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December 5, 1996


United Way responds to critical letter

To the editor:

As lead volunteer for the United Way committee overseeing the program review and allocations process, I would like to respond to Mark Friedman's "Reconsider United Way contributions" letter which appeared in your Nov. 7 issue. As a former development director for Persad Center involved with the United Way funding process, Mr. Friedman should be well aware the United Way's decision in regard to Persad was not based on "bias and/or ignorance" as he feared in his letter.

United Way exists because of its unique role in mobilizing all the diverse segments of our community. And if we were biased against Persad Center, we would not have presented the agency an award for management and governance excellence at our board meeting this past June. In addition to agency management and governance, however, United Way focuses on the efficiency and effectiveness with which services are delivered. United Way's decision was not based on ignorance. On the contrary, 16 volunteers who are knowledgeable about the services provided by Persad spent more than 30 hours reviewing information from the agency and even visiting Persad to talk with volunteers and staff. Their decision not to provide funding was based on that information.

Simply put, while Persad fit United Way's profile of providing services that are needed, the other factor in our formula–the efficiency and effectiveness by which those services are provided–triggered a few concerns. And it was the absence of these concerns that led volunteers to provide funding to two new agencies, not "several" as noted by Mr. Friedman. After talking with volunteers, Persad instituted changes, but only after the funding decision had been made. We continue talking with the agency, encouraging it to make additional improvements and re-apply for funding.

United Way realizes that contributors may feel strongly about a specific need, yet we must all keep in mind the multitude of needs that exist. In protesting a funding decision by not giving to United Way at all, we run the risk of jeopardizing critical services helping thousands of people throughout our region. I don't think this is what Pitt contributors wish to do as evidenced by their strong support of United Way in the past. Thousands of local people with many needs benefit from unrestricted, generous gifts from Pitt. We encourage University Times readers to take a balanced approach to the programs of Persad and other agencies in the community.

Oliver Byrd

Vice Chair, United Way Board of Directors

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