As you know, United Way of Washington County and the Community Foundation of Washington County have been submitting monthly editorials to keep the Strategic Community Impact Plan (SCIP) process in the forefront of the minds of those in our community.
As the newest member of the SCIP steering committee and executive director of United Way of Washington County, I was asked to give my perspective on the role the assessment plays in our community. In my past experience with nonprofit organizations and community development, SCIP is one of the most progressive tools and is totally comprehensive in its approach. Without a doubt, the process of this community assessment and the product of that work, SCIP, are extremely helpful in many ways, from understanding the community that has become my new home to putting the information to good use in United Way’s Community Impact agenda, which focuses on education, income and health issues.
SCIP is a tool to be used by a variety of organizations, businesses, individuals and grant-making entities to help determine if they really are making a difference in the community. Individuals take the business of following their philanthropic giving very seriously. Many want to have a hands-on approach, and using SCIP helps focus their efforts to guide them in their decision-making. Most businesses have adopted corporate social responsibility policies and are eager to support the community in ways that contribute to the economic and social well-being of Washington County. Using SCIP, they can monitor the community’s progress.
Grant-making organizations, such as foundations, can use SCIP to provide a more comprehensive guide to their funding priorities. Using SCIP, agencies can find more direction in meeting their mission and can use the information to develop and support grant requests. Foundations making critical funding decisions can see if the community of Washington County is together and like-minded in the issues that need to be addressed and can support their efforts.
One example of using SCIP to identify a goal that, when reached, will have long-lasting and long-reaching effects in our community is a collaboration of organizations and funders who chose SCIP’s Education Goal No. 1.
That goal is: Within five years, all students entering kindergarten will be fully ready to learn based on standards set by Maryland Model for School Readiness (MMSR). With a partnership between Washington County Public Schools, United Way of Washington County, the Community Foundation of Washington County and three private foundations — Pauline Anderson Foundation, Mathias Washington County Trust and Agnita Stine Schreiber Foundation — Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is now available in Washington County.
Parton’s vision was to foster a love of reading among children and their families by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month. Statistics and independent reports have shown Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library drastically improves early-childhood literacy for children enrolled in the program. Six distinctly separate parties have identified the importance of SCIP’s Education Goal No. 1, and together they are making a difference.
The way the issues are tackled is as unique as the agencies that provide services and the individual who wants to follow his gift and has the ability to see how and where his money is being spent.
There is no cookie-cutter approach to providing long-term solutions to the issues or how the goals will be reached. Washington County is forward-thinking in that critical issues negatively affecting the community have been identified. SCIP is that critical tool in each of our toolboxes that can be used to guide us in decision-making, creating strategies and working together for the common goal of improving our community’s quality of life.
I encourage everyone to consider how they can make a difference. “Give. Advocate. Volunteer.” is the philosophy that drives United Way and one we hope everyone will adopt. Please take time today to find a way to get involved.
Melissa Reabold is executive director of United Way of Washington County.