ywca building14.jpg

A detail from the YWCA Lancaster building.

Some charities are cutting staff and services. Others hope to stay afloat by aggressively chasing donors.

It's anything but business as usual for nonprofits that lost all or much of the funding they once counted on from United Way of Lancaster County.

The American Red Cross last year, for instance, got nearly $156,000 from United Way, or roughly half of the relief agency's budget for helping Lancaster County families displaced by fire or other disaster.

But this year the United Way zeroed out the Red Cross as part of its shift to funding multi-agency efforts trying to solve big social problems.

How to fill the hole in its budget is "a question that keeps me up at night," Red Cross executive Ellen Kyzer said.

Likewise, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lancaster County went from getting $124,456 in United Way dollars last year to nothing this year.

"That was a shocker," director Melissa Siwiec said. "You're not going to support mentoring" of children of single parents?

Siwiec now has a staff of three after cutting the equivalent of 6.75 full-time employees. Most new matches are on hold. She said Big Brothers is also pursuing a merger.

Other agencies disrupted by United Way's new "collective impact" strategy include the Boy Scouts, the Community Action Program, Compass Mark, Neighborhood Services and YWCA Lancaster — each a long-time United Way-supported agency.

"Saying prayers"

"Shock," "disappointment," and "grieving" are words agency directors use to describe how they feel about becoming United Way orphans.

But agency leaders also acknowledge that the United Way was loud and clear that change was coming. They say the funder was fair and transparent in how it awarded the new, three-year grants.

They also know the United Way only has so much money to give — less than $3 million — and that competition for it was keen.

But losing out still stings, and they don't want clients to suffer.

"We are very concerned and saying a lot of prayers," said Kay Knight, CEO of Neighborhood Services, which lost $117,865, or 43 percent of its budget.

The funds supported services that make sure tiny welfare checks for indigent, incapacitated people pay landlords, utilities, pharmacies, nursing care and other vital needs. The work prevents homelessness.

Neighborhood Services, as part of a new United Way-funded partnership with MidPenn Legal Services, Lancaster General Health and SouthEast Lancaster Health Services, will get $39,000. But the money is only for new clients who are heavy users of medical care.

To keep its doors open for its existing 225 clients, Neighborhood Services has laid off a full-time worker and a half-time worker and hired a fund-raising consultant.

"Whatever ideas we can come up with, we're working on," Knight said. But with staff cut to the bone, "it's hard to get the extra stuff done."

The transition is prompting soul searching on agency boards.

"It's really made us look at ourselves and redefine ourselves," said Carol Kuntz, Compass Mark director, who no longer has $170,500 in United Way funding.

Compass Mark may have to cut one and a half positions and pull back on school-based substance abuse prevention programming.

Clients impacted

YWCA Lancaster lost more than $375,000 that supported traditional housing, child care and sexual assault counseling. In partnership with Lancaster schools, the YWCA will receive $45,000 for a kindergarten readiness program.

"Although we did not lay off personnel, this 90 percent deficit in United Way funding impacts our ability to attract and retain talent, and it impacts the people we serve," Michelle McCall, interim CEO said.

McCall said the YWCA prepared by restructuring and pursuing creative ways to raise money.

Community Action Program, meanwhile, is seeing United Way support drop from $446,486 to $194,475. Dan Jurman, the agency's recently hired CEO, said to keep its poverty-fighting programs rolling, he'll pull money from a rainy day fund.

Before obtaining his new position, Jurman was a Florida-based consultant to the United Way as it transitioned to collective impact. He said he still believes in the model.

Silver lining

"It's more important than it ever has been for nonprofits to figure out how to collaborate at a deeper level. Unfortunately funding cuts caused that to happen," Jurman said. "But there's still a silver lining if we can get people to work together in a different way."

Although Schreiber Pediatric Rehab Center went from receiving $104,000 to $10,000, it has, indeed, seen a silver lining.

Its annual phonathon this May came on the heels of an LNP article about the cuts to Schreiber. Donors, who gave $40,000 last year, dug deep. Schreiber ended up with $170,000.

"The United Way announcement really seemed to awaken a huge sense of wanting to give to help the children and families who depend on Schreiber," Schreiber president James DeBord, said.

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