Year after year, our community comes together to support United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) and our network of more than 80 member agencies and programs during our annual campaign. Each generous gift is a direct investment in Central Alabama’s future, so it’s important to us that we put it to work in ways that align with our community’s greatest needs. That’s why we rely on some of our most dedicated volunteers to participate on the Visiting Allocations Teams (VAT) to assist us in reviewing programs/services of member agencies.
The VAT process was created to ensure that United Way of Central Alabama supports the needs of people throughout Blount, Chilton, Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair and Walker counties. Hundreds of volunteers come together each year in a testament to the passion that our community has for giving back. Those hundreds are then divided into smaller teams which are specially curated to represent a cross-section of social strata and demographics –reflecting the interests of donors from across the community in a fair, informed and unbiased way.
Traditionally, the VAT process has been a months-long commitment involving extensive review of agency programs and services, operations, needs, goals and financial information, as well as several in-person meetings, including site visits to the member agencies themselves. After the site visits, the teams typically reconvene to discuss how much each agency should receive, submitting their suggestions to UWCA prior to the Allocations Hearing, which concludes the VAT process. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, VAT meetings have entered a new era by connecting volunteers and agencies digitally.
“We decided early on that, in addition to keeping everyone safe, we also really wanted to ensure that the process was as fair as possible,” said Randy Betsch, Vice President of Community Impact at UWCA. “We decided the best way to do that was to do everything virtually.”
Naturally, the coronavirus has been a major topic of discussion during the VAT meetings, with agencies sharing issues they’ve faced, such as adapting in-person services and programs to respect social distancing and all safety protocols, as well as the public’s increased need for assistance.
“It’s amazing to see these agencies’ creativity and dedication in the many ways they’ve adapted their services to meet COVID-related needs in our community,” said Betsch.
While the circumstances leading to the new digital environment are far from ideal, the new format does come with one advantage: scheduling. Typically, it’s a struggle to coordinate calendars to find meeting times convenient for everyone involved, so going virtual has lent the program some flexibility.
“Attendance has been a lot better this year, since we don’t have to travel and since most people are working from their homes,” said Betsch. “Even if people have other things going on and can’t attend the virtual meetings, often they are able to join on their phone and listen to the presentation.”
The Visiting Allocations Teams process is just one way our incredible community supports United Way and our member agencies and programs. To learn more about the VAT process, click here. Or browse other ways to get involved, including volunteer opportunities for next month’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.