How you can make a difference in bringing progress to the plains

Headshot of Jennifer Szambecki.

By Jennifer Szambecki, Marketing Director for Hutton and United Way of the Plains Board Member
Published in the Wichita Eagle on Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Think about the last time you saw some positive momentum building. Maybe it was a child you know who suddenly jumped a step or two in learning to read. Perhaps you’ve watched a community action group grow from a few to a few more to a lot. Or maybe co-workers rallied around a special cause. Did you find yourself wanting to be part of the movement? When positive momentum begins, more people jump on board, which accelerates the momentum, which makes more people want to jump on board. It’s a virtuous and self-reinforcing cycle.

Momentum can move a community in a positive direction, and unfortunately, we know all too well how it can move in a negative direction. The financial strain and uncertainty of the last two years has hurt our neighbors and families more than most of us have seen in our lifetimes. The need today is greater than it’s ever been. But there is hope.

Last year, your United Way of the Plains distributed $5.7 million through their annual community investment process. That’s in addition to managing $4 million for the community via grantors like the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). While United Way of the Plains has been around and distributing grant funding to area nonprofits for 100 years (literally), they have transformed and improved the process. And it’s gaining steam.

The process has a new name: Opportunity on the Plains. This, after United Way introduced new funding opportunities called Impact on the Plains and Promise on the Plains. Impact on the Plains was a highly successful Shark Tank-like event in 2021, where innovative nonprofits competed for cash prizes. It was so successful, we’re doing it again this year. Promise on the Plains aims to invest $100,000 in nonprofit organizations that benefit the BIPOC community. So much progress for you to join.

Opportunity on the Plains is underway now and investments will be announced in June. In addition to the name, the process itself is new. It’s all online, so nonprofits who were used to submitting reams of paper to United Way can more easily and efficiently participate. United Way also lifted many restrictions that created barriers for some organizations to apply. Most importantly, United Way spent time opening lines of communication and building trust with many of the region’s nonprofits. These changes resulted in a 3x increase in the number of applications.

Community investment panels of volunteers are busy doing the challenging work of deciding how to allocate United Way of the Plains funds. Guided by a commitment to being partners and collaborators, not rivals and competitors, we will allocate available funds to organizations in the most fair, equitable way possible. If you guessed the need far exceeds available funds, you are correct. You can be part of closing that gap this year and, in the future, when you give to United Way.

The positive momentum of United Way of the Plains’ community investment process is just what our region needs to counteract negative forces. Want to be part of the movement? Jump on board. Visit to get involved.


Published On: April 6, 2022


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