‘Enlightening Experience’

United Way Of Southern Chautauqua County Selects Agencies To Receive Funding

YWCA Jamestown Executive Director Amanda Gesing, at left, answers questions about the agency during a recent panel review by United Way while YWCA staff and allocations volunteers listen. Pictured at right is UWSCC Community Impact Manager Eric Rinaldo.

The process by which United Way of Southern Chautauqua County selects local agencies to receive funding is an on-site, eye-opening evaluation conducted by community volunteers.

Coming together from different backgrounds, professions and areas of expertise, allocations volunteers review the requests for funding, visit the program sites and conduct interviews to make their recommendations.

Visiting the agencies is an essential step in the allocations process, as “it’s hard to have insight unless you are onsite,” according to UWSCC Executive Director Amy Rohler.

During their visits, volunteers get a first-hand look at how funding from United Way creates measurable impact in the community. It is more than just merely reviewing numbers on a spreadsheet. It is a process which leverages community involvement to ensure that resources get allocated appropriately, but perhaps more importantly, how United Way can provide additional support to nonprofit agencies. This sometimes includes helping them to recruit volunteers, share information about their impact or provide important connections so agencies can partner together.

“It is truly the community that gets to decide how the money raised by United Way gets spent,” said Rohler, UWSCC Executive Director. “Our allocations process is an essential function of our organization and it is largely unseen by the public, with the exception of the community members who participate in it.”

YWCA Jamestown Executive Director Amanda Gesing answers questions about the agency during a recent panel review by United Way while YWCA staff and allocations volunteers listen.

This process allows United Way of Southern Chautauqua County to remain transparent and accountable in its distribution of donor dollars to the 29 agencies and 42 programs it funds.



In 2014, United Way switched from an annual allocations process to a 2-year funding cycle.

This year, however, UWSCC is providing a funding extension rather than require a new application. Despite this change, the process review process remains the same including the critical role of in-person site visits.

Community allocations volunteers and United Way of Southern Chautauqua County staff question representatives from UCAN City Mission during a recent panel review of the agency. At center is UCAN City Mission Board of Directors Chairman Sharon Hamilton. Pictured at right of her is UCAN Interim Executive Director Bruce Baehr. Pictured at left of her is UWSCC Executive Director Amy Rohler.

“I found it to be an enlightening experience for many reasons,” said Karen Goodell, associate real estate broker with ERA Team VP and a new allocations volunteer. “The dedication and the care that so many of the leadership of the various organizations displayed was truly heartwarming, but it’s not lost on me that there are challenges.”

As part of the allocations process, volunteers review each agency’s financial information and, in some cases, learn first-hand how the need continues to outpace the ability to help.

Goodell credited United Way for the abundance of information provided to allocations volunteers about the agencies.

“I thought that the materials provided were excellent,” she said. “They really gave me the opportunity to understand the complexities of the organizations. I thought it was a well-run method of bringing us up to speed and communicating to us the process for reviewing the agencies.”

For the review process currently underway, United Way of Southern Chautauqua County has separated its 29 partner agencies into eight panels – with a total of 41 allocations volunteers conducting the site visits and interviews.

United Way of Southern Chautauqua County Executive Director Amy Rohler, at right, questions staff of the YWCA during an allocations panel review of the agency. Nonprofits funded by UWSCC are currently being reviewed for a funding extension. At left is UWSCC Community Impact Manager Eric Rinaldo.

“I was really touched to see first-hand all of the organizations United Way of Southern Chautauqua County reaches and the programs that get funded,” said Mark Panebianco, commercial account manager with Slone Melhuish. “It’s a vast array of diverse programs that get funded and people who are served. That’s probably my biggest takeaway. I was very touched by the scope of these United Way beneficiaries.”

Panebianco continued on to say that he was impressed with the allocations process, especially how educational it was – even for someone like himself who has volunteered in the community throughout the years and served on the boards of organizations.

“I’ve been involved in the community in many ways, but despite that I never would have guessed at how far funding from United Way reaches into the various programs put on by these community agencies – and even that some of these programs exist and are serving to meet the needs of the community.”


For the agencies receiving funding, the impact of United Way backing is profound. Beyond the financial support, United Way’s investment serves as a vote of confidence, validating their efforts to effect positive change. It provides stability and continuity, enabling these organizations to expand their reach and deepen their impact within the community.

“We couldn’t do what we do without the support of United Way,” said Kathy Park, Executive Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). “Their funding not only sustains our programs but empowers us to dream bigger, to reach higher, and to serve more individuals and families in need.”

In order to achieve its mission of improving the lives of all local residents, United Way of Southern Chautauqua County has identified four strategic areas of impact which it requires that programs to fit into in order to qualify for funding. Those areas are:

≤Academic Success

≤Health & Independence

≤Ready Workforce

≤Self Sufficiency

Agencies receiving funding are required to report back to United Way every six months, providing United Way with data regarding the impact and effectiveness of their programs.

From those reports, United Way can accurately cite 29,703 positive impacts between June 2022 and June 2023 – a 21% increase from the year prior.

“Every time someone participates in one of our funded programs — receives tutoring, receives dinner from Meals On Wheels or spends a day in childcare – that’s a positive impact,” said Eric Rinaldo, UWSCC Community Impact Manager said. “It’s amazing to see the collective impact these organizations are having year-in and year-out in our community.” Rinaldo is new to the role since December 2023, and has enjoyed his first time experiencing the allocations process.

A copy of United Way of Southern Chautauqua County’s 2022-2023 Collective Impact Report can be downloaded from its website, located online at www.uwayscc.org. Each year’s Collective Impact Report details the programs funded and details of the impact in each of the strategic four areas of focus.

The 29 local agencies currently receiving funding from United Way are surely familiar names to the community. They include: A Children’s Place, American Red Cross of Western New York, Allegheny Highlands Council Boy Scouts of America, Chautauqua Adult Day Services, Chautauqua Blind Association Vision Rehabilitation Services, Chautauqua Lake Child Care Center, Chautauqua Opportunities, Chautauqua Safety Village, Chautauqua Striders, Child Advocacy Program, Community Connections at Findley Lake, Community Helping Hands, Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Family Service of the Chautauqua Region, Girl Scouts of Western New York, Jamestown Community Learning Council, Jamestown Public Market, Junior Achievement of Western New York, Meals On Wheels, Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County, Prevention Works, The Relief Zone, The Resource Center, The Salvation Army, UCAN City Mission, Winifred Crawford Dibert Boys & Girls Club of Jamestown, The YMCA and YWCA Jamestown.


In January, UWSCC informed its partner agencies that it would be providing a funding extension instead of beginning its regularly scheduled 2024-2026 funding cycle.

In 2014, United Way switched from funding programs yearly to a 2-year funding cycle. A change was also made to institute an outcome-based funding approach.

Contributing to the decision to issue a funding extension is the fact that United Way has recently had an equity audit of its funding process completed. An outside consultant was retained to review the last 10 years of the agency’s RFP process and Allocations process – and the funding extension will allow United Way to review and implement the recommendations of that equity audit.

“We knew we needed to allow time for our understanding and executing of the consultant’s recommendations in partnership with our nonprofit agencies,” Rohler said. “We want to listen, learn and integrate this information to inform our strategic work so that our next funding cycle is as reflective of community needs as it can be. 2025 will mark the 10-year milestone of when we shifted to an outcome-based funding strategy using the existing strategic aims and outcomes. We want to look at the last decade of data and use it to inform our next funding cycle.”

A new Request For Proposals for the 2025-2027 funding cycle will be released in December 2024.

The full text of United Way’s announcement of the funding extension, including the rationale behind it as well as a Q&A, can be found online at www.uwayscc.org.


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