We find ourselves in the middle of one of the greatest wealth transfer periods of all time. Those with wealth must decide whether they want to make transfers, and if they do, they must decide how much, to whom, when and in what structure?
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Still, it’s one that the new captain of Foothills United Way tackles head on – and does so with the energy and drive that is often paired with commitment to community service.
Yeiser came to Foothills, which serves Boulder and Broomfield counties, in April from United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County in Texas, where he was the vice president in charge of strategic markets. Working with United Way is what he’s done his entire 25-year career.
“I’m starting to think community service is a career path,” he said with a chuckle.
After he graduated from Baylor University with degrees in psychology and political science, Yeiser, 49, worked with United Ways in Stamford, Connecticut, and Manhattan, serving the entire New York metropolitan area. Then he headed to Tulsa to head funding activities there. Then came Virginia-based United Way Worldwide, to build a relationship program that connects individual United Ways to Fortune 500 companies across the globe. Now he’s here in Colorado.
Colorado feels a lot like coming home. Yeiser spent childhood years living in the Golden area and his family has a home near Durango. “Colorado is near and dear to my heart,” he said. When the opportunity at Foothills presented itself, “it was too good to pass up.”
Yeiser rarely sits at his desk in the Foothills United Way offices in Lafayette. Instead, he’s out in the community, learning firsthand what the issues are in the different Boulder County communities and working with local officials and organizations to pinpoint solutions and mobilize the resources to carry them out.
Responding to the floods and providing assistance and resources for long-term relief is on Yeiser’s front burner. “On Sept. 12, when the floodwaters came in and people saw how serious this was, we set up the Flood Fund,” he said. Atop his list of priorities was to reach out to corporations, community leaders and individuals to jumpstart the fund.
“These were all newly formed relationships,” said Yeiser, “but we called out to these partners and asked them to create a single fund that we all could rally around and point to as a resource.”
For the past six weeks, the partners have been meeting every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to evaluate needs and identify the best ways to invest the contributions that have poured into the fund and respond to applications for monetary relief. So far, $3.2 million has been donated from corporations and individuals, with $1 million already distributed to community nonprofits that help with direct-impact assistance and immediate recovery needs.
But that doesn’t mean the team at Foothills United Way has moved other initiatives to the back burner. Already committed to supporting impact areas such as education, financial stability, health and basic needs, the 16-member staff continues to address issues surrounding them.
Using the Flood Fund as a guinea pig, Yeiser, along with other partners, is looking to apply a collective-impact model for future community investment. In concept, collective impact is very different from how community services have been delivered for the past century. Instead of applying for grants from many small, individual funding sources, community service agencies would have a single source to work with.
The collective-impact model reverses the old way of doing work. Rather than spread funding thinly across the community, it identifies the greatest needs and concentrates the funds by joining forces with many other funders to create stronger, more collaborative initiatives that actually can make significant changes. Nonprofit services organizations apply for grants that support the strategies developed by the collective impact team.
“Here’s how that could look,” said Yeiser. “We can take a high school with an at-risk population and we identify that there are perhaps health issues or early drop-out issues. We then pull together community services that could provide dental care for these kids, maybe on-site counseling, and extend those services to their families. But really, concentrate those services in a finite area and make sure we’re flooding the market with the services people need.”
Input from constituents is important. Yeiser has seen successful results when communities have been asked what their needs are. That is followed by collaboration with nonprofit providers as well as citizens to provide solutions that create more sustainable neighborhoods, where people will live, raise their families and build community.
For Yeiser, building community is what makes his job and the services Foothills United Way provides meaningful.