How United Way Simcoe Muskoka Decides Which Agencies to Fund

How United Way Simcoe Muskoka Decides Which Agencies to Fund

We are the largest non-government funder of social services in Simcoe Muskoka.

We believe local change shouldn’t be left to chance. That’s why we monitor community issues and allocate funding in a way that targets the most pressing needs, eliminates duplication and fills in service gaps.

The main way we do this is through our Community Fund, which is built through donations from individual donors and workplace fundraising campaigns.

We then direct that money to our Partner Agencies to deliver programs in our communities. By taking care of the fundraising, we allow agencies to focus on what they do best: provide the services that change lives. Read about why collaborative fundraising makes sense.

The power of a Community Impact approach

We call our systematic approach to local change Community Impact which we define as measurable, cumulative and lasting change that improves lives and builds resilient communities.

We invest in the work of several agencies each year that are working on the frontlines to address social problems. For example, to tackle a large priority like poverty, we need to address various factors that contribute to poverty, including housing, transportation, employment, literacy, health, and early childhood development. Through our Community Fund, we work collaboratively to address these gaps.

Here’s how the Community Fund process works

We monitor community issues and participate in local research on an ongoing basis. We use information gathered by Statistics Canada, County of Simcoe, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, the North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN and Vital Signs, among others. We also rely on regular reporting from our Partner Agencies to track changing needs.

Our knowledge of community issues helps us set the focus for our Community Impact Guidelines for Applicants. In 2018-19, our funding focuses on poverty reduction and youth well-being and resilience.

With each funding cycle, we identify common outcomes for programs or projects to achieve. Agencies then select 1 to 3 of these outcomes to track during the funding period. Measuring and evaluating these outcomes helps us to monitor these issues and adjust where necessary. Here are the outcomes for 2018-19 funding, with a focus on children and youth, aged 7-24:

From poverty to possibility

  • Transitional-aged youth have improved well-being and/or quality of life
  • Individuals and families experience increased social interaction, reduced isolation and/or increased sense of belonging and inclusion in their community
  • Youth make a healthy transition into adulthood as a result of increased skills and capacity
  • Youth are integrated into the community and can receive ongoing support when needed


All that kids can be

  • Children and youth build resilience
  • Children and youth have an improved attitude about school, are ready to learn and do well in school
  • Children and youth develop positive social skills, care about and get along with others
  • Children and youth get involved, are connected to our community, take responsibility and lead
  • Children and youth can better handle life’s challenges and make healthy choices
  • Families have enhanced skills to develop better intra-family relationships
  • Parents and caregivers have increased coping strategies and/or enhanced parenting skills

When it’s allocation time, we send out the application guidelines and invite local agencies to submit an  Expression of Interest. The organizations that meet our criteria are then invited to submit an application. We provide support to agencies as they complete their application to give them the best chance of success.

Trained volunteers review applications based on the criteria in the application package. We also want to make sure that our financial support reaches across our service area of Simcoe Muskoka. Finally, we work to avoid any duplication of funding and services. Here’s what we look for in an application:

  • Proof of agency effectiveness. Have they had successful projects? Do they manage finances well?
  • The relevance of the project. Does the project or program fill an identified need in the community? Does it align with the priorities we are addressing?

Community Impact volunteers provide funding recommendations to our Board of Directors, for final approval, based on final fundraising achievement each year. Once approved, Partner Agencies are notified of funding decisions.

Funded programs could change year to year

We believe there’s value in agencies having ongoing funding year after year. This helps to make sure programs continue to be available, provide stability for clients and the community.

It’s sometimes necessary to change the agencies we partner with because of changing needs and resources in the community. We work with our Partner Agencies to monitor their progress and to make sure they’re aware of the changing priorities. We have a responsibility to our donors and to our mission to make sure funding is used as effectively as possible.

It’s always a difficult decision

Deciding how to allocate the Community Fund is challenging. We’re inspired by the many fabulous programs that receive support because we know lives will be changed. But, there’s a persistent desire to do more. And we know we could do more if we had more funds available.

That’s what pushes us to increase our donors and extend our reach to build a bigger and stronger Community Fund. We know our model of collective action works.

If you agree that local change shouldn’t be left to chance, please donate today.

We are committed to making your dollar go as far as possible. You will change real lives.

Become involved

Donating to our Community Fund is a great way to support this work. If you’d like to become more involved, you can apply to join one of our committees as a volunteer.

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