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United Way Of Black Hills Narrows Focus To Key Problems

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United Way of the Black Hills
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A major charity in Rapid City is making a big change: Instead of trying to help solve dozens of community problems, it’s going to focus on a few key ones. 

The United Way of the Black Hills raised more than $2 million last year. The money got spread around to help 50 local agencies. 

And that’s how the people who run United Way of the Black Hills have always worked. They raise money in a big annual campaign. And they use that money to help local nonprofits that provide services to local people. 

Then, last year, the United Way commissioned a community needs assessment. Executive Director Jamie Toennies said the assessment identified seven key problems. 

“Our board of directors took a hard look internally at our organization, and it was a real wake-up call when we did that needs assessment and looked at our current allocations, which are spread out over a variety of programs,” Toennies said. “But more than half of our current funding to agencies was not going towards those top seven issues in our community.” 

So, over the next three years, the organization will shift its focus. Instead of trying to help solve dozens of community problems, United Way will focus on three of the main problems identified in the needs assessment: mental health, education and self-sufficiency. The Vucurevich Foundation, of Rapid City, has awarded a $200,000 grant to kick-start the mental-health initiative. 

The United Way will still raise money. But, over the next three years, agencies that want United Way funding will have to change their approach. They’ll have to show how their work helps address one of the main problems the United Way is trying solve.  

Some other United Ways around the country have already adopted a similar approach. In Sioux Falls, for example, the three focus areas are children, vulnerable adults and people in crisis. 

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