By Melanie Woolman
In my time at United Way of Weld County, I have been inspired by the vision that its board of directors and the community has for the organization. I intend to take this vision, make it a reality, and lead United Way into the future.
I began working with United Way of Weld County in 2014. Given a desire to serve those in more challenging circumstances, I applied for an AmeriCorps opening at United Way, was offered the position, and moved to Colorado. After becoming a full-time United Way employee, I facilitated the community-wide conversation that became Weld’s Way Home, Weld County’s first strategic plan to address homelessness.
Now, eight years later, I am the new United Way of Weld County president and CEO.
While much has been accomplished, there are still too many Weld County children that can’t read sufficiently by the beginning of 4th Grade, youth that aren’t connected with a caring adult, households that are unstable or experiencing homelessness, and older adults that age in isolation and loneliness. There is work yet to be done.
From my time so far with United Way, I offer these learnings that will guide me as its leader.
GO BIG. United Way is seeking community-wide improvement in four areas: early childhood development (Reading Great by 8), youth success (Thrive by 25), household stability (Weld’s Way Home), and healthy aging (Aging Well). If we aren’t including all of our more vulnerable neighbors in each of these initiatives then we are picking and choosing who will be provided more opportunities for success.
SOLVE THE CHALLENGE. Can we imagine a day when we have solved these challenges? When every child is reading to learn by the start of 4th Grade? When every youth has an adult to whom they can go when in a tough spot? When every household is stable? When every older adult has what they need to age with meaning? Can we imagine?
MAKE A PLAN. As my experience with Weld’s Way Home taught me, without a community-wide plan to guide community-wide efforts we will not get community-wide results. No business makes money without a plan. No school district increases high school graduation rates without a plan. No family gets to a vacation destination without a plan. We will not get the community-wide results that we want without a shared and actionable plan.
MEASURE IT. Solving a challenge first requires measuring it. All of us—nonprofit organizations, government agencies, educational institutions, businesses, and more—can choose a lead indicator for each of our areas of shared work to know if we are succeeding or failing.
FOCUSED INVESTING. For years United Ways have been investing money in a fragmented way, hoping that funding alone will solve community challenges. We invest money in well-meaning though too disconnected efforts and then hope that the results will be greater than the sum of their parts. This method helps some individuals and families but it doesn’t solve challenges.
INCREASE GENEROSITY. Weld County is an amazingly productive community with enough wealth to bring about ample opportunity for all of our neighbors. I hope to encourage us all to be more generous in solving our greatest challenges.
HOPING AND DREAMING. While the specifics of each United Way initiative are different, the hopes and dreams can be quite similar: bringing about a community that creates more opportunity for us all; getting to that day when Weld County works for everyone. This is the direction that United Way is headed. Will you join us?
Melanie Woolman is the recently appointed United Way of Weld County president and CEO. Contact her at MWoolman@UnitedWay-Weld.org or 970-353-4300 to find out how you can get more involved in this vision for Weld County.