Williamson’s Notes: The Power of Collective Impact

2018 Year-In-Review
 
At United Way of Southeast Louisiana, we believe every problem - no matter how complex, systemic, or gut-wrenching - can be solved when fight together. 
 
Our progress made toward equitable communities in 2018 is proof that this mantra is more than words on a page. The only way we can create real, lasting change is through United Way’s Blueprint for Prosperity, bringing people, organizations, and systems together to work toward a common goal – eradicating poverty in Southeast Louisiana.
 
As we pause to reflect on this year and plan for the next, I’d like to share some of United Way’s wins for a better, brighter community, all made possible because of YOUR support.
 
Forging new partnerships that create more pathways to high-wage jobs
Last month, we launched a partnership with the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services to expand workforce training opportunities for recipients of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in seven parishes in Southeast Louisiana. This agreement opens up millions of federal reimbursement dollars for local nonprofits who help unemployed individuals secure livable wages and underemployed individuals obtain additional skills to advance their careers.
 
Breaking the cycle of poverty to prison and back
Louisiana is the second most incarcerated state in the nation, a title we are hardly proud of. The Louisiana Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative, a United Way collaborative working to reduce the rate of recidivism, secured over $800,000 in grant, in-kind, and other funds this year to bring the program to life in Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes. We are excited to move forward and show how the LA-PRI model can help people leaving the prison system attain the skills and education needed to secure living wage jobs, while working with the business community to create transitional and permanent jobs for these individuals. 
 
Building financial capability skills for Stability Today and Prosperity Tomorrow
The J. Wayne Leonard Prosperity Center, our in-house, one-stop financial stability center posted incredible outcomes in its first year of operation. Through financial education and coaching, credit repair and counseling, benefits screening, and income tax assistance, the Prosperity Center helped clients achieve: 
  • $1,500 average increase in savings within seven months
  • $763 in average debt reduction
  • Over $2.4 million in asset ownership/purchases through the IDA Project
  • And more! 
Creating innovative programs to support vulnerable workers
In March, United Way and the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation launched Hospitality Cares, a crisis grant program for hospitality workers facing a financial emergency. This program is one way we’re supporting ALICE, those who are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. And as one of the largest employers in the region with many ALICE workers, we do whatever we can to support this important industry.
 
Investing in early education to promote lifelong success 
Last summer, we launched a pilot program with the New Orleans Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and New Orleans Recreation Development Commission to bring quality, literacy-rich summer programming to 550 New Orleans children. The Kay Fennelly Summer Literacy Institute named by David Fennelly in honor of his mother, a former educator, combated summer learning loss by incorporating literacy development activities through 12 programs into 17 sites.
 
Advocating for policy that advances the common good
United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s Public Policy Committee marked its 5th anniversary in 2018. The legislative wins led by our Chief Operating Officer Charmaine Caccioppi and Public Policy Chair Kim Sport during this year’s session were nothing short of incredible. From historic domestic violence reform to protections for breast cancer and reconstruction patients, we are truly fighting for the most vulnerable among us. 
 
The Public Policy Committee also launched the Nancy M. Marsiglia Institute of Justice, a 12-week course on the U.S. Constitution, in partnership with the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. The Institute graduated its first class in November, and is on track to grow significantly in the coming years. 
 
Reinforcing our commitment to equity
Our Blueprint for Prosperity outlines a vision for equitable communities. Achieving this requires breaking down long-standing barriers and systems that limit access to opportunity. We’re starting this effort internally, auditing our policies through an equity lens, and inviting our community partners to join the conversation around equity. 
 
Even with these wins, there is much work to be done. 
 
During this season of giving, and as you consider your year-end philanthropic investments, we ask that you consider making an investment in United Way. We can assure you that no other organization can affect so many individuals in so many ways through one donation. United Way was able to turn every dollar donated in 2016 into $2.66 in impact in 2017. We look forward to seeing the financial impact of 2018’s outcomes, and what more can be accomplished with additional support.
 
Together, we can eradicate poverty and create a better, stronger Southeast Louisiana. I hope you’ll join us.
 
Living United,  
 
Michael Williamson
President & CEO
United Way of Southeast Louisiana