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United Way of Buffalo & Erie County Community Investments Survey

United Way of Buffalo & Erie County Community Investments Survey

As part of its Strategic Planning, United Way of Buffalo & Erie County seeks community input into a series of decisions affecting its role in Community Investments. The term "Community Investments" has traditionally been thought of as "program funding." To illustrate, through its Request for Proposal process, effective July 1, 2015, United Way will fund 107 community programs at 59 organizations, addressing 25 distinct areas of interest, rolling up to 8 general areas of interest spread among Education, Income (financial stability), and Health (also including Wellness).
While we continually seek ways to increase the discretionary donor resources we can allocate to community investments, those resources have remained flat for several years. United Way campaign growth has been the result of an increase in donations designated to specific individual nonprofits. Although helpful to the community, such donations are not available for community investments. Therefore, as you complete this survey we ask you to assume that very little (if any) new money will become available for community investments.
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    College & Career Readiness - 4%As individuals identify their own unique strengths, youth and young adults should have the opportunity to build these into skills that are necessary for success in the community. These include pathways that lead to higher education, direct employment, and independent living. Expanding the availability of programs that incorporate life skills training; vocational, career, trade, or technical training; college preparation; and career enrichment and exploration services will more effectively prepare young adults for the transition into college, career, and independent living. Participation in these programs is linked to improved school attendance, academic achievement, and greater access to employment opportunities.
    Healthy Behaviors & Choices - 4%Poor health negatively impacts quality of life, the cost of healthcare, and work productivity. Health challenges like obesity increase the risk of developing many chronic diseases such as heart disease, Type II diabetes, stroke, and many forms of cancer. Regular exercise and a diet high in fruits and vegetables are important to health as it helps to prevent disease, high blood pressure, and back pain. The benefits of a healthy diet and regular exercise are complemented by other positive health behaviors like living a tobacco-free life and engaging in regular social interaction. Opportunities to increase nutrition, physical activity, and other healthy behaviors are critical across the life span to ensure overall health and well- being.
    Asset Building and Financial Education - 5%Low-income* families often struggle to build assets (e.g. savings, vehicle, home) that can be used as a buffer against financial emergencies and other forms of hardship. A lack of assets can make is extremely difficult to put a down payment on a home, invest in higher education and vocational training, or start a business. Obtaining financial education, creating credit repair plans, regular use of banking services have been shown to improve the ability of low-income families to secure and maintain assets. A greater proportion of financially secure households will also have positive impacts on economic development, neighborhood vitality, and the strength of communities in Buffalo and Erie County.

    *Low-income is often defined as income levels that are below twice (i.e. 200%) of the federal poverty line
    Employment & Workforce Development - 10%Education and employment are critical factors affecting one's ability to move toward greater economic self-sufficiency. Education is the primary means of economic mobility for low-income* individuals and families and is linked to asset building throughout life. Unfortunately, obtaining education and specialized training is often limited by income level, which is limited by educational attainment. Improving employment and workforce development opportunities can help to reverse this cycle by expanding access to education and training. A workforce with a higher level of skills and education will support stronger communities and a more prosperous economy in in Buffalo and Erie County.

    *Low-income is often defined as income levels that are below twice (i.e. 200%) of the federal poverty line
    Income Stabilization - 12%A significant number of individuals and families in Buffalo and Erie County are still struggling to recover from financial crises, and many face daily challenges related to poverty and long-term unemployment. Although the experiences of these groups are different, they share the need to stabilize their financial situation, protect their assets, and access financial and other supports. Research shows that individuals who access income supports increase their financial stability and ability to maintain their job while decreasing the likelihood of requiring future public assistance. Programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) can provide temporary resources to help stabilize family finances and lead to greater economic self-sufficiency.
    Early Learning & Development - 13%Nationally, it is estimated that more than 50% of children start school without the intellectual, social, emotional, and motor skills needed for future academic success. This is evident by the time a student enters kindergarten, and is demonstrated by weak language and literacy skills, an inability to follow directions and work in groups, and limited self-control. The larger the gap at school entry, the harder it is to close. Research has shown that children who fall behind in early pre-school years are more likely to engage in criminal activity, experience mental health challenges, and have fewer employment opportunities. Focusing on improving the educational potential of early learners can improve educational outcomes and quality-of-life from an early age. This is tremendously important, as approximately 80% of brain and personality development occur by age 5.
    Access to Care & Services - 20%A critical component of health-related quality of life is an individual's ability to obtain the health-related assistance they need, when they need it. The accessibility of health and human services (e.g. time, geography, and knowledge) is particularly important for individuals with chronic health conditions and families with significant health challenges. In Buffalo and Erie County, adult caregiving (i.e. caring for aging parents) is becoming increasingly common, and the region has many challenges related to poverty, housing, and education that have considerable impacts on health. With proper care and follow-up, individuals and families can secure preventive care to ensure positive health outcomes.
    Academic Performance & Enrichment - 32%As children grow and develop, exploration and engagement in academic and non-academic opportunities helps to develop individual skills and strengths necessary for success in and out of the classroom. High quality afterschool and out-of-school-time programs offering academic tutoring, mentoring, enrichment, life skill training, and socio-emotional skill building activities can improve student achievement and participation in school. Afterschool programming and out-of-school-time enrollment are also linked to improvements in standardized test scores and work habits, reduced delinquency activities, and reductions in behavioral problems.
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