A Lot has Happened in Five Weeks!!

Kenzie%27s-Beautiful-Headshotby MacKenzie Knight
Community Investment Advisor

It’s been a short 5 weeks since I joined United Way of Salt Lake as a Community Investment Advisor. And, while it has been a wild ride getting to know the ropes, it has been incredibly rewarding. This is my first job out of college, and let’s just say that it has definitely exceeded my expectations, even though I must admit that I was a bit nervous. United Way is a well-established and reputable organization, and the high expectations felt a bit daunting. But after just a few weeks, with the support of very kind and helpful coworkers, I am beginning to feel ready to take on the world of nonprofit fundraising in our community.

I grew up in Utah, both Salt Lake and Park City, and I graduated from the University of Utah with bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Psychology. I’ve always felt passionate about making a difference in my community and making the world a better place for everyone to live; I just wasn’t sure how to achieve that goal. There are so many ways to go about philanthropic work that I was overwhelmed. My focus on Political Science in school is what truly got me interested in the challenges that kids, families, and individuals in our community are facing. The cycle of poverty and the odds that are stacked up against kids and families can be extremely difficult for people to overcome- this is what motivated me to enter the nonprofit world. I knew that I can help change the oddsGrowing up, I was lucky enough to have a roof over my head and the security of knowing where my next meal was coming from. So many kids don’t share those same comforts. Because I had these opportunities, I want to do my part to support long-term positive change and contribute to the amazing work that United Way of Salt Lake and partners are doing.

One experience that really impressed me during my first couple of weeks at UWSL was volunteering at the Guadalupe School for Young Leaders Science Wednesday. Science Wednesday is an afterschool program where kids learn about different scientific topics. Along with other Young Leaders, I got to teach some adorable kindergarten kids about insects; it was such an incredibly gratifying experience! These kids were so engaged and having so much fun, and knowing that the organization that I work for was working with partners to provide this kind of amazing opportunity for kids was truly awe-inspiring.

MckenzieThis past month has certainly been fast and furious in the best of ways. I’ve already had so many incredible and unforgettable experiences and I’m very excited to see what new adventures will come next. I am no longer overwhelmed by all of the ways I can make a difference in my community, because United Way of Salt Lake has provided me with all of the tools I need to reach this goal.
YOU can get involved and help change the odds! Find out more at uw.org!

UWSL Showed Me The Generosity of My Co-Workers at ViaWest!

Karlee BerezayKarlee Berezay

The morning after I graduated college I felt like I had been hit by a bus, a bus full of existentialists and explorers. I was simultaneously excited to officially “start” the rest of my life and terrified to leave the comfort of being a student. With the “go to college” part of my list checked off I was on to the “get a good job” phase of life. As a graduate in sociology the sky was my limit with no set direction, and as a very active student I was picky about what jobs were going to allow me to still be involved in my community. The summer wore on me and I began to worry that I wasn’t going to find a job at all, let alone, one that would meet all my requirements. I became a little frantic, but knew that something had to come through soon.

It was early September when I started my first day at ViaWest as the Regional Office Coordinator. The office I would be working at was located 50 minutes south of where I was living at the time. I knew nothing about Hybrid IT Solutions and I hadn’t even asked if they had any community involvement initiatives. There was just something about this job that felt right and that first day, I was “first date” nervous.

I was given an agenda of my first week from my manager Shanon. It was full of the usual trainings, lunches, and meeting people — but then there was something different. One of my days was marked with “Day of Caring”. Shanon explained that we would be participating in the United Way’s Day of Caring service project. She went on to tell me that ViaWest has worked with United Way for quite some time and that as a company it is part of our core values to be involved in volunteer work. Also, part of my new job position would include working with our representative from United Way to plan volunteer projects, fundraisers, and donation drives for our staff to participate in. I was glowing…and a little mind blown.

At Day of Caring I had the chance to meet some of the other employees from our various locations and get my hands dirty with some yard work. It was a beautiful day to be volunteering and it felt great to be getting involved. As much as I am thankful that United Way of Salt Lake gave my company the opportunity to come and help give back to our community, I was even more grateful to United Way for giving me the opportunity to bond with my new coworkers. I realized that day that all the worries I had the morning after graduation weren’t worries anymore. I had a great job with great people at a company with great values, and United Way of Salt Lake helped me see that.

Now, a few months later, I still love my new job. I actually know what ViaWest does, and I am proud to work for a company that values volunteer work as much as I do. And my United Way representative, McCall, and I are pretty much best friends. Ever since we met I feel like we’ve been on a collaborative planning spree. ViaWest recently hosted a UWSL volunteering seminar, where we collaborated to lay out our volunteer plans for the holidays! I know that our involvement with United Way of Salt Lake has made a huge impact for our employees and myself, and I can’t wait to see what comes of our collaboration in the future!

Thank you for helping us LIVE UNITED! 


Partner Agencies Pledge Support for Collective Impact

james-brownby Jame Brown
Community Investment Advisor

United Way of Salt Lake uses the Collective Impact approach to create long-term community change. Partner agencies show support for Collective Impact through their relationship with UWSL.

One such organization, Community Health Centers, Inc., recently pledged its support in a big way!

For over thirty years, Community Health Centers has provided exceptional healthcare to people of all ages, backgrounds, and life circumstances. Community Health Centers, Inc. offers community members access to primary and preventative healthcare, dental services, and mental health. Jesse Oyler, a Project Director for the Health Access Project at Community Health Centers, recently told me of one of the great ways Community Health Centers serves the community:

”Vulnerable, underserved populations face barriers to accessing oral health care, including social, cultural, economic, structural, and geographic factors that contribute to huge oral health disparities. In partnership with the United Way of Salt Lake Dental Promise Partnership, Health Access Project has worked to improve access and coordinate good oral health care for the most vulnerable members of our community, as well as offering other valuable outcomes like a great smile and the confidence that a smile brings. This past Thursday and Friday our partnership was able to hold an after-hours dental clinic at Roosevelt Elementary School (a United Way of Salt Lake Community School), where 34 children and six adults were seen for their restorative dental needs.”

Providing these services are not the only way Community Health Centers give to the community. In their most recent workplace charitable giving campaign, Community Health Centers’ employees increased their contributions by 132 percent, raising nearly $2,000 more this year than their previous campaign! When asked about the campaign, Gary Ham, Director of HR, said the following:

“Community Health Centers has been a avid supporter of the United Way for many years. We believe in its mission, which coincides with our mission of reaching out into the community, to help those who have basic needs. As Campaign Manager, I watched our employees give generously this year, as they do each year. They are excited to be a part of this process of helping others.”

Being excited to help others is a huge part of its success! The generosity of Community Health Centers employees is inspiring and greatly appreciated! It is because of wonderful Partner Agencies like Community Health Centers that United Way of Salt Lake’s Collective Impact model is able to successfully reach so many children and families.

Thank you, Community Health Centers, for showing the community what it means to LIVE UNITED!

photo c/o Community Health Services on Facebook

photo c/o Community Health Services on Facebook

Calculating ROI from Your Corporate Community Engagement

alison-cundiffby Alison Cundiff
Corporate Volunteer Engagement Coordinator

Like any other business function, corporate community engagement is expected to add value to the business. Robust efforts in this arena should have a blended value proposition — increasing returns on investment for both the company and the community. The challenge comes when trying to establish effective measurements for community impact and return on investment.

In an article posted on LinkedIn by Reana Rossouw of Next Generation Consultants, there are 5 things companies can do to measure return and impact of their corporate community engagement:

  1. Start with a policy: the policy statement needs to clearly define how community engagement will contribute to business goals and objectives. This should be done with both the business and community in mind so that sustained community impact is achieved.
  2. Use data to align business and community goals: collect data on both business and community goals and seek to align those goals. Once goals are set, it is easier to see how those goals are being met by asking specific questions. (Ex: If your goal is to support employee recruitment, retention, and productivity, ask: Does our reputation as a good corporate citizen help attract and retain employees?)
  3. Measure: Next, measure the data you have collected according to specific indicators. (Ex: If your goal is to support employee recruitment, retention, and productivity, measure: employee attitudes and satisfaction with the company.
  4. Assess the return on investment: a few different approaches can be used separately or together. These include performance assessments, stakeholder perception surveys, case analysis and project evaluation, and ROI assessment.
  5. Calculate Soft Returns: calculating ROI can help determine the bottom line and financial impact of community engagement, but what about the soft, intangible benefits? One measure is usually not enough to get a clear picture. Measures can include enhanced reputation, effectively addressing community needs, addressing company values, addressing employee needs, and new opportunities for innovation.

(Please view the article for a more detailed analysis of calculating ROI).

It all comes down to this: create a policy, set goals, measure outcomes, and calculate your ROI based on those measurements. This will lead to long-lasting, impact generating community engagement, that will benefit both your company and the community.

Day of Caring American Express

United Way of Salt Lake’s focus on data driven decision making can help companies make smart choices on how they invest their resources in our community.

For more information on how your company can be engaged in the community, please contact Amy Bosworth at amyb@uw.org or Alison Cundiff at alison@uw.org.

Day of Caring Regence

A. Alexander Day of Caring


When Solid Data Leads to Action – Kids’ Lives Improve

BillBill Crim
President & CEO, United Way of Salt Lake

Every day, in classrooms in our state and across the country, thousands of kids get left behind because adults fail to take advantage of opportunities that could change the trajectory of their lives forever.

We are incredibly proud that in Utah, the status quo is not good enough. We are proud we have data driven preschool providers focused on closing the opportunity gap, and we are proud our elected officials and business leaders are willing to innovate in order to improve educational outcomes that are no longer acceptable.

In August 2013, America’s first “Social Impact Bond” (SIB) or “Pay for Success” (PFS) transaction for early childhood education was established in Utah. Two years later, the results from the first cohort of children to receive high-quality preschool financed through the PFS transaction show that both the preschool intervention, and the PFS financing mechanism itself, have been successful, based on a review by an independent evaluator. This was only possible because state and local government, educators, parents, nonprofits, service providers, and the private sector came together to share in the responsibility of ensuring the well-being of our children and families here in Utah.

_MG_4712 BEST

The foundation for Utah’s PFS transaction and later HB96, the Utah School Readiness Initiative, was built on a longitudinal study of outcomes for low-income children who attended a high-quality preschool program in Granite School District (GSD) which was subsequently expanded to private and nonprofit providers through support from the Kellogg Foundation.

As part of the study, children participating in GSD’s high-quality preschool program were assessed using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (“PPVT”), an assessment that serves as an indicator for future academic success.  For children who score two standard deviations below the mean, the test also serves as an indicator of the likelihood of later use of special education and remedial services. The PPVT has been recommended by the Committee on Developmental Outcomes and Assessments for Young Children convened by the National Research Council, and others as a reliable and valid assessment, but it is NOT being used in Utah’s PFS project as an assessment for special education eligibility.

Students who scored two or more standard deviations below the mean in the study were identified as likely to be referred to and potentially be eligible for special education services. All students’ academic achievement levels are tracked as they progress through school. The study demonstrated that between 25% and 33% of the low-income 3- and 4-year-olds in the 11 most impoverished schools in GSD tested below the level that would indicate potential eligibility for special education. However, when those students received high-quality preschool through GSD, 95 percent did not need special education, allowing the state to avoid special education costs for up to 13 years for each child.

  • 737 low-income children who attended GSD high-quality preschool during a three-year period (i.e. 3 cohorts of children) were included in the longitudinal study
  • Of these children, 238 tested as potentially eligible to use special education services during the study period
  • At the end of the study period, only 11 students had used special education services through 3rd grade
  • Low-income children in the study entered kindergarten at the top of their class, stayed at the top of their class, and have closed or significantly reduced the achievement gap in language arts and math. Results have now held for more than five years.

The significant cost avoidance demonstrated in the study created the conditions for a Pay for Success transaction, which was based on the same methodology.

Recently, a New York Times article called into question the methodology used in Utah, and made claims that no program could achieve the type of outcomes reported because the program wasn’t expensive enough. The article reflects longstanding debates in the early childhood field about both curriculum and testing methodology, and contains a variety of inaccuracies, misleading comparisons of data, and assumptions by early childhood experts that have no local knowledge or basis for their claims.  While there is no perfect methodology or even one that would generate consensus within the early childhood field, Utah’s methodology was vetted both locally and nationally by early education and special education experts and leaders. We are confident in the process we implemented to lay out the program. We chose to act with the best data available, and are committed to learning and continuous improvement as we go. Our children need and deserve no less than this type of action.

It’s important to note that the NYT article misstates Utah’s use of the PPVT – again, it is NOT used to “screen for special education.” Data used in the article also presents a fundamentally misleading comparison—using data for all children regardless of income to compare with Utah’s data that only represents low-income children.

Utah’s cost per child is low, and Utah has a unique local context in terms of cost. We recognize that costs would be higher in most other places, but are proud that the model has worked here in Utah since 2006. Utah’s quality criteria are expressly stated in legislation, and our data going back to 2006 show that this program improves academic outcomes for kids and that their performance remains high well-beyond preschool. We are thrilled that we have achieved high-quality at a low cost, while replicating the model locally from one school district to private providers, nonprofits, charter schools and another school district.

We are proud that Utah’s School Readiness Initiative has brought together so many stakeholders from so many sectors around a common goal. We are proud that these partners were willing to use data collected over a long period of time to act and improve, rather than working in isolation and waiting for more money while thousands of kids continue to be left behind.

Utah is on the right track, and absolutely committed to learning and improvement as we go. We have chosen to give kids a strong start necessary to succeed in school and life. We have chosen to invest now in order to enjoy long-term savings, with a more vibrant state of healthy, achieving children and more stable families.  We look forward to working with other stakeholders to continue to improve on this pioneering project.


Questar Rocks United Way of Salt Lake – Again!

allison-tby Allison Temnick
Community Investment Advisor

This year, it has been my joy and privilege to help Questar coordinate its corporate giving campaign. If you do not already know, Questar takes corporate social responsibility very seriously. Because of its culture of generosity, enthusiastic United Way planning committee, and dollar for dollar corporate match, Questar is United Way’s largest corporate supporter every year – and this year will be no exception!

If I went into detail about all of the campaign activities Questar hosted, this would be a very long blog, so I will just focus on a few. First of all, Questar recognizes the value in getting every employee involved in the campaign. As you can imagine, this requires a great deal of coordination for a company as large as Questar. Each year, the Questar committee selects a team of Coordinators and Champions that plan campaign activities for their departments. The campaign kickoff is a training meeting for all Coordinators and Champions where the campaign theme is officially announced. This year’s theme was “Be a Rockstar,” so the room was decorated with posters and cardboard cut outs, senior leadership showed up in rockstar costumes, and employees wrote and performed songs. The energy and enthusiasm was contagious!


After that, Coordinators and Champions planned rockstar-related activities for their departments, which included six kickoff presentations, ten site visits, three in-kind donations drives, and two volunteer projects, just in the Salt Lake region alone! You would have to search long and hard to find a Questar employee that was not involved in this year’s United Way campaign in one way or another.


In addition to those activities, Questar planned several special events, including a bake sale, pinewood derby, cornhole tournament, and a 5K. I had the opportunity to attend all of these events, so I can assure you – they were a great time! My personal favorite were the rockstar costumes at the 5K and the fact that an entire floor shut down for a few hours during the finals of the cornhole tournament. Questar may know how to have a good time, but they take competition pretty seriously!


Thank you to each and every Questar employee for your participation in this year’s United Way campaign. Our community is better off because of your generosity!


Cirris Systems – a Small Company Filled with Big Hearts

Mike Wattsby Mike Watts
Community Investment Advisor

Cirris Systems – a small company filled with big hearts, cables, wires, and toast.

Unless you are a cable testing enthusiast, you may not have heard of Cirris Systems. For over 30 years, Cirris Systems has been a world leader in manufacturing cable testers. For almost as long, Cirris Systems employees have been giving to United Way of Salt Lake. In fact, 12 out of the 50 employees at Cirris Systems are members of the Diamond Donor network. These are donors that have contributed to United Way for 20 years or more!!
So, why are Cirris System employees so dedicated to making a difference in our community? This is how they answer that question in their own words:

“I feel blessed with the job I have and the friends I work and associate with. I have been fortunate enough to meet my needs and fulfill many of my wants. There are people in our community that are not as fortunate and sometimes need a helping hand.  There are many worthwhile organizations that have been established to help those who may be in need of assistance, and as much as one would like to, it is impossible to give to all of them.  I like that United Way works with many different organizations to help individuals and families within a community become stronger and more self sufficient, rather than just apply a “band-aid” to temporarily fix a problem. I do not have the knowledge to do this, and the fact that 100 percent of my donation goes to meet community needs is a plus when choosing which organization to contribute to. Also the payroll deduction option makes donating easy and hassle free.” –Anonymous

“United Way of Salt Lake has always shown they do what they claim they do.”  –Tony

“I often see people in the community that need help. I feel that by giving through United Way of Salt Lake, my giving can be the most effective.”  –Kevin

“I want to help in the community but don’t know where the needs are. This is a perfect way to contribute to the community and know that my money is being used in the best possible way.”  –Annette

“Being able to see what United Way of Salt Lake has done for communities in need has been a major driving factor in my contributing. It is amazing to think that children and families are able to receive healthcare and get the education they deserve because of contributions to United Way!”  –Sheena

Thank you, Cirris Systems, for LIVING UNITED!!!

Building shot[1]