Tag Archives: United Way of Dane County

Rowing Together in Madison and Dane County: Efforts to Improve Lives

–submitted by Andrea Kaminski


As Dane County continues to grow, approaching an estimated 600,000 population by 2040, the United Way of Dane County (UWDC) is working to ensure a high quality of life in which all residents thrive. Two UWDC leaders – Board Chair Anna Burish and President & CEO Renee Moe – updated Rotarians on current challenges facing our community and strategies for addressing them. Past UWDC Board Chair Rich Lynch described a “parallel effort” more sharply focused on housing and homelessness.

As the largest private funder in Dane County, the UWDC in 2005 adopted its Agenda for Change as a way to look at the community holistically, identify specific needs and establish a coordinated philanthropic approach to addressing them. Burish noted that such change management requires the same steps in the philanthropic sector as it does in other areas: pinpoint the needs; propose strategies to solve the problems; identify the desired impact, or goal; set metrics by which to measure success.

UWDC works with approximately 100 nonprofits, many of which on their own do not have the capacity to do this kind of planning or the resources to collect the needed data. Their expertise is in providing services. With a coordinated approach to philanthropy, UWDC helps them carry out their programs in a manner that advances the shared goals while gathering the needed data to measure progress.

Moe said there are 64,000 people living in poverty in Dane County, including 12,000 children. In addition, there are challenges related to shifts in the economy and workforce, technology, demographics, race relations, gender relations and the changing framing of social issues. She noted that the population of people over age 65 is expected to grow 130 percent in the next decade. There are also shifts affecting philanthropy including declines in public funding, changes in tax law related to charitable giving, local business trends, and more choice in how people give, including crowdfunding and designated project support.

Moe believes the “best change happens when you take the best of what people have built over almost 100 years and move it forward.” Working with nonprofits, school districts and government, UWDC is identifying new ways to tackle old problems and boost its ability to shift and allocate resources to address change. For example, as a result of a successful recent program, every health care organization in the county is conducting early childhood screening starting at 6 months in an effort to ensure that all Dane County children are prepared to go to kindergarten. The screening data are being collected in Epic software, so we can measure the success of various interventions. With a relatively small investment, more kids are on track for learning.

Lynch explained that, while UWDC carries out its holistic Agenda for Change, a group of volunteer leaders have created an Economic Stability Council, with representatives of businesses, foundations and government agencies, to launch the parallel, intensive effort aimed at reducing homelessness.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it on our club’s YouTube channel here.

A Plan to Create Economic Stability for Young Families

–submitted by Rick Kiley; photo by Karl Wellensiek

Renee Moe 1

Club President Ellsworth Brown and Renee Moe

This week’s speaker was President/CEO of United Way of Dane County and our club’s past president, Renee Moe, who presented “What Strategies Will Help Decrease Poverty in Our Community and Create Economic Stability for Young Families?”

In late 2014 the United Way of Dane County convened a blue-ribbon delegation to address this question.  Led by UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank and former Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, the group recently presented recommendations.

Poverty is defined as income for a family of four less than $24,000 per year.  Renée explained our county poverty rate of 14% is similar to rates statewide and nationwide.  About 25% of those living in poverty are children.  Rates are 2-3 times higher for families of color than white families; the rate for single-parent families is nearly ten-fold that of 2-parent families.

Children are especially affected by poverty.  Delayed development can begin early in infancy and be much as two years when kindergarten begins.  The result is the need to address whole families; parents’ stress becomes children’s stress.

The delegation recommends four strategies for addressing our area’s poverty:

  1. Ensure children in poverty are developmentally ready to be successful in school.
  2. Secure family-sustaining employment for young families in poverty.
  3. Increase affordable, available housing.
  4. Provide holistic, two generation, coordinated supports to young parents in poverty.

The United Way has a call to action for those wanting to unite to address poverty, including:

  • Businesses: To hire nontraditional workers in poverty and of color.
  • Nonprofits: To innovate to build capacity.
  • Faith organizations: To volunteer and partner.
  • Elected leaders: To evaluate laws and rules unintentionally keeping people in poverty.

Did you miss our meeting this week?  CLICK to watch the video.

How Are We Doing? Where Are We Going? What Have I Learned?

–submitted by Donna Hurd; photo by Jeff Burkhart

Leslie Howard 10 7 2015

As the end of an era approaches, Leslie Ann Howard, CEO of the United Way of Dane County and fellow Rotarian, delivered a heart-felt and impassioned overview of how the social condition of the Madison community has evolved since taking the helm 34 years ago.  As the first female to lead the organization in its 93-year history, Ms. Howard has seen the community’s narrative change from you “can’t get things done in Madison” to “We can and we will.”

Reflecting on life lessons, Leslie Ann recounted the first twenty years of her life as the child of an alcoholic father.  She experienced all of the emotion and pain that such a relationship carries with it.  However, at the age of 44 her father became sober through the balance of his life and taught her, “It’s never too late to change”, a lesson that has shaped her into the inspiring leader she has become.  It is this lesson that has directed her leadership of the United Way and guided her in her mission to help right some of the most pervasive social wrongs in our community.

As the first female manager in the nation of a collegiate football team, she learned “there are no limitations due to gender,” an experience that would equip her with the necessary acumen and confidence to interact with men in the locker room or the Boardroom.

These life lessons, while not all-inclusive, were pivotally instrumental in propelling Leslie Ann into a life focused on social and organizational change, leaving us a gift we should all cherish for many years to come.

In response to donor’s expectations that the needle move in a positive direction as a result of continued asks and gifts of financial support, the organization accepted the charge to embark on a mission of changing the “human condition,” once felt an improbable goal.  With this transformation, the organization embarked on a quest, aptly referred to as the “Agenda for Change,” focusing on Education, Income, and Health; and has moved the needle in the right direction, evidenced by the decreases in recidivism rates, decreases in homeless families and improved outcome because of partnerships with parents.  Successes abound, but the work must continue.

With a strong belief that people, circumstances, and conditions can change, our community can, and will continue change, with the hope that Madison will become one of the Best Places to Live and Work for all its citizens.

Thank you, Leslie Ann, for your leadership, insight, and unrelenting quest for change.  If we all believe in the possibility of change, it will become our reality!

Did you miss out meeting this week?  CLICK to watch the video.