Wednesday, January 26, 2011

United Way Continues to Support Local Programs Despite Economic Challenges

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

United Way of Pierce County announced funding amounts for more than 100 local programs. The decisions seek to sustain the heavily-burdened human services community but also reflect ongoing challenges created by a tough economic climate.

While 18 new programs will receive funding, some programs funded by United Way in the last cycle were not funded or received cuts from 5 to 90 percent.

“Workplace and corporate contributions to United Way have declined for the third straight year,” said United Way of Pierce County President Rick Allen. “This trend is consistent with campaigns across the nation. The cutbacks we have had to make have very little to do with program success, as outcomes being produced by many of these nonprofits are substantial and impressive. It is all about the economy.”

Local nonprofits have been faced with a dual challenge as funding continues to decrease while demand for human services continues to rise. More than 160 programs applied for funds amounting to over $5.5 million in requests. United Way’s Community Solutions Fund, which is used to support local programs, has seen more than a 50 percent decrease over the last three years, putting the fund at its lowest amount in nearly a decade.

To help offset the impact of the funding results, United Way of Pierce County’s board of directors approved a process that will adjust funding for those programs being cut or decreased gradually. These programs will receive a portion of their current funding for the next nine months to help with the transition. At the same time, programs being funded will increase over time to the full amount.

“It’s not the perfect scenario,” said Allen, “but most of these programs are administered by long-standing partners and we want to assist them in whatever way we can.”

Russell Investments and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have partnered with United Way of Pierce County on a $1 million matching grant intended to help alleviate the dramatic affect the recession has had on the nonprofit community. New gifts to the Community Solutions Fund will be matched by the grant and could raise an additional $2 million for investment in Pierce County.

“We are hopeful that those new companies and new donors that join us as a result of the match will see the value returned on the dollars they have invested and stay with us in future years,” explained Allen. “That gives all of us hope that we will start to turn this around and provide more opportunity for those in need to move toward stability and self-sufficiency.”

Additionally, changes to United Way’s funding process also affected funding decisions. In 2007, United Way began discussing with its direct-service partners and others a new strategy that would align more closely with its work in Education, Income, Health and Emergency Services and address emerging issues.

“We revised our funding strategy to create stronger, more sustainable outcomes to meet the needs of our community,” explained Pamela Duncan-Pierce, director of community assessment and investment at United Way of Pierce County. “The decrease in funding dollars combined with process changes made for a very competitive process. There were fewer dollars to address a phenomenal increase in need.”

Applications for funding are submitted to United Way and evaluated by a team of volunteers comprised of local community members. Volunteers looked for applications that offered services which resulted in the strongest outcomes in United Way’s priority areas of Education, Income, Health and Emergency Services.

The funding recommendations are presented to United Way’s Board of Directors for approval. Applicants were notified of the 2011-2013 funding decisions December 15, 2010. United Way funds on a three-year cycle with current funding set to end December 31, 2010.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Have You Earned More Money Than You Think?

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

It may not be April but many people are already starting to think about their taxes. Many local families are eligible for a tax credit that could put more money in their pockets but very few of them are aware of it.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a tax break for people who work but do not earn high incomes. Taxpayers who qualify and claim the credit could pay less federal tax, pay no tax or receive a refund.

People eligible for the EITC must meet the following criteria:
  1. Have earned income either by working for someone else or working for a business they own
  2. Have a valid Social Security number

  3. Cannot file as married filing separately

  4. Generally cannot be a nonresident alien

  5. Cannot be a qualifying child of another person

  6. Cannot be filing Form 2555 or Form 2555-EZ

  7. Investment income amount is limited
If you earn less than $48,362 and you have a child, brother, sister, grandchild, niece, nephew, stepchild or adopted child living with you, you may be eligible. If you earn less than $18,470 and you have no children and are at least age 25 and under 65, you may be eligible.
Tax preparers, both paid and volunteer, can help you determine if you are eligible and file your taxes properly to ensure you recieve the credit. Not sure it is worth the bother?
If your earned income and adjusted gross income (AGI) are each less than:
  • $43,352 ($48,362 married filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children , your maximum credit could be $5,666.

  • $40,363 ($45,373 married filing jointly) with two qualifying children, your maximum credit could be $5,036.

  • $35,535 ($40,545 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child, your maximum credit could be $3,050.

  • $13,460 ($18,470 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children, your maximum credit could be $457.
Don't miss this opportunity to put more money back in your pocket. Visit to find out if you are eligible and how to recieve this credit when you file this year.

Visit one of
these sites to have your return prepared by volunteers for free.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Why Do You Volunteer?

 by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

Martin Luther King Jr. was a man who knew the importance of community. We celebrate him every January for the remarkable things he did and what he stood for. This January, more than 120 youth gave their day off for the Martin Luther King holiday back to the community by volunteering.
Now some people might wonder why a teenager would choose to spend their day working when they didn't have to. We wondered that too. So we asked several of the students who volunteered. Their responses?

"It feels good to give back."
"I want to help the community like Martin Luther King Jr did."
"I like to help others with my friends."
"It's cool to volunteer!"

Find out what other volunteers said by visiting our YouTube page at or at our Youth United Facebook page at