Agency interviews are underway

I sat in on the first Agency Support Team interviews of the season, wanting to learn more about the process of how community volunteers steward the dollars that are donated to the United Way. It was an illuminating experience.

“This is the third time this group has met to talk about your application,” said John Evans, Chair of the Community Investment Committee.

The application that he referenced is a comprehensive document, that ranges between 30 and 70 pages long, and includes details about the agency, the programs that require funding, financial statements, budgets, and all the due diligence required to meet the rigor of the United Way funding process. A lot of work goes into the drafting of the application, and lot of reading is done by Agency Support Team volunteers to give careful consideration to the request. They had also met two times previous to prepare for the many interviews that lie ahead.

I was impressed by the passion of the presenters and grateful for the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of their organizations. Being a fly on the wall last night, I was able to learn about two agencies doing important work in our community, two agencies that I had little knowledge of previously.

I was equally impressed by the depth of knowledge and commitment of the Agency Support Team volunteers. Several like Loriley, Moe and Christian have been through this process a number of times, while Nargis was getting her first glimpse at the information gathering phase of the funding allocation process. They were adept at making the interviewees feel comfortable and asking thoughtful and relevant questions.

Over the next few months, about 25 of these interviews will be held as the three Agency Support Teams engage with current United Way funded agencies and several that aspire to be. They will deliberate in February and present their funding recommendations to the Board of Directors. The funding cycle for 2015 begins in April.

There were a couple of themes that were prevalent as I observed the proceedings last night. It was absolutely clear that the interview process has evolved and continues to improve. Those who had been through it a number of different times noted some of the changes that have taken place to make things less intense and more constructive. Second, there is a clear intention to be diligent stewards of donor dollars, while at the same time honouring the efforts of the agencies. Finally, it was inspiring to see that everyone was around the table with the intention of making our community stronger, more resilient and remarkable.

The work of the Community Investment Committee and its Agency Support Teams is the core of why we exist at the United Way. I was so impressed with the mindfulness with which they approached their task and the time and effort they will contribute over the next two months to ensure that the applying agencies are given careful consideration and that funding recommendations are made with the best interests of the community in mind.


Author: Russell Thomas

​Russell is a marketing and communications professional who has spent 20 years in Wood Buffalo working with the OK Radio Group, Keyano College, Arts Council Wood Buffalo, and now with The United Way of Fort McMurray. A regular blogger, Russell's writing can be seen online ( and in multiple publications. His paintings can be seen in homes and businesses throughout the community. Married to Heather and "Papa" to Dylan and Ben, Russell is a passionate spokesperson for United Way.