How we invest

How we invest

Advancing the common good is less about helping one person at a time and more about changing systems to help all of us.  We all win when a child succeeds in school, when all families are financially stable, when people are healthy.

Investment Process

For over 60 years in the Wabash Valley, United Way has conducted local annual fund-raising, then implemented volunteer-driven investments with their local member agencies.  Workplace payroll deduction was an easy way for contributors to “feel good” about their charitable investment to local organizations.  Today’s digital technologies make workplace payroll deduction less necessary for personal philanthropy, and more importantly, today’s donors and our community demand greater impact on our local social issues.

At United Way, we know that we must be in the IMPACT business and the DONOR is our customer.

In 2018, United Way of the Wabash Valley began a transformative change from a long-time agency program funder to a collective impact, social change, organization.  This new direction still relies on core staples of United Way such as workplace and individual fund-raising, and volunteer-driven investment decisions, but also leans on our strengths as a convener, collaborator and community-change agent.  This page describes how future investments of donor resources will be made to focus on our community’s bold goal to move 10,000 households to financial stability as measured by the biennial ALICE Report.  The full details of our investment strategies are available in our Investment Strategies and Partnership Requirements Manual.  We recommend that any agency seeking funding from United Way review the information included on this page and the manual, or for a simplified version see our Funding Guide Overview.

Collective Impact

Achieving success on our community’s bold goal will require us to do business differently by shifting to a collective impact model.  Collective impact happens when multiple organizations work together to solve a specific issue in a structured form of collaboration.

This method is based on the belief that no single policy, government department, organization or program can tackle or solve the increasingly complex social problems we face as a society.  It requires multiple organizations or entities from different sectors to abandon their own singular agenda in favor of a common agenda, shared measurement and alignment of effort.  Unlike collaboration or partnership, collective impact initiatives have a backbone organization whose role is to help participating organizations shift from acting alone to acting in concert.

We believe we can be one of the organizations that gets our community to band together and take on the impossible. But, there is no way we can do this alone.  We are urging our fellow funders, service providers, business leaders, and investors to join with us in our focus on poverty and ALICE, or the struggling working poor.  Different than many backbone organizations, our United Way can bring donor resources to the table for investment possibilities on the councils formed.  We believe that with this approach, we will be able to make a bigger impact in our community and be able to change more lives.

How We Plan To Do It

Impact Councils

United Way plans to create impact councils associated with five areas that dominated our community conversations: education, health, financial stability, neighborhoods, and safety net. These councils are multi-sector volunteer-led coalitions that will bring together subject matter experts, people who are passionate about the issue, people whose lives are affected by the issue, business leaders, and other organizations working to affect each area. Members of the impact councils will recommend and monitor the investment of United Way resources in order to bring successful results to their specified outcome targets in support of the overall United Way of the Wabash Valley community goal to move households to financial stability. A full list of proposed impact councils and their primary objectives is available in the Stronger United Strategic Plan.

The impact councils will oversee the development of outcomes and the strategies to achieve them related to that council’s impact area.


In determining the ideal composition for these councils, United Way paid close attention to avoiding conflicts of interest. It is so important to bring the expertise of local agencies to the councils, yet many of these same agencies will be seeking the funding available. How can United Way bring expertise to the table without those parties driving their own funding opportunities? The arrangement described below was specifically laid out to minimize conflict of interest possibilities.

Impact councils will consist of two separate governing and working bodies described below. Each separate body shall have a chair and co-chair. The chairs will be members of the Community Impact Committee.

Impact Council Development Team

  • Not limited in number, but individual members will be vetted and approved by UWWV staff and the development team chair and co-chair.
  • Members should include significant experience and/or passion for the particular impact council area.
  • Members of this team can be affiliated with organizations seeking funding from that council.
  • This working portion of the impact council will be responsible for developing outcomes and/or measurement tools and creating ways to invest resources to support outcomes.
  • Community partners are invited to serve on this team.

Impact Council Resource Team

  • Minimum of 5 and maximum of 7 persons.
  • Selected by UWWV staff and approved by CIC vote.
  • Membership will include experienced and/or passionate people in the field of the particular impact council, but this team should also include business and finance representation.
  • Members of this team cannot be affiliated with organizations seeking funding from that council.
  • Provide financial oversight for the resources entrusted to the impact council.
  • Review and recommend for approval by the CIC all proposals regarding financial investments in the community brought forward by the impact council development team.

Types of Funding Available

When impact councils are formed, the membership within those councils will be briefed on the variety of ways that they will be allowed to propose investments in the community. Each of three specific options are described in the information below. More examples and greater details can be found in the full Investment Strategies and Partnership Requirements Manual.

Collective Impact Grant Funding

  • A standardized process for all impact councils.
  • Single year funding will be available for Safety Net Programs. All others will receive multi-year funding.
  • Similar to the past UWWV process, donor volunteer teams will review applications and award funding.
  • Impact councils may set minimum and maximum grant dollar amounts for community investments.
  • A recent example of collective impact grant funding is an impact council that issues an RFP to provide funds to remove financial barriers for childcare facilities in order to improve their program quality rating.

Alternative Investment Opportunities

  • Funds provided from the Community Impact Committee can be used for impact growth opportunities such as matching funds for a potential larger federal or specialty grant opportunity, investments into educational forums for the community, or small-scale grant opportunities.
  • A recent example of an alternate investment opportunity:  Vigo County was approached by the State of Indiana for eligibility in a state-funded program, On My Way Pre-K, to improve accessibility to quality childcare, but could only participate if matching funds are provided. Impact council designates funds for this purpose.

Collaborative Impact Products

  • The council may brainstorm and propose “impact products” (a community program or initiative) and seek collaborative partners to further develop and operate or execute the product.
  • Examples of current United Way of the Wabash Valley collaborative impact products: Real Men Read (RMR), or the Mobile Market, but instead of UWWV running the programs, the impact council looks for collaborators, sponsors, and even invests funds for supporting the “impact product.”

For the full details see our Investment Strategies and Partnership Requirements Manual or for a simplified version see our Funding Guide Overview.