The United Way of Waco-McLennan County’s decision to cut 83 percent of its funding to The Salvation Army of Waco has left Salvation Army officials scratching their heads and questioning the partnership with the nonprofit going into the new year.
The Salvation Army received the largest cut among the 21 local nonprofits the United Way funds. The cuts are part of an ongoing effort to transition from an allocation-based funding model to a grant-based model this year, and a result of a decline in donations in the past five years, United Way Executive Director Barbara Mosacchio said.
Mosacchio, who started the role in March, said the change is not a reflection on the Salvation Army’s work, despite the impression Salvation Army officials may have gotten. Salvation Army officials said they were blindsided by the cut and are unsure where they stand moving forward.
The United Way will make the change in February to streamline its funding model with a new strategic plan and a shift to focus on four core impact areas: education, economic security, essential services, and health and wellness, she said.
“It will really be about realigning our vision, and our mission, and modeling our best practices of other United Ways across the country. … It’ll be the kind of programs we’ve been funding, but with more clarity and really defined outcomes and impact areas going forward,” Mosacchio said.
Nonprofits can start applying for grants under the new model later this year.
In addition to The Salvation Army, the organization also reduced funding to three other nonprofits by more than 20 percent: the Family Health Center, the YMCA and the Community Cancer Association, Mosacchio said.
The United Way still gave almost $900,000 to help carry all groups through the transition process until they can apply for grants, she said.
“There were seven organizations who were receiving less than $25,000, so we kept them level. There were about another seven or eight who were receiving more than that, and they received 80 percent of the funding amount they received in the previous years,” Mosacchio said. “And then there were four organizations receiving more than $100,000, and we had to put a cap on the level of funding. Their percentages varied anywhere from 74 percent to 68 percent just depending how far off from the $100,000 they were, with the Salvation Army being the exception.”
But it’s unclear whether the allocation given to the Salvation Army will be enough because no clear date has been given for when nonprofits could start applying for grants, regional director, Maj. Bradley Caldwell said.
The Salvation Army got a total of $148,440 from United Way last year and will get $25,000 this year, Caldwell said.
The money made up about 4 percent of the nonprofit’s overall budget and went to case management services for vulnerable families and individuals, Corps Officer, Maj. Anita Caldwell said.
The change was a complete surprise when he met with United Way officials last month, and there has been little clarity on the reasons for the decision, Bradley Caldwell said.
“We were simply told what the allocation would be, and a brief explanation was given, that to my thinking didn’t really hone in on an identifiable cause for the size and percentage of the reduction,” Bradley Caldwell said.
He walked away with the impression the impact of Salvation Army services were being called into question, he said.
While Mosacchio emphasized the funding cut is not a reflection on the Salvation Army’s work, she said the group needs to have better reporting of outcomes and see more evidence of services directly impacting residents.
“Our allocation committee, which is comprised of board members and community members, made the decision, since the Salvation Army had been unable over the last couple of years to produce those outcomes, to do a larger reduction in their funding,” Mosacchio said.
But Salvation Army officials said they have not been directly asked for data in at least two years, Anita Caldwell said.
When asked in 2015, the Salvation Army submitted an impact statement with figures on program outcomes, she said. The Salvation Army also goes through an extensive auditing process and offers an annual report pamphlet with a breakdown of how much certain services were used during a year, Anita Caldwell said.
“I don’t even know what we did wrong yet, so how can I know how to do it right, how to present the right picture for receiving support when we’ve been so catastrophically cut and don’t know why now?” Bradley Caldwell said. “I hope those grants will be something that will replace the funds we’ve lost because I don’t know why we’ve lost them.”
According to the 2016 annual report 12,442 people used case management services. Data for the 2017 is still being gathered. With specific timeline for the grants or indication from the United Way of amounts that will be available, the Salvation Army is scrambling to find a way to continue its case management services at past levels, Bradley Caldwell said.
“Case management is where you sit down with a person. You go over their budget and you look at their issues, and their challenges,” Anita Caldwell said. “You walk along side them as they find ways to change their future. That’s the heart and soul of impact.”
While the Salvation Army is a global organization, funds are raised locally, officials said.
Bradley Caldwell said officials are working to meet with United Way officials to get clarification on the situation and discuss a way forward.
It is possible The Salvation Army’s services do not fit as squarely into the United Way’s redeveloped priorities as they did in the past, he said.