There are many social service agencies in all communities that compete for the limited local dollars available. The imperative of local communities is that they respect the dollars donated and use these dollars wisely.
The United Way was formulated, I think in the 1960’s, to offer the synergy of cooperation among social service agencies. Synergy is an important concept in team work – it suggests that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The teamwork of social service agencies working together, maximizing and sharing resources, eliminating duplication of service, has the potential of exponential offering of services. This is critical in the harmony of humanity.
The YMCA and the YWCA can share lifeguards at their swimming pools and personal trainers and aerobics instructors in their exercise programs. The Second Harvest Food Bank can help supply food to the local homeless food kitchen and to the local alcohol and drug treatment centers. Local Housing Authorities, helping young people get their first home, can help further by referring to the support system of other agencies. The Salvation Army can connect with the Food Bank, the Housing Authority, and the drug treatment center for maximized opportunity for success of their clients. Many of these agencies have real problems with transportation while church buses sit idly waiting for duty on Sunday morning.
The actual song being sung on local stages is one of competition. Six different agencies offer child care and rather than consolidate resources they compete for State contracts to offer supplemental service. Churches are setting up day care centers and pre-school programs with the focus being on recruiting future members – thus insuring the viability of the organization.
It is frustrating to me that these organizations often undermine the helping process with competing strategies to get the client. Success is measured within the context of the organization – rather than the real impact on the community.
The original United Way contracts called for the participating agencies to cease their own Fund Raising Programs. Over time these agencies have wiggled the contract around to say things like, no fund raising during the annual United Way Campaign. The United Way has their fund drive in the fall – The YMCA has their fund drive in the spring – the Girl Scouts sell cookies in the winter – no conflict. Except that it violates the rationale for the United Way.