as do the other funders, and the money is allocated.

It sounds pretty simple, but you can imagine it’s kind of a complex process. Agencies spend many hours annually collecting data related to each program, completing ASSET applications, meeting with an ASSET liaison and meeting with internal boards of directors and/or committees to finalize requests. To get the most complete picture possible, ASSET requests agencies provide a copy of their most recent strategic plan and a current audit, in addition to the completed ASSET packet. And, of course, in addition to the paperwork, the hearings are also part of the process.

As a donor myself, I have always given to the LIVE UNITED Campaign with the confidence that UWSC and ASSET are diligent about identifying the needs in the community and making the best funding decisions to meet those needs. You should feel good about it, too!

In the end, we all know it’s not about the money, but we know the money makes a difference. We invite you to look around to find your donation at work on a daily basis. When you see a child engaged in a reading corner at a clinic, know they are getting a head start on their education because you cared. When you hear about seniors struggling with hunger, know they can access nutrition programs due to your support. Finally, when you see an individual smiling for the first time in a long time because of improved dental health, know that he or she has been helped through programs you’ve supported. LIVE UNITED.

(Sara Wilson is marketing director of United Way of Story County, a strategic leader in building countywide partnerships to identify needs and to develop, support and evaluate effective human services, especially in the areas of education, income and health, for our diverse community.)

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