Triangle's United Way to focus on areas of greatest need

Priorities: Financial help, health, education

tgoldsmith@newsobserver.comNovember 12, 2012 

With a new leader in place, United Way of the Greater Triangle aims to hone its priorities and guide resources to the issues the agency has found are of greatest concern in the area: financial stability, education and health.

President and CEO Mack Koonce, a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate who hails from Raeford, took over as chief of the Triangle agency two months ago. Along with other United Way organizations across the nation, the Triangle office has worked toward a more cogently-defined method of deciding how to spend donated funds, Koonce said.

Representing Wake, Durham, Orange and Johnston counties, the United Way of the Greater Triangle takes in about $16 million annually. It spends about 16 percent on administration.

Beginning with funds collected this year, distribution will be determined by donors’ designations and decisions made by 200 volunteers working in “cabinets” divided by county and areas of need. Their decisions will be approved by the board of directors.

“We want to start with the community’s needs, not what the partner agency wants us to do,” said Koonce, who most recently served as chief operating officer of the national Big Brothers Big Sisters nonprofit organization. “At the best-run United Way agencies in the country, this is the approach they are taking.”

Some agencies that have been receiving United Way funding could see it reduced or removed, while some new agencies will likely receive money, Koonce said.

The broad areas of financial stability, education and health are now broken down into much more specific sectors, as part of decision-making on where to distribute donations:

•  Financial stability includes helping people in areas such as affordable housing, management of personal finances, keeping a job and income support.

•  Education programs help children and youth prepare to enter kindergarten, achieve success in the classroom and make plans for life after school.

•  Health includes helping people with basic needs such as food and independent living, prevention and wellness, access to care and crisis prevention and response.

Taking into account the population and business base, donors in the Triangle are underperforming those in cities such as Charlotte and Columbia, S.C., the agency said.

“We still have capacity in this area,” said Walter Davenport, chairman of the local agency’s board. “It’s a great organization, but I think it should be substantially larger.”

Koonce took over the reins from retiring CEO Craig Chancellor, who started in the post in 2002.

Goldsmith: 919-829-8929

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