Over 500 local volunteers visit United Way of Central Alabama partner agencies. See why it matters.

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United Way Visiting Allocations Teams. Photo courtesy of United Way of Central Alabama

Earlier this year, Bham Now reported how United Way of Central Alabama has received the highest rating possible from Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest independent charity evaluator for 17 consecutive years.

One of the reasons why Birmingham’s United Way has received this honor, which places it amongst the top one percent of all charities nationwide, is because of their Visiting Allocation Team process.

See why it matters.

500 Volunteers—holding United Way’s 71 partner agencies accountable

Every Spring, United Way of Central Alabama sets out to find over 500 individuals to serve as volunteers on Visiting Allocation Teams. These teams take a deep dive into and examine United Way’s 71 partner agencies and their programs.

How Visiting Allocation Teams (VATs) Work

VAT members come from all backgrounds, including corporate executives, retirees, and stay-at-home parents. Each volunteer gives roughly 10 hours of their time over a three-month period, which consists of two in-office meetings and a day of agency visits.

Three Meetings

Visiting Allocation Teams. Photo courtesy of United Way

At the first meeting, members meet their fellow teammates, find out which three agencies they will be evaluating, and hear more about how the allocations process works.

During the second meeting, each team will spend about two hours going through the various documents provided by each agency. These reports include financial, client, and program information.

The third team meetup is the time everyone looks most forward to—agency visits. VAT members spend the day touring the agencies they have learned about over the past few months.

On these visits, teams hear from agency board members and staff on the history of the organization, programs they are currently implementing, as well as ways to get involved. Many agencies also have either volunteers or clients share their experiences.

Making it Personal – Ronald McDonald House

Ronald McDonald House CEO Katherine Estes Billmeier addressing the United Way Visiting Allocations Team. Photo courtesy of United Way of Central Alabama

VAT’s recent visit to the Ronald McDonald House is a great example of how the process works.

The team met with Ronald McDonald House CEO Katherine Estes Billmeier and Board President Will Puckett and also heard from clients through heartwarming videos.

In a video shown, VAT members got to see how the staff at Ronald McDonald go above and beyond to make all family members feel welcome and important, not only during their stay but even after.

The client shown in the video relocated to Birmingham after her baby was born prematurely with several complications. She raved about all Ronald McDonald did to make her feel at home and even helped coordinate with Birmingham City Schools for her older son to be picked up and dropped off on the bus each day at the house. Unfortunately, the woman’s preemie daughter did not survive after months of fighting for her life. However, Ronald McDonald stayed near to the family throughout the grieving process.

Birmingham, Ronald McDonald House, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama
The Ronald McDonald House helps families like the Grayson family. Photo submitted.

After the video, the VAT members got to tour the Ronald McDonald House, which includes the newly expanded facility’s 73 private rooms and the multiple kitchens, toy store, playground, gym, and prayer/meditation room.

Need in the Community

“The Visiting Allocations process also humanizes the need in the community,” stated Matthew Pope, Vice President of Metro Bank and VAT member. “When you go to these organizations and hear the first-hand stories of people in your community that have a need, it makes you want to do more, it makes you want to give more and it makes you grateful for the blessings you have.”

Following agency visits, team members meet to discuss their thoughts on each organization and recommend how much funding adjustments they believe each agency deserves, based on all the knowledge they now have. Through this process, every member of the team truly has a voice in how United Way will allocate funds.

Giving Back

United Way
Photo from United Way of Central Alabama Facebook page

Not only is joining a Visiting Allocation Team a way to give back to the community, but it is also a way to see firsthand how United Way of Central Alabama distributes funds donated through their annual campaign. The allocation process lets VAT members truly feel like they’re involved in recommending how donated funds are allocated.

Being a part of the VAT process educates local residents on the services offered in their community, so when they come across people with a need, they now know where to send them to get the help they deserve.

It is one of the reasons why organizations that evaluate charities on a national level, such as Charity Navigator, rate the United Way of Central Alabama with four stars—their highest rating.

Want to join the United Way Visiting Allocation Team?

If you have any questions about the Allocations process or interested in joining a team, please contact Randy Betsch at rbetsch@uwca.org.

Sponsored by:

Birmingham, United Way of Central Alabama

Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.