Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanks for helping your neighbors facing emergencies

Even as the economy improves, many families are still struggling to meet their basic needs. Especially during the fall and winter, some families have to make a choice between eating and staying warm.

Because of your support, fewer have to face that choice. We’ve helped thousands of people with emergency needs including food, rent, utilities and prescriptions. That’s all thanks to generous gifts to our Community Relief Fund (CRF), and the work of our community partners.

When kids go to school with food in their stomachs, they learn more. When parents know their children have a safe place to sleep at night, they can support their family. And when older adults get the medicine they need, they stay healthy. Your support of the Community Relief Fund creates change in our community. Thank you!

Community Relief Fund Results

 As of October 2012, funds distributed to community action projects have helped 70,127 people in the four-county area (24,867 households). The average amount of assistance through the Community Relief Fund (CRF) with utilities was $245, while the average amount of rent assistance to each household was $727.
  • 1,176 people were able to stay healthy because they received assistance paying for prescriptions.
  • In total, 3,408 households (9,997 individuals) avoided eviction because they received rent or mortgage assistance.
  • Some 16,781 households (52,392 adults and kids) received food assistance.
  • About 1,372 families (4,159 individuals) kept the lights on because they received help paying their utility bills.

Why we fund basic needs

United Way’s Community Relief Fund provides basic, emergency assistance to families in need. We also fund projects that create long-term change in our community. Why do we invest in both types of projects?

Helping people with emergency needs is like a bandage on a child’s wound. It won’t prevent an injury in the future, but that bandage is so important, because in that moment, that’s what the child needs.

Equally important are medicines to help heal the child and safe behaviors that help the child stay healthy in the future. And perhaps someday the child will become an advocate to help her whole community become healthier.

In a nutshell—simplified, of course—that’s how United Way’s investment strategy works. We help people with their immediate needs, we give them support to change their lives and we provide ways for everyone to make a difference in their community.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Your top grant application questions – answered!

Financial review? Financial audit? What are those?

In this post, we’ll answer that and other top questions about applying for grant funding eligibility from United Way of the Columbia-Willamette.

First, a couple of quick reminders.
  • You must register for our online grant application portal by November 27 at 5pm.
  • You must submit your Request for Qualifications application by November 30 at 12pm.

Now, on to the questions.

Q: You say that in order to be eligible for United Way funding my organization must have an audited financial statement or financial review. What are these and why are they required?

A: We want to make it easy for organizations of all sizes to apply for United Way funding. At the same time, we have to ensure that donor dollars are being invested wisely. That’s why we require either a financial review or an audited financial statement, depending on your organization’s size. Both documents show that your organization will make good use of grant funding we might award.

Q: Which documents are required for my organization?

A: It depends on your annual operating budget.
  • If your organization’s annual operating budget is less than $500,000 per year, we require either a financial review OR an audited financial statement.
  • If your organization’s annual operating budget is $500,000 per year or more, we require an audited financial statement.

Q: So what exactly are these two types of financial documents?

A: An audited financial statement is also known as an audit. In an audit, an organization hires an independent, external accounting firm to inspect the organization’s accounts in detail. As an example, you can see our own audited financials from FY 2010-11.

A financial review also involves an independent accountant but it’s more limited than an audit. Rather than inspecting every detail of the organization’s accounts, the reviewer typically focuses on analytical procedures and financial management practices. Here’s an example of the overview page of a financial review.

In both cases, one thing that’s really important is that the auditor or reviewer has to be an independent, external CPA or accounting firm; it can’t be your internal bookkeeper. Also in both cases, the review or audit should be for your most recent fiscal year ending no earlier than June 30, 2011.

Q: My organization doesn’t have either of these documents and I don’t think we’ll be able to get them in time to apply for funding eligibility for this grant cycle. Is there any way I’ll still have an opportunity to apply for United Way funding?

A: If you are certain that your organization won’t have the required financial documents in time to apply for funding eligibility for the 2013-14 grant cycle, you can consider the option of Fiscal Sponsorship. You’ll work with an organization that does meet the financial requirements, a Fiscal Management Organization. If you think this might be a good option for you, contact our Community Investment team via email or call 503.226.9339.

Q: My organization applied for United Way funding eligibility last year. Do we need to re-apply this year?

A: Yes, you will have to re-submit your information to be eligible for this funding cycle. That’s because we want to make sure we have the most recent information for all organizations so we can consider everyone’s eligibility fairly. Specifically, your financial review or audit must be for a period ending no earlier than June 30, 2011.

Q: Where can I learn more?

A: Visit our website or watch this recording of our recent webinar.

Thanks for considering applying for funding eligibility from United Way! We look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Apply now for grant funding eligibility from United Way

We have opened the one-year grant process for 2013-14 for local non-profits. The current grant funding cycle will provide grants between $25,000 and $100,000 for projects that help local people in need connect with services in education, financial stability and health and well-being.
“Many individuals and families throughout our region continue to struggle, particularly given our persistently stagnant economic climate,” said Zeke Smith, chief impact officer. “We recognize the incredible work many nonprofits in our community are doing to address these issues and encourage organizations to see if they are a good fit for United Way funding.”
Grants will focus on the areas that help build a strong, connected and engaged community:
o   Education: Middle school success, high school completion and post-secondary transition.
o   Financial Stability: Employment and housing supports.
o   Health and Well-Being: Family health, healthy relationships, mental health and oral health.
Grant funding is open to organizations serving residents of Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties in Oregon and/or Clark County in Washington.
The process begins with an online Request for Qualifications (RFQ), which allows organizations to demonstrate their basic eligibility to be funded by us. The RFQ application is due by November 30, 2012. Organizations that are eligible to receive funding from United Way will then be invited to submit a proposal with more details about their project during the Request for Proposal (RFP) process. After an evaluation process, grant funding will be distributed July 1, 2013 and will last for one fiscal year.
To reduce barriers to applying, especially for organizations that have never before applied for United Way funding, we will offer an online webinar on October 31 to go over eligibility requirements as well as hold free work sessions in each county beginning in January 2013. Detailed Frequently Asked Questions are also available online and our staff will be available to answer questions along the way.
Thanks to Cornerstone Partners, companies that cover our overhead costs, 100% of all private donations go directly to support grant-funded projects. We are highly rated by Charity Navigator, GuideStar and the Better Business Bureau for the wise use of funds.
To learn more and start the process, visit our website.

Friday, September 28, 2012

CEO Keith Thomajan visits DC for White House forum

Left to right: Jeffrey Hayward, COO UW Massachusetts Bay;
our CEO Keith Thomajan; Jon Fine, CEO UW King County
Leaders from across the country recently met in Washington, DC to talk about new ideas to help urban communities. Among them was our President/CEO, Keith Thomajan.

The White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation invited Keith, along with the CEOs from United Ways in Seattle and Boston, to share ideas and learn from other organizations.

Keith says the invitation was a great testament to the work of United Way and all of our supporters because it means that the White House sees us innovative leaders in our community. The forum is just the beginning, and will hopefully lead to more work with the White House and other organizations.

Some of the ideas that excited Keith were:

  • The Pittsburgh promise: every Pittsburgh kid who graduates high school with a 2.5 GPA and 90% attendance will get a $40,000 scholarship to an in-state school.
  • Made in NY app: plots tech sector companies and jobs across NY City.
Jonathan Greenblatt, director of the White House social innovation office, also gave a shout-out to United Ways as the leaders in knowledge management--understanding our community, knowing what organizations are doing what and where the gaps and opportunities lie.

We were excited to be a part of the forum and look forward to learning more and building more connections like it in the future!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Labor Day picnic celebrates a great partnership

Our President and CEO Keith Thomajan was honored to be asked to speak at Labor's Community Service Agency's Labor Day picnic about our partnership with labor. Together, labor and United Way are working towards a living wage and financial stability for everyone in our community.
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber also spoke at the picnic.

United Way President/CEO Keith Thomajan

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber

Keith Thomajan

United Way Community Account Manager Adam Crawford and other UW staff shared the United Way story with people at the picnic.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Intel program inspires engineering students to help community

Michelle Kantor presents Intel project
If you have kids, you know that childcare can be really expensive. In fact, it can range from $4,000 to $10,000 per year per child! That can be challenging for working families.

A group of engineering students recently thought of a great solution to this problem, thanks to an Intel Corporation program that United Way recently participated in.

Their idea is called Zip Care, and it’s a website that uses technology similar to a car-sharing business to help local Latino families set up babysitting co-ops and learn about child safety.

Zip Care was just one of the innovative projects students participating in the Intel Ultimate Engineering Experience here in Portland have come up with to use broadband technology to address challenges facing underserved people in our community.

Intel created the Ultimate Engineering Experience as part of their work with the White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The program’s goal is to encourage freshman and sophomore engineering students to stick with their engineering program to completion. Currently the United States produces 130,000 engineering students per year. This compares to 1,000,000 per year in India and China.

One of the reasons this is happening is that more than half of all US engineering students drop out of their engineering program by the end of their second year.

Intel’s Ultimate Engineering Experience is a six-week summer program at six Intel sites in the U.S. that helps students learn how to be innovators and entrepreneurs, showing them what it’s really like to be an engineer, as opposed to just the theory they learn in engineering school.  The program is built around four projects that build in complexity during the session and expose participants to different fields in engineering and design methodologies.

Jack Baker presents Intel project
 Students also get a scholarship to support their continued pursuit of an engineering degree.
The first project centered on a concept called ideation. Ideation is a process where participants learn how to identify problems, to look at these problems as opportunities, and gain the confidence to become the innovators of tomorrow. This is where United Way was invited to help.

United Way staff members Roserria Roberts and Sarah Groshell presented information and data to the students about the challenges that many people face in our community every day.

Here are just a few of the issues brought to light by Sarah and Roserria:

·         Over half a million people live in poverty in the Portland metro area
·         Over 350,000 people have no health insurance
·         A third of ninth graders will not graduate from high school on time

“The students were very engaged and wanted to know more about the barriers in people’s lives,” said Roserria.

“Many of these students had no idea the dropout rate was so high,” said CJ Phillips, facilitator of the ideation training and a Physical Design Engineer with Intel.

Next, students worked in teams to come up with ideas they could use to help underserved communities using broadband technologies. Here the idea for ZipCare was born.

Spencer, a student who worked on the Zip Care project, said, “I was surprised because I was expecting robots and software and that kind of thing and then the first thing we’re talking about is United Way and social issues. A lot of people came in thinking about what they would get out of it, and then we were asked to think about helping others.”

At the end of the week, a panel of judges, including United Way team members Colin McCormack and Don Braden, reviewed all of the projects.

“Knowing that someone from United Way was going to be a judge made us feel like we could really make a difference in an engineering capacity,” said Michelle.

“I was impressed by many of the innovative ideas these students came up with,” said Don. “I really think learning this kind of approach would serve us all well.”

Intel Corporation is a longtime supporter of United Way of the Columbia-Willamette. Last year alone Intel employees and retirees and the Intel foundation donated $7.2 million to our annual giving campaign.

United Way was thrilled to be able to step up and help Intel with the Ultimate Engineering Experience when they called.

 “I really want to thank United Way for helping us with this project on relatively short notice,” said Irwin Yablok, the Intel employee who along with Leigh Weisshaupt coordinated the entire Intel Ultimate Engineering program here in Oregon. “It’s a win-win!”

We could not agree more Irwin! Thank you Intel for all you do. You are an important asset for our region.

Friday, July 6, 2012

United Way grants $4.84 million to projects in four-county area

United Way of the Columbia-Willamette will be distributing $4.84 million in grant funding to projects in the Portland-Vancouver area on July 1, 2012. The grants will enhance education, reduce poverty, improve community health and meet families’ emergency needs.

“We are thrilled to be making these investments," said Keith Thomajan, President and CEO. "Each organization, in its own way, helps build stronger, healthier communities in our region. And each grant was made possible by thousands of generous donors -- people who give, volunteer and use their voice to create change in our communities."

In the four-county area, one-third of local high-school students do not graduate on time. Half a million people in the area live in poverty. At least 15% of people do not have health insurance. United Way’s funded projects aim to meet immediate needs while working to change systems so that all people have the support they need to succeed.

$3.22 million will go towards 48 one-year grants in the areas of education, income and health. Grants for direct-service programs range from $50,000 to $100,000 and capital project grants range from $2,000 to $40,000.

  • Education projects support middle school success, high school completion and transition to career or college.
  • Income projects reduce poverty by promoting family-wage employment and affordable housing.
  • Health grants help to build healthy, non-violent family relationships and connect people in need with mental and oral health care.
  • Capital projects help nonprofits whose overall work is in education, income and health better serve their clients through facilities improvements and equipment purchases.

In addition, $1.6 million will fund ongoing strategic initiatives that have proven results in supporting United Way’s focus areas of enhancing education, reducing poverty, improving community health and meeting families’ emergency needs.

In past funding cycles, United Way has given out three-year grants. This year, the organization is giving out one-year grants to give nonprofits a chance to access funds while United Way takes the time to research needs, engage with the community and sharpen its strategic focus for the next grant cycle.

The funding decisions were driven by a diverse pool of volunteers from corporate partners, community leaders, and United Way staff members who collectively contributed nearly 2,000 hours towards the process.  “I was truly impressed with the rigor and thoughtfulness employed by our staff and volunteers,” said Thomajan.

In this year’s giving campaign, United Way of the Columbia-Willamette raised $22,005,560. That includes donations from more than 20,000 people as well as corporate and individual gifts. The funding that did not go to this year’s grants was made up of donations sent directly to the charity of the donor’s choice. This $11 million in general-purpose funding provides important sustaining support for hundreds of local non-profits.  Importantly, thanks to the support of United Way’s Cornerstone Partners, 100% of overhead costs are covered and, as a result, 100% of every private donation goes directly back into our community.

More information about the funded projects is available online at


Funded Projects: Education

Adelante Mujeres

Journey to College


Camp Fire Columbia

From Surviving to Thriving


Concordia University Foundation

Launch Pad


IRCO: Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization

IRCO - School Success for Newcomers


Janus Youth Programs, Inc.

Janus Youth - Food Works Academic Youth Leadership Program


Mt. Scott Learning Centers

Transitions Program


Native American Youth and Family Center

NAYA Family Center Early College Academy Enhancement Project


Open Meadow Alternative Schools

Step Up


Self Enhancement, Inc.

SEI - Youth Potential Realized


Todos Juntos

Todos Juntos


Funded Projects: Income

Bridge Meadows

Uniting Foster Youth, Families and Seniors


CASH Oregon

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Tax Help


Community Housing Resource Center CHRC

Financial Education & Counseling Program


DePaul Industries

Finding Employment for Homeless People with Disabilities


JOIN: Connecting the Street to a Home

JOIN: Leading from Home


Mercy Corps Northwest

Reentry Transition Center


Northwest Housing Alternatives, Inc.



Northwest Pilot Project, Inc.

Housing Stabilization & Retention for At-Risk Seniors


Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc.

Constructing Green Futures - Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc


Second Step Housing

Positive Steps to Community



Let Us Build Cully Park!


Voz Workers' Rights Education Project

Martin Luther King Jr. Worker Center


Funded Projects: Health

Asian Health and Service Center

Tri-County Mental Health Connection for Asians


Cascade AIDS Project

Youth HIV Education


Clackamas Women's Services

Clackamas Women's Services A Coordinated Community Response


Free Clinic of Southwest Washington

Adult Dental Access Program


Listen To Kids

Parent Child Involvement Project


Luke-Dorf, Inc.

Peer Supported Engagement


Lutheran Community Services Northwest (Portland Metro)

Lutheran Community Services NW - Pathways


Northwest Family Services

Access to Dental Care Program


The Wallace Medical Concern

Lasting Smiles


Virginia Garcia Memorial Foundation

Enhancing Access to Oral Health Care for Low-income Children and Families


Youth Contact, Inc.

Rebuilding Family Alliance


Funded Capital Projects

Asian Health and Service Center

Stay in Touch



Receta para Exito (Recipe for Success)


Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, Inc

Prescott Terrace - Green Heat Upgrade!


Clackamas Service Center

Food Services and Warehousing Job Training Program


CODA-Comprehensive Options for Drug Abusers, Inc.

Fresh Start in New Housing


Columbia River Mental Health Services

Improve Mental Health Therapy


Emile Fries Piano Hospital and Training Center

HVAC Replacement Project


Friends of the Children - Portland

On the Road to Success


IRCO: Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization

IRCO: Africa House


Native American Youth and Family Center

NAYA Family Center Early College Academy Enhancement Project


New Avenues For Youth

Social Purpose Enterprise Initiative


Outside In

IT/Communication Project


Peninsula Children's Center

Family Services Expansion Project Peninsula Children's Center


The Salvation Army Cascade Division

White Shield Center Independent Living Capital Project


YWCA Clark County

Facilities Upgrade to Impact Survivors of Violence


Funded Strategic Initiatives

  • Community Relief Fund: Helps families in need with emergency food, rent, utility and prescription assistance.
  • Earned Income Tax Credit: Helps low-income working families get the tax credits they deserve through free tax preparation and filing.
  • 211info: Provides free referrals to community resources.
  • Project Access NOW: Helps low-income and uninsured people access free health care.
  • Labor’s Community Service: Assists unemployed union workers with emergency rent and utility assistance.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Your $ at work: grants funding update

Smiling Older Adult Here's an update on our grant review process for the 2012-13 fiscal year. We got about 290 applications and every one of them was for very worthy projects. Now comes the hard part: figuring out where to allocate the money so that your donation will have the biggest impact.

As in previous grant cycles, we’ll be awarding grants to help local nonprofits with projects in education, income and health. New this year, we’re also giving out money for equipment and building upgrades that directly help clients. Learn more about our funding priorities. This year we moved the application process online to save time, make things easier for applicants, and best of all, help us tell you about results quickly and more accurately.

Right now, small groups of volunteers are reading grants to rank the most promising projects. The grant readers are from all throughout the community: workplace campaign volunteers, community leaders, and United Way staff. Including staff has brought us closer together and we now have a better appreciation for each others’ work.

Happy Girl Next, we’ll invite representatives from top-ranked projects in for interviews. Then the reading groups will recommend which projects to fund, our Community Impact Cabinet will approve these recommendations, and finally our Board of Directors will make the official decision. We’ll announce funding decisions by the end of June. Then next up, we’ll start the process over again for the next grant cycle!

We’d love your feedback on the grant process—please tell us what you think or find out about how you can get involved in the next grant cycle. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Campaign is going strong! Thank you!

We are past the mid-point for the campaign and results are very promising. Several workplaces are leading the charge not only in dollar increases, but also participation rates. A number of new companies joined the campaign this year, including Cascade Energy Inc. that raised over $10,000.

The City of Vancouver and the Clark County government initiated a friendly competition to see who raised the most money this year. At stake was the dignity of Vancouver City and Clark County leaders - City Manager Eric Holmes and County Administrator Bill Barron. The leader of the losing team, in this case Bill Barron, attended a Vancouver City Council meeting to praise the generosity of city employees and present the City Council with an award.

Intel continues to raise the bar for generosity; their employees and retirees have raised more than $4 million for this year’s campaign. It is impressive to see so many employees step up to help our community. Intel is also a founding member of the Cornerstone Partners. A special thanks to everyone at Intel for their successful campaign this year.

Bank of America has been giving to United Way for over 16 years and once again showed their support by directing their $100,000 corporate gift to the Cornerstone Partners program to cover the operating expenses for United Way. For donors like you, this means 100% of your donation goes to help our community.

 PacifiCorp employees and their families helped clean reusable materials for use in school art projects, packed 19,000 pounds of food to make up 14,000 meals, sorted reusable building materials and helped set up for a book sale which raised $45,000 for the library. By adding volunteer activities to their Community Giving Campaign, PacifiCorp made an even greater impact in the community

 The Jubitz Corporation saw their campaign increase an impressive 12% over last year with a huge growth in their participation rate. The organization has run a United Way Community Giving Campaign for years, but with new energy from their staff they achieved spectacular results. The campaign wrapped up with a donation-driven dunk tank event where Mark Gram, COO of the Jubitz Corporation definitely got wet. It was a great way to energize their campaign and a big “thank you” goes out to Mr. Gram for being such a good sport.

Thanks to all of our companies and all of our donors for your generosity!

Loyal Contributors: Bob and Marilyn Ridgley

Bob and Marilyn Ridgley epitomize what it means to be a United Way Loyal Contributor.

They have been giving to United Way of the Columbia-Willamette and United Way of Santa Fe County in New Mexico for over 50 years, starting in 1961 when Bob went to work at Stoel Rives.

Bob was an active United Way volunteer and chaired the United Way Campaign Cabinet in 1991 when he was president of NW Natural.

Both Bob and Marilyn are great advocates of the Tocqueville Society, United Way’s program for major donors. They deeply believe in the value of getting involved in volunteer organizations.

“I’ve been involved in those kinds of organizations all my life. And to me that was what made life exciting, was the ability to see changes you were making on your society,” says Bob.

Bob attended Cornell University and then Harvard Law School. Marilyn was a year behind and graduated from Cornell University with a teaching degree. Both their scholastic experiences developed their interests in volunteering and giving back to their community.

After graduation, they headed out west for Portland, Oregon where Bob worked for twenty-three years at Stoel Rives doing corporate law.

Now retired, both Bob and Marilyn continue their volunteer service and spirit of philanthropy through United Way of the Columbia-Willamette.

If you have given to United Way – any United Way – for 10 years or more then you’re a Loyal Contributor.

Sign up for special benefits here and join the ranks of our many longtime donors like the Ridgleys.

Portland Non-Profits Scramble to Prevent Increase in Homeless Families after Federal Budget Cuts

The statistics are telling. In the metro area, over 550,000 people live in poverty, including 17,500 seniors. Many of those experiencing poverty work minimum wage jobs that just don’t provide enough income to cover the basics like food, rent and utilities. As a result, 30% seek monthly food assistance just to get by. Unemployment, evictions and rising costs for basic needs mean that more of our neighbors, coworkers and friends are living on the edge – some for the first time in their lives. 

Thanks to our donor’s support, United Way of the Columbia-Willamette is able to respond. In collaboration with local agencies, United Way’s Community Relief Fund helped stabilize almost 60,000 families in crises in 2011. 

United Way’s Community Relief Fund supports local agencies working to fill the gap but many of these agencies also rely on another funding from the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP). EFSP, a collaboration between the federal government and non-profits like United Way, has provided regional funding for agencies that serve families in crises for 28 years. This year the Portland metro area’s $1.3 million in funding from EFSP was cut, leaving local agencies scrambling to provide emergency services to area families. You can help! 

Here’s what you can do!! 

Contact Congress: urge them to take action to reconsider their funding cuts to this vital program that provides for those most in need of support. 

Tell Your Friends: Share this blog post through Facebook, Twitter and email. 

Stay in Touch: Sign up for our email newsletter and stay informed. 

Donate to the Community Relief Fund: Your donations will make a difference! 

History of Disability Rights and Important Dates

Although June 22 has passed for this year, it was a historic day for the disability community. Not only did it mark the anniversary of the 1999 Supreme Court Olmstead decision which affirmed the right of people with disabilities to live in their homes and communities, but it also marks the anniversary of the death of Justin Dart, Jr. who is widely recognized as "the father of the Americans with Disabilities Act," "the godfather of the disability rights movement," and co-founder of the Justice for All Blog.

Coming up, July 26th will be the 21st anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. In 1990, the world’s first comprehensive civil rights law for people was signed into law. The ADA signifies the adoption of a public policy committed to the removal of a broad range of impediments to the integration of people with disabilities into society. The ADA is a wide-ranging law that prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability. It affords similar protections against discrimination to Americans with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which made discrimination based on race, religions, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal. Disability is defined by the ADA as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity." The determination of whether any particular condition is considered a disability is made on a case by case basis.

For more information about the history of Disability Rights Movement, check out the following link and click through the options as your interest leads you. Clicking on the pictures gives more in depth info.

Daimler Receives United Way Giving Campaign Honors

Last month, United Way of the Columbia-Willamette interim President and CEO Jay Bloom had the pleasure of presenting the organization's 2010 Campaign Metric Award to Daimler Trucks North America. There to accept the award was Daimler's President and CEO Martin Daum who has been at the helm of the company since 2009. Mr. Daum has leadership and visionary responsibility for Daimler Trucks North America LLC and its affiliated companies - Freightliner Trucks, Western Star Trucks, Thomas Built Buses, Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation, Detroit Diesel Corporation and Axle Alliance Company.

The metric award from United Way is given for excellence in campaign statistics and with the reinstatement of the corporate match this past campaign year, Daimler also was recognized with the Largest New Corporate Gift award for a company with more than 200 employees. The total giving for Daimler Trucks North America was nearly $147,000!

Thank you to Daimler and to every one of their employees and retirees who participated in last year's United Way Annual Giving Campaign. Your contributions will be used to improve children's education, help individuals and families become more financially stable and improve health and wellness in our community. 

We look forward to kicking off our next annual giving campaign this fall with your support. If your company would like to participate please learn more on United Way of the Columbia-Willamette's website.

Housing & Health for People of Color in Portland

“Creating safe and decent places to live can have incredibly positive effects on a family's health, on study habits of students, and on a neighborhood's overall attractiveness and stability.”-Jimmy Carter, Decent Housing is not Just a Wish, it is a Human Right

The Oregon Humanities brown bag discussion on June 23, 2011 brought together three scholars to discuss, among other issues, the impact of poverty and housing discrimination on the health and vitality of children of color. According to the presenters, housing discrimination remains a key mechanism for maintaining racial segregation, and along with it, a host of other deleterious social ills. Their conclusion: discrimination in housing affects children’s health because it typically means that impoverished people of color live in dense urban areas with higher levels of social stress and environmental pollution.

To the point, Portland Metro area’s history of housing and wage discrimination has resulted in significantly lower levels of income and wealth for people of color. With reduced access and little left in stretched budgets for health care, people of color in the Metro area experience higher rates of infant mortality and teen birth, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and prostate cancer deaths. According to the Multnomah County, Racial & Ethnic Disparities, 2011 Update, intervention strategies related to health and access to economic, educational, employment, and housing opportunities will be necessary to address the 22 health disparities for people of color in the Metro area.

At United Way of the Columbia-Willamette we realize that many of the problems facing our community are complex and interconnected. Through our Community Impact Fund we research and identify the most effective projects and collaborations that address issues of education, income and health, providing funds, and technical assistance, and promoting system change. Through efficient use of donor dollars we encourage collaborative relationships and leverage resources for use in addressing some of the most challenging social issues in our community.

United Way funds innovative projects that promote healthy environments and assist individuals and families in maintaining financial stability. Programs like Project Access NOW provide health care resources for those without, and a variety of income projects promote financial stability. United Way’s funding support not only addresses the current needs of the community but work to promote lasting change. Learn more about this work and other ways United Way seeks to advance the common good on our website.

So, what is your experience? We invite you to join in the conversation; send us your comments and feedback.

Pride Month

United Way's Internal Diversity and Inclusion committee makes efforts to inform our staff of notable diversity topics and with June being Pride Month, here is a little background on the history and importance of the movement that we thought we'd share: 

June is the month for Pride events here in Oregon and across the nation. Pride can mean many things: satisfaction in an achievement, a sense of dignity or value, a family of lions...and tigers and bears...oh my!

With regard to June, Pride refers to gatherings and parades held to recognize and celebrate the history, contributions and diversity of our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) citizens. In this context, the word pride is used as an affirmation of LGBTQ identity and community. 

The modern Pride movement began in 1969 after the Stonewall riots in New York City, when a group of gay people fought back against unconstitutional police raids of local gay bars. Stonewall gave a sense of pride to a previously underground community and parades were held to commemorate the significance of the riots, eventually seeding the grassroots movement of today’s LGBTQ community. 

Learn more about United Way's diversity efforts and we'll see you at the Portland Pride Parade on June 19th.

United Way's Commitment to Being Good Stewards of Your Donor Dollars

Many Oregonians may have heard of State Senate Bill 40, initiated by Attorney General Kroger, which targets "bad" charities or those non profits that spend less than 30% of funds they raise on programs and revoking their tax-exempt status. Not long ago AG Kroger also released the list of the 20 Worst Charities of 2010 that were registered to raise funds in Oregon (not to worry, United Way is no where near that list!). 

While it seems as though the bill is stalled in the Senate ( it does bring up an opportunity to consider how your philanthropy dollars are being spent. United Way would like to make sure our supporters are well aware of all the many steps we take to be good stewards of your donation and that, with your support, we're having a direct and significant impact on improving lives of thousands of people locally. 

1. The United Way Cornerstone Partners program ensures that 100% of the dollars you generously donate to United Way help people improve their education, income and health. We're able to do that thanks to 16 local companies that have chosen to designate their corporate gifts to the United Way of the Columbia-Willamette, to help underwrite operating costs. Because of their support, 100% of contributions received will be invested in local programs to help people in need.

2. United Way of the Columbia-Willamette is proud to say our fiscal efficiency rating exceeds industry standards for non profit organizations. But you don't have to just take our word for it, information is available on GuideStar and Charity Navigator. 

3. United Way does the research. We conduct extensive community assessments to understand the needs of the community and fund programs designed to create system-wide improvements in education, income (economic stability and poverty) and health. By conducting the research, we know where best to use your dollars. Read these extensive United Way Community Needs Assessment and other reports. 

4. Our innovative grant funding model includes requirements that all our projects conduct rigorous and regular outcome reports to make sure the dollars that are spent, your dollars, are put to maximum use to benefit the community. 

5. We take considerable care to be transparent about our financial reporting and make our financial documents readily available on our website for our donors and the public to review.

6. We communicate with our supporters about what results we have achieved as a result of your generous donation. United Way's Community Impact Results Report showcases the measurable results we were able to achieve over the past five years. Each year we were able to improve the lives of 100,000 people right here in our local community with your help. 

To learn more about the results United Way of the Columbia-Willamette is able to achieve, consider signing up for our United Way e-newsletter and we'll keep you well informed of how we're being good stewards of your donor dollars.

Thank you for your support.

United Way Honors U.S. Bank

A big thank you goes out to U.S. Bank this week. As a fantastic member of United Way's Cornerstone Partner program, they presented their corporate check worth an impressive $195,000! 

If you are unfamiliar with the Cornerstone Partner program, seventeen local companies have chosen to designate their corporate gifts to the United Way of the Columbia-Willamette, to help underwrite operating costs. Because of their support, 100% of contributions received by individuals like you will be invested in local programs to help people in need.

National Recognition

Additionally, U.S. Bank was honored by United Way Worldwide with the 2011 United Way Spirit of America Award recently. In communities across the United States, including here in the Portland/Vancouver region, U.S. Bank and its employees leverage their unique expertise to improve people's financial stability and create stronger communities. 

In 2010, U.S. Bank nationally raised more than $38 million in charitable giving! Additionally, U.S. Bank employees volunteer in significant numbers, last year alone, employees volunteered more than one million hours worth of service.

Thank you U.S. Bank for being such an inspiring partner in working to improve the lives of so many people here in Oregon and throughout the United States.

April is National Volunteer Month: A perfect time for all of us to get out and be great by serving our community.

“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

At United Way of the Columbia-Willamette, we focus on the building blocks of a quality life: education, income and health. With regard to volunteerism, the connection seems pretty clear. Higher education leads to a steady income and financial stability which often leads to higher volunteer rates. Volunteering has a variety of benefits, not just for the community at large, but for the individual as well. Specifically, volunteering leads to greater mental and physical health by increasing social skills, providing a connection to community and giving a sense of purpose.

I’m glad there is a month dedicated to encouraging and inspiring people to volunteer. I need the reminder myself. While I recognize and understand the importance of volunteering on a cognitive level, sometimes I need not only the push to action, but also the pause to reflect on what volunteering means to me.

According to a report released earlier this year by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Volunteering in the United States 2010), I fit fairly neatly into the categories deemed to volunteer the most. I’m female. I’m employed and receive a Community Service Benefit from my employer. I’m 41. I’ve been fortunate to receive a college education. I’m white, unless I choose to volunteer my Mexican and Native American roots. I’m healthy and able-bodied. According to my demographics, I should be a volunteer extraordinaire!

Despite the many privileges above, I have to say, I don’t volunteer as often as I could. Because of my vantage point, it’s easy for me to find rationalizations for why I haven’t volunteered as much as I’d like. I work for a non-profit, so I’m making a contribution to the common good every day. I make other charitable contributions. I’m too busy with other hobbies, activities, family and friends. I haven’t found the right organization yet. You get the idea.

In the process of categorizing myself as a person with few barriers to volunteering, I quickly realized I could just as easily be viewed as selfish, uncaring, lazy and disinterested. I know in my heart these things aren’t true. Yet, how often do I view myself in these terms? I feel like I could do more. The privilege I have reinforces the idea that my contributions are needed and welcome. 

What if I was struggling to get my GED? What if I was unemployed? What if I was in poor health? Would I still feel like my contributions are welcome? How would I fit into this structured idea of volunteerism? Would the service I provide to my family, my neighbors or my church be given as much weight in the eyes of others? How often is non-participation viewed as apathy, especially for less privileged groups?

The community benefits of formal volunteering are undeniable. When people grab hold of hands, come together and volunteer, great things are accomplished in short order. We learn about ourselves and others. In this spirit, I suggest broadening the conversation so we truly recognize the service of all people. 

At the core, volunteerism is an organized way for us to show empathy for one another and experience our interdependence. In reality, we all give of ourselves every day with every interaction, although we probably don’t view it as volunteering. 

So, not only will I use National Volunteer Month as a spark to rekindle my volunteer fire, I’ll also start being more aware of the informal acts of volunteerism too. Introducing myself to more of my neighbors? Why not! Holding the door for someone? You betcha! Picking up the fast food litter outside my apartment? Bring it on!

Join me in volunteering this month and throughout the year. Learn more about volunteer opportunities by visiting United Way of the Columbia-Willamette’s website at

“Do something wonderful, people may imitate it.” - Albert Schweitzer

Michelle House
Member, United Way Internal Diversity & Inclusion Team

My Bad Habit

I have a bad habit. Okay, I have several. One, though, is significant in terms of diversity and race. I take guilty pleasure in scanning the comments section of articles posted to the website of a local newspaper to see how long it takes for race to enter the dialogue. The phenomenon is especially common in articles regarding politics or crime. 

This newspaper seems to have a policy not to include race in physical descriptions of suspected perpetrators. This policy draws the ire of many readers who suggest the paper is not doing its job by withholding this information and instead is pandering to political correctness. A reporter recently directed unhappy commentators to a PBS interactive web piece called, RACE – The Power of an Illusion, to illustrate the philosophy behind this issue. The PBS information demonstrates that race is a social construction. This construction historically benefited its more powerful architects over those from whom they sought land, property, labor or other ill-gotten commodities. RACE – The Power of Illusion instructs that, “Not one characteristic, trait or even gene distinguishes all the members of one so-called race from all the members of another so-called race.”

The “Sorting People” section of the PBS site challenges viewers to correctly identify the race of twenty different people, take a look and you will see why this is so daunting. The issue is a personal one for me. My own heritage is Irish, Native American, and French. While I am Pembina Chippewa, my mother was enrolled out of Sault Ste. Marie reservation in Michigan, meaning that she and her children would have federal recognition as Native Americans although we are not Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa, but most anyone would identify me as white. My son has about the same skin tone as me, but some would question or be surprised to know that his maternal grandmother is African American.

Herein, I believe, is the crux of the newspaper’s policy on printing suspects’ race. What angry readers really want to know is what color the accused individual is. Race, ethnicity, and color are not all the same thing. Hispanics and Latinos, or individuals whose heritage leads back to a Spanish speaking country, have skin tones that nearly run the gamut of human pigmentation. African American is a common racial classification, but is it appropriate for an individual whose family comes from Jamaica, Haiti, or Kenya? So identifying another person’s race for them is insulting and often erroneous.

None of this is meant to exhort a philosophy of “colorblindness.” We are not all the same, and that is okay. More than okay; it is wonderful, beautiful, and deeply valuable. Race is an illusion, but many of us still need ethnicity to define ourselves, our communities and provide a sense of belonging. We have not reached the point where communities of color can stop coming together to pursue, maintain, and further civil rights. Historical scars of racism have not healed and new ones appear constantly. 

However, I do believe that it is important to remember that we are more than the sum of our labels, more than a color. I encourage you to visit the PBS site at

Colin McCormack
Member, United Way Internal Diversity and Inclusion Committee

Earned Income Tax Credit: Jeff and Rita Helping Families Save Money

Jeff has been working to provide free tax preparation for the past seven years, the past four of which have been spent at CASH Oregon’s Lloyd Center free tax preparation center as a site coordinator. Nearly all the people that visit the site qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit and United Way of the Columbia-Willamette provides funds to help those clients receive the credit.

“Most of the people we help here are either surprised or delighted that they’re receiving a considerable refund or they’re counting on that money to help pay family bills,” Jeff said. “The way I see it, my job has two goals, first to make sure our clients are following all the tax laws to keep them out of trouble with the IRS and second to make sure they pay out as little as possible as allowed by tax law to help them better support their families.”

Rob Justus, Executive Director of CASH Oregon commends Jeff’s tireless efforts to save low income families money and ensure their taxes are filed correctly. “Jeff created the bar that all our tax sites adhere to for quality control,” said Rob. “Jeff developed a training course for all our tax volunteers on quality control and he makes sure we score 100% in site IRS audits meaning that all the tax returns we do are accurate.”

Rita is one of the volunteers who works three days a week to help prepare taxes for lower income individuals and families. “I enjoy being able to help people so much that I often stay so long into the evening they have to kick me out!” Rita said. “My mother used to volunteer doing tax preparation so last year I decided I wanted to help too and took the four 8 hour classes needed to become a certified tax preparer and I just love it.”

This tax season, the CASH Oregon site in Lloyd Center Mall is on track to file 3,000 returns for free, which would set a record for this location. They are expecting to file 16,000 free tax returns at all the 53 CASH Oregon tax sites combined thanks to over 300 volunteer tax preparers like Rita.

Tax Event Saves Low-Income Taxpayers Money

As part of United Way's funding of financial education services at the Community Housing Resource Center (CHRC) in Clark County, the center partnered with US Bank and the IRS last month to prepare 20 tax returns during the 2011 Homeless Connect event organized by the Council for the Homeless. Many individual tax returns were prepared placing $7,000 in Earned Income Tax funds into the hands of homeless low-income working taxpayers and a total of $15,000 in tax refunds were obtained by homeless participants at the event. Several people were also able to open direct deposit accounts with the Bank and staff at CHRC was able to connect people with community financial education and counseling resources that are available at the Center.