Capital Area United Way: Improving life through partnerships, programs and community conversations

For more than 95 years, Capital Area United Way has impacted thousands of lives through local nonprofits, programs and volunteers to make a tangible impact in the 10-parish area. In just the past 30 years, CAUW has invested more than $230 million and each year helps more than 250,000 residents. CAUW’s impact has included increasing school readiness and attendance for area children, defraying the costs of housing, improving physical activity and access to nutrition, and helping to prevent evictions and homelessness.

In 2016, CAUW transitioned to impact model funding which is an organizational effort that targets programs, initiatives and partnerships that impact the community’s greatest needs.

“We have a commitment to staying relevant to our community,” says George Bell, CAUW president and CEO. “Transitioning to an impact model was a major shift that has enabled us to more strategically work on issues that the community tells us they want to address.”

CAUW regularly engages in community conversations sparking in-depth discussions with hundreds of citizens about local issues in an effort to find viable solutions for its 10-parish area. From these community conversations, priority areas emerge that guide investments. Current priority areas fall under the buckets of education, income stability, health and basic needs.

“Everything we do is tied to the community priorities that bubble up from those community conversations,” says Katie Pritchett, senior vice president, Impact and Operations. “The needs of our communities have shifted over 95 years, so the organizations working to meet those needs have shifted as well. The impact model and priority areas mean new organizations or new innovative programs have been able to apply for United Way funding.”

The population CAUW’s work supports is driven by the ALICE—Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed—population. This includes the growing number of working residents who earn more than the federal poverty level, but less than the cost of living. ALICE households struggle to meet basic needs and live paycheck to paycheck. In the 10-parish area, 45 percent of residents are ALICE.


Primary product/service: Nonprofit organization that leverages partnerships to advance the common good through education, income stability, healthy living and basic needs

Top executives: George Bell, President and CEO; Katie Pritchett, Senior Vice President, Impact and Operations; Amey Shortess Crousillac, Vice President, Resource Development; Robert Schneckenburger, Hancock Whitney Bank, Board Chair; Aaron Stanford, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, Board Chair Elect; Michelle Hardy, Turner Industries Group, LLC, Resource Development Chair Elect

Year founded: 1925
Phone: 225.383.2643

Recognizing that no single organization can solve every problem, CAUW has stepped into a more strategic role, working with community partners and investing in programs and services that support
ALICE households.

“While we’ll always be recognized as a fundraiser, we’re now seen as a convener and collaborator as well,” Pritchett says. “We’re all trying to achieve the same results, so the more CAUW can leverage our reputational capital to bring a cross-section of nonprofits to the table, the more we’ll see bigger and bolder solutions.”

According to Michelle Hardy of Turner Industries, the Resource Development chair-elect for CAUW’s board of directors, this strategic role amplifies CAUW’s impact in the community.

“Capital Area United Way serves as a catalyst for bringing others together,” she says. “They help nonprofits build their capacity and provide resources nonprofits might not otherwise have access to.” For example, CAUW recently sent 19 local nonprofit leaders to Next Wave training sessions to learn skills needed to run a successful nonprofit organization.

Given the region’s diversity, approaches to developing solutions differ across the 10-parish area. But a common thread among all grantees is a commitment to results-driven solutions. All grantees measure the same indicators to demonstrate impact among the communities they serve. United Way is also committed to identifying strategic initiatives aimed at supporting the ALICE population. One example is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which provides free tax preparation by certified volunteers for people earning less than $56,000 annually.

“With programs like VITA, individuals and families can utilize a free service that they otherwise would have to pay for,” Bell says. “This means these families are able to receive 100 percent of their tax refund which can assist with greater financial stability for their households.”

“Give. Advocate. Volunteer. Three simple ways we can all make an impact in our local community. As board chair of Capital Area United Way, I am very proud of the progress United Way has made in the community, but we cannot do it alone.”

Read the full message from United Way Board Chairman Robert Schneckenburger of Hancock Whitney

The United Way 211/CAUW resource line is another example of CAUW leveraging community resources for impact. A free, confidential information referral line, 211, is available via phone, text or online chat 24/7, and connects people with local resources.

“211 provides an access point for people who might not know where to go or who to ask for help, such as how to get Meals on Wheels for their aging parents,” Pritchett says.

Continued access to needed resources is critical to build capacity that ultimately will have greater impact in the community. CAUW is engaging with new platforms for giving and is enhancing its fundraising and revenue-generation abilities. This includes tapping into volunteers from the business community to assist with resource development.

“When you get industry and business professionals together to help, that’s what Baton Rouge is all about,” Hardy says. “Once people understand the impact and ALICE, the giving becomes easy.”

“People look to us as a convener and a mobilizer, but recent events have under-scored the importance of United Way in our community,” says Bell. “We can take our knowledge and resources to address areas with the greatest need, but none of our work is possible without donors, volunteers and corporate support. Our ability to be a resource is limited only by your willingness to be a source. Please join us.”

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Read more in our 2020 Annual Report.