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Jun 23, 2016

Current History: United Way Of The Cape Fear Area Adopts Three-Year Cycle For Local Nonprofits

Sponsored Content provided by Chris Nelson - President, United Way of the Cape Fear Area

As we begin the final article in our historical journey, I’d like to talk a bit about the beginning of our Community Impact process. This process was a turning point in the way funding was managed at United Way and the start of a collaborative process that continues to grow today.
Back in 2010, and to be more responsive to the needs of the funded Community Impact collaborations, United Way adopted a system of overlapping, three-year funding cycles for three impact areas: financial stability; health; and education. After tracking annual investments over five years and measuring outcomes, UWCFA decided to take a longer-term approach to transform the community.
The UWCFA board decided that each year, Vision Councils would focus on the data of one of these specific impact areas and the investment teams would begin making three-year investments in solutions. Each subsequent year, UWCFA volunteers would focus on another impact area. This long-term, data focused approach has allowed UWCFA to track trends over three years and reassess resource gaps and unmet needs in each area. Today, more than 300 volunteer hours go into every funding decision made by UWCFA.
In addition, New Hanover County Budget Director Avril Pinder chaired the board in 2011. Wilmington real estate broker Tim Milam served as campaign chair that year, as well as the following year.
In 2012, United Way of the Cape Fear Area marked its 30th anniversary as a Senior Community Service Employment Program host agency. Ed Murray, executive vice president and chief human resource officer at PPD, chaired the United Way board.
When the three-year federal HPRP Recovery Act Program expired in 2012, the federal government replaced it with a smaller, annual grant program called the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG). Successful HPRP program grantees were encouraged to apply for ESG funding and United Way volunteered to serve as the local Continuum of Care’s fiscal agent for the grant. Federal funding was granted through the state of North Carolina for federal fiscal year 2013 and would be renewed for both 2014 and 2015. During that period, United Way successfully served as the financial and program manager for the ESG grant program, which totaled nearly $750,000 and focused on rapidly re-housing chronically homeless, extremely poor people.
On a national level, United Way of America celebrated its 125th anniversary and entered into partnerships with CNN and CNN International to share the LIVE UNITED message in communities around the world. Ed Murray again chaired the board and then Newbridge bank executive Paul McCombie chaired the 2013 campaign.
United Way also provided community leadership for a project to build an innovative new playground at Wilmington’s Portia Hines Park on the corner of 10th and Rankin streets. Construction, done by volunteers who were coordinated by United Way, was sponsored by the KABOOM Foundation.
The approach of 2014 brought even more changes. South State bank executive Mark Tyler chaired the board and Ed Murray, former two-time board chair, chaired the campaign. New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David also approached United Way about creating and operating an employment placement program for hard-to-place job seekers living in poverty. United Way accepted the challenge and took responsibility for incubating the new program which was originally called Hometown Hires. David successfully presented the new concept to groups around the nation, while United Way worked closely with Phoenix Employment Ministries, a funded United Way partner agency, to successfully negotiate a transition for the program to a permanent setting.
In July 2014, United Way of the Cape Fear Area culminated three years of negotiations with the City of Wilmington, New Hanover County, the Tri-County Homeless Interagency Council and the Cape Fear Council of Governments by facilitating a transfer of responsibility for coordinating the Cape Fear area’s homeless amelioration initiative to a permanent Continuum of Care administrator. With continuing funding assured, the new administrator would be hosted by the Council of Governments. The move brought the community’s organizational structure into compliance with the federal HEARTH Act of 2009 and assured continuing federal funding for homeless programs for years to come. United Way announced it would continue to support a part-time position to manage several successful 10 Year Plan programs created since 2008 during a 2015 to 2016 transition year and through as long as fiscal year 2018, if necessary.
The year 2015 appointed UNCW Professor Tom Barth, Ph.D., as United Way board chair and Mark Tyler as 2015 campaign chair. In addition, chronic homelessness in the Cape Fear area was reduced 65 percent during the 10 Year Plan’s existence and general homeless was reduced approximately 50 percent. United Way’s involvement in the process tapped grants and mainstream resources to funnel millions of dollars into the community to address what in 2007 had been seen as a critical community problem.
United Way of the Cape Fear Area continues to work hard to address critical issues in our local communities. As we look toward the next 75 years of service to our local community, we reflect back on 75 years of change, growth and determination.
Join us as we celebrate you at our 75th anniversary on June 11, 2016 at Audi Cape Fear. Tickets are still available but going fast. Our 1940s-themed event will highlight the past 75 years, as well as focus on our present and future. All are invited. Find that perfect vintage outfit and come have some fun.
Visit or buy tickets at For more information, call (910) 798-3900.
Christopher L. Nelson is president of the United Way of the Cape Fear Area, a local nonprofit organization. Since 1941, the United Way of the Cape Fear Area has worked alongside local agencies in Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Pender counties to assist them in providing substantial and sustainable change within the Cape Fear area. To learn more about the United Way of the Cape Fear Region, go to or call (910) 798-3900.

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