Progress of United Way New Strategic Direction with Formation of Impact Council



Terre Haute, IN – Over the past year, the United Way of the Wabash Valley introduced a change in its
framework with a shift to a collective impact process that convenes multiple organizations to focus on a
bold goal. That bold goal is to move 10,000 families out of financial struggles and into stability by
focusing impact councils on areas that can make a difference in the United Way’s 6-county service area
(Clay, Parke, Sullivan, Vermillion, and Vigo in Indiana and Clark in Illinois). Today, they are announcing
that significant progress is being made in that shift with the formation of two impact councils.
These impact councils are multi-sector volunteer-led committees that bring together subject matter
experts, people who are passionate about the issue, people whose lives are affected by the issue,
business leaders, and other organizations working to affect that area. Members of the councils
recommend and monitor the investments of United Way resources in order to bring successful results to
their specified outcome targets in support of the overall community bold goal. Based on community
input the first two impact councils that have been formed are the Success By 6 Council and the
Substance Use Disorders Council.
United Way Board President, Jameel Ahmed, a department chair at Rose-Hulman Institute of
Technology, explained the emphasis on forming these two councils first. “We believe we’re doing what
our community wants and has asked us to do. In nearly 40 community conversations, the topic of drugs
and substance use was brought to light. Our community asked for less talk and more solutions.” United
Way listened and started their new framework with formation of the Substance Use Disorders Council,
focusing on well-rounded approaches to prevention and treatment solutions in our community. “By
providing supports to substance use disorder, we can help break the cycle of poverty by relieving stress
on many families affected by this issue.” Earlier this month, the council members agreed to measure
and report progress in our community using data on drug-related arrests, and Department of Child
Services drug-related child removal cases.
Ahmed continued, “Our second council was a no-brainer for us. Our Success By 6 Impact Council has
really been functioning as a committee for many years, helping our community recognize that learning
begins at birth and promoting the foundation of learning during the developmental years of birth to 6.
We believe that if we can build foundational learning, we can break another link in that cycle of
generational poverty by preparing children to be successful in life.” The council is working to improve
and measure the number of students who are “kindergarten-ready” when they begin their formal

The formation of Impact Councils is an important step in United Way’s transformation into a better
community-building backbone organization. Richard Payonk, Executive Director stated, “There is great
excitement and momentum surrounding these councils. It has been remarkable to see the passion and
ideas that these individuals and organizations are bringing to the table. This collaboration is what our
community needs to address the complex issue of poverty in the Wabash Valley.” Payonk also stressed
that United Way does not want these new councils to duplicate or replace some great work that is
already going on in the Wabash Valley. “Ideally, this all works better if representatives from other
councils and coalitions reach out to us and join together. That’s how we can break down silos and work
toward common goals.”
These two impact councils will be releasing their investment opportunities for the community in the
next few months. Jennifer Hutchens, co-chair of the Substance Use Disorders Council has had her team
working since early in the year. “We hope to show individual donors and businesses some investment
opportunities they would find not only engaging to them, but great opportunities to invest in long-term
solutions for our community. Imagine the impact if we can do that in all of the United Way council focus
areas.” That is the plan of this new strategic direction and United Way is continuing with steady
progress. The organization is also working to establish four additional councils this year. Those include:
graduation, health, financial stability, and neighborhoods.

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