Nonprofit Organization | United Way of Southeast Louisiana

See a Need, Make a Change
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UWSELA President and CEO, Michael Williamson, prepares meal kits for delivery to homebound older adults and individuals

United Way continues to focus on supporting vulnerable communities

United Way of Southeast Louisiana, founded in 1924, is built upon a model to identify, assess and monitor the needs of our region. The nonprofit then funds programs, supports collaborations, convenes experts, advocates for change and fosters new and needed community services to address issues related to its mission, eradicating poverty. United Way works tirelessly to provide access to quality health and human services throughout its seven-parish service area and measures results to ensure an impactful and meaningful difference is made. As our communities adjust to life with COVID-19, that unwavering mission is more important than ever.

 

In what ways are you thriving and pushing forward as a business during COVID-19?

COVID-19 has affected low-income households more than any. United Way’s mission is focused on eradicating poverty, so, in the immediate, we’ve increased our efforts to help families become more financially stable. The ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Report, a study of financial hardship we began funding before the current situation even began, tells us one in two households were struggling to make ends meet pre-COVID-19, and those numbers are going up dramatically now. Hospitality workers represent a large portion of the demographic within ALICE population, so we immediately refocused our efforts to launch the Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund and raised over $2 million in a matter of weeks. We pivoted to offering emergency assistance to struggling hospitality workers through the fund, and we’re on track to help more than 4,200 hospitality workers with one-time $500 emergency crisis grants. The fund is just one example of how we didn’t pause for a minute. In light of everything, it’s been gratifying to know how quickly we can play a significant role in helping the families who need it most.

 

The community can rest assured that our United Way is certainly up for the challenge of COVID-19 and is focused on what we can do to accelerate our recovery.

Michael Williamson, President and CEO

 

Are there any lessons you have learned? Any new technology you’ve embraced?

When something of this scale and magnitude happens, we know ALICE households are already one check away from a crisis. This crisis reminded us our work is focused on the right issue, but we always have to be prepared to move immediately into relief, and ultimately, long-term recovery mode. We, like so many others, have jumped head first into collaboration through the Zoom universe. Our team switched into crisis response, which often requires a 24/7 work ethic, and looked for ways in which we could shift to continue to provide support to the community while following social distancing measures. For example, we rolled out a weekly financial education series through Zoom and Facebook live, developed innovative data storage procedures to help manage our child care provider assistance program, and transitioned our Kay Fennelly Summer Literacy Institute to an entirely virtual footprint to continue to offer much-needed supports to summer camp providers. As we transition into long-term recovery, we have plans to introduce additional virtual resources to individuals and families to support their health and educational needs.

 

Do you anticipate your business will change in any way when the community opens back up? If so, how?

We’re an impact business that thrives on relationships: our staff spends a lot of time connecting personally with the campaigns they manage and partners we serve. That’s a big question mark for us now. People are craving those connections, but the rules and guidelines will be different. Fundraising, community impact work, and advocacy will change, and a lot of nonprofits like us will be thinking of more efficient and cost effective ways of doing things. We always have, but now in a different way. There are a ton of questions, but what we’re really focused on is staying on mission and on message. Regardless of what changes in the community, we are always ready to continue to generate an enormous amount of impact, virtually or otherwise, with each and every dollar we raise. The bottom line is; United Way is built for long-term recovery. We’ve been in existence for 95 years and will be around for 95 more years. The community can rest assured that our United Way is certainly up for the challenge of COVID-19 and is focused on what we can do to accelerate our recovery.

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United Way of Southeast Louisiana
2515 Canal Street
New Orleans, LA 70119
(504) 822-5540
unitedwaysela.org

Categories: Biz Forward 2020, Biz Forward June 2020