United Way of Miami-Dade, located in Miami, Florida, recently celebrated its 95th birthday! In 1924, the precursor to United Way of Miami-Dade, the Miami Community Chest, held its first campaign, which raised $136,095 to support 12 local agencies, including Salvation Army, American Red Cross, and the YMCA. The Community Chest became the United Fund of Dade County in 1957, and it was finally in 1972 when the United Fund became known as United Way of Miami-Dade. Alvah H. Chapman, Jr. led the first campaign as United Way, which raised $6,678,000 to support 46 agencies. As such, a long-standing organization, United Way of Miami-Dade, has adapted and evolved to account for the ever-changing needs of their community. United Way of Miami-Dade focuses on three broad areas to better the people of Miami: strengthening education, financial stability, and health. As a funder and organizer, the United-Way takes on a holistic approach by recognizing and supporting organizations that focus on access to quality education or affordable healthcare, as well as employment assistance. Creating intentional partnerships with local programs, listening to community members, and advocating for policy changes are just a few of the ways that United Way of Miami-Dade is empowering and strengthening the people they serve.
United Way of Miami-Dade acts as the lead agency and funder for numerous organizations and programs in their county. Yet, they make an intentional effort to establish collaborative and strong relationships with their partner programs. Members of United Way frequently attend the events of their partners, as well as invite them to events of their own. Additionally, United Way of Miami-Dade uses programmatic site visits to check on partner programs and offer assistance that would increase the effectiveness of these organizations. Visiting agencies allows the United Way to gain a better understanding of the work going on in the community, as well as to provide support and a platform for partners to share any challenges they might be facing. United Way has a great relationship with their school district, which makes collaboration productive. Through these partnerships, or as United Way says, ‘professional friendships,’ they strive to offer more than monetary support to their partner programs.
At United Way of Miami-Dade, the community has a tremendous voice. Each year, at a youth forum, the young people of Miami-Dade county choose their community challenge. Based on their choice, United Way recognizes that this is what the community believes is one of their biggest challenges and takes this seriously in their allocation of funds and attention. Representatives from United Way of Miami-Dade frequently attend community meetings as a way of better understanding the needs and ongoings of their community, as well as how they can best address the issues in their work. The boards and councils at United Way are entirely made up of community members, consisting not only of partner organizations but people of different backgrounds and areas of work. By interacting with, empowering, and listening to the people in their community, United Way of Miami-Dade effectively assists and uplifts those in need. Not only is United Way community-driven, but it’s also community-run; thousands of volunteers support the United Way in expanding their work and mission to build community by helping people care for one another.
Speaking up and advocating for policy change is a big part of the United Way of Miami-Dade’s work. The public policy team at United Way, along with their partners at The Children’s Movement of Florida, The Children’s Trust, Early Learning Coalition, and others, successfully advocated for a new bill that required all early learning programs to meet quality standards to receive state funding. At their annual visits to partner programs, United Way surveys their partner organizations to gauge what advocacy would be beneficial in their community. With the Census going on, United Way is offering a lot of support and advocacy for the importance of filling out the 2020 Census as a means of accurate representation and funding for their county. Beyond serving their community as a fiscal agent, United Way of Miami-Dade is vocal for public policy priorities that get at the root of social problems.
Just as it has been for over nine decades, United Way of Miami-Dade is evolving and growing, with a bright future ahead. While their agency does a fantastic job of collecting data from their school district and many partners, they hope to increase their use and collection of more accurate and aligned data. This will allow United Way of Miami-Dade to align with and across organizations, as well as report more accurate measurable outcomes for the community in the near future.