WATERTOWN — The United Way of Northern New York has been instrumental in supporting communities throughout the north country since its inception in 1921. By means of fundraising, a screening process and grants to charitable organizations, UWNNY has given Jefferson County (beginning in 1921), Lewis County (merged in 1999) and St. Lawrence County (merged in 2000) stability by supporting prevention, intervention and crisis services.
Historically, the focal point of UWNNY’s value to the community has been its fundraising efforts, which allowed partner agencies to concentrate on their missions instead of revenue. To appreciate the magnitude of support, UWNNY has financially sustained our nonprofits with more than $12 million since 2000.
As our communities and needs evolve, UWNNY also must evolve. The transformation has started to increase our value to every resident in the tri-county area.
The mission statement of UWNNY was recently changed to reflect three key points of focus: “UWNNY’s mission is to measurably improve the lives of all residents of Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties through leadership, training and funding.”
This new mission statement enables UWNNY to pursue the highest quality of life for each resident. We have begun reaching out to local municipalities to understand the unique challenges that each one faces.
UWNNY will multiply our impact by strategically investing resources to complement and align with other agencies’ efforts. This will require close collaboration with county legislators and managers, city leaders, town supervisors and village mayors.
A cookie cutter approach will not work. Only through close partnerships with local community stakeholders and other key funding agencies will we effectively and efficiently create positive impact and change.
The vast majority of charities in Northern New York struggle with financial resources. This impacts their ability to attract top talent, retain and incentivize gifted employees, and to become better businesses through education and training.
To address these hurdles, UWNNY will open the North Country Center of Nonprofit Excellence in January 2020. The task of the center is to create and sustain a professional nonprofit community, which maximizes limited resources to most effectively and efficiently serve the region.
Workshops, seminars and subscription-based online resources will be made available to all nonprofit agencies to facilitate a higher level of organizational performance and financial stewardship. Year-round, tiered training will be provided for board members, senior management, staff, care providers, grant writers, financial managers and human resources.
At the historical heart of UWNNY’s mission, we will provide critical funding at the right time, at the right place, to the right organizations to generate the greatest positive impact. Through our traditional payroll deduction program, Over the Edge fundraiser and significant outreach to corporate and private funders who share our vision, UWNNY will put the highest priority on community-level return on investment. The North Country Center for Nonprofit Excellence will provide year-round interactions that will increase the value of our funding and lead to a more sustainable network of nonprofits.
In an ever-changing world of technology, economic threats and societal norms, we must lean forward to aggressively address the challenges of today and avoid the storms of the future. Beyond volunteering helping hands and strong backs, we must intellectually engage to find the best solutions and work smartly together to achieve our shared goals.
UWNNY is leading the charge and inspiring change. Come join us. United we win!
Jamie Cox is the chief executive officer of the United Way of Northern New York and a retired, combat-decorated, U.S. Marine Corps aviator. He can be reached at 315-788-5631 or Jamie.Cox@unitedway-nny.org.