A few moments ago I just walked out of the saddest professional meeting of my career. Our local affiliate of the United Way announced more than $1.2 million in cutbacks, award-stoppages, and elimination of two key issue areas – effective immediately. No warning. No transition. No funds.
The problem? Aside from cutting funds, the communication with the United Way was mixed, inaccurate, and abrupt. Some organizations were told reductions were on the horizon, but no one anticipated immediate cuts. From services to the elderly to meals on wheels and aids services, Austin’s populations in need will certainly feel the results.
Over the course of the past several years, United Way of Greater Austin as dipped into its reserve funds to sustain their grant allocations and commitments. Under the direction of Chairman Bill O’Brien, the United Way’s board voted this week to reorient funding toward education and a few other pet projects. While O’Brien made a statement to the Austin American-Statesman claiming “thoughtfulness behind” the board’s decision, some organizations received little more than an email late yesterday afternoon.
Currently, the immediate focus is on transitional dollars to prevent layoffs and cessation of vital human services and financial opportunity programming. Representatives from the mayor’s office offered to approach community funders and key players to help ameliorate the situation. Until then, nonprofit executives from the 18 affected organizations will scramble to sustain programs they believed to were funded.