Community investment

In March, I reported that the annual citizen review of local not-for-profit organizations seeking affiliation and grant funding from the United Way was getting under way.

Community members from across Lincoln, Lyon, Yellow Medicine, Murray and western Redwood counties were being sought to participate in the process, and training was subsequently held in mid-April.

Volunteers were assigned to small panels to conduct visits with 32 local program applicants. During these visits, panelists review program goals, anticipated community impact, have an opportunity to ask questions and provide valuable feedback. Those visits will wrap up on/before May 31.

This has proven to be an exciting process to be part of. Volunteers also find that this is an excellent way to learn more about the area and invest in its human-service network.

Emily Masters, a first- time panelist, shared “As a newer resident of southwest Minnesota, being a part of a community impact panel has enriched my experience as a community member. I have been able to learn both how the United Way of Southwest Minnesota serves the area and also how various non-profit organizations help our fellow citizens.

I feel more a part of the community and love the fact that I’ve been able to make an impact in my time here.”

This process is an assurance to donors of the annual campaign that each donation is used as wisely as possible, where it does the most good, and that it makes a difference for the people of our area to make lasting community impact. Josh Bonnstetter, from Slayton, shared “I’ve been a volunteer for the community investment panels for three years now. Every year has been an eye-opening experience for me as I learn about the needs in our communities and how well some organizations can stretch a dollar. I feel the process for reviewing the grants is well-organized with structured criteria for requests that help ensure that grant dollars are used efficiently and as intended.

“After three years of serving on the community impact panels, it’s now easy for me to see the direct and indirect impact of these grants that everyone in the United Way of SWMN footprint benefits from.”

Funds that were raised during the recent annual United Way campaign are invested back into services that benefit people in the areas of education, income, health, hunger and promoting safety and well-being. Panel reports are due to the United Way office on June 3 and June 6, chairpersons of each of the six community impact panels will come together to review findings from their respective pool of applicants. Those recommendations will then be brought to the United Way of Southwest Minnesota board of directors meeting on June 17. Applicants will be notified of their grant status, June 18-21.

For more information on how you can work in partnership with the United Way of Southwest Minnesota, visit our website at, give us a call at 507-929-2273 or stop by our office on South 5th Street in Marshall.

The United Way of Southwest Minnesota is a local, autonomous organization working to create lasting change in people’s lives throughout the communities in Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Yellow Medicine and western Redwood counties. Our focus is on education, income, health, hunger and promoting safety and well-being.