During a March 26 online event, Valley of the Sun United Way — celebrating its 95th anniversary — announced its Mighty Change plan.
A five-year strategy spotlights key needs focusing on health, housing and homelessness, education and workforce development in Maricopa County, according to a press release.
The plan, MC2026, was created after an unprecedented effort over the past year by Valley of the Sun United Way to engage more than 1,000 community members through three community-wide surveys, 18 virtual town hall sessions and 24 deep-dive focus groups to identify the most pressing needs of Maricopa County and how United Way can best support needed community solutions.
“Maricopa County’s needs have changed over the years,” said Carla Vargas Jasa, president and CEO of Valley of the Sun United Way, in a prepared statement.
“What has remained is our deep understanding of the critical issues and our unique role at the intersection between caring businesses and individual donors and our community’s vital nonprofits, schools and the people they serve.”
Research confirmed issues that existed before the pandemic, according to a press release, have intensified and systemic racial, social, economic and educational inequities exist in every issue so equity must be part of every solution.
Valley of the Sun United Way’s community-centered planning process led to four key areas of focus for its new MC2026 plan. Woven into each of the plan’s strategies is a focus on diversity, equity, access and inclusion.
The plan presents bold aspirations and goals:
Among those leading the development of the plan was Jenny Holsman Tetreault, chair of the Board of Directors for Valley of the Sun United Way and assistant general counsel, field operations, west and northwest at US Foods. She said issues being addressed are intersectional.
“We know these are bold goals for big community challenges, but by using our ability to work with our community partners to take on multiple connected systemic inequities at the same time, we can make a far greater impact-- a mighty change,” said Holsman Tetreault in a prepared statement.
In December 2020, as Valley of the Sun United Way was creating the MC2026 plan, the organization was notified that it was chosen for a $25 million donation from philanthropist, author and Amazon co-founder MacKenzie Scott, which is the largest single donation ever received.
The United Way had not applied for the donation, according to the release, noting that the donor and her team noticed the organization’s work on during a national search for philanthropic opportunities.
When announcing the gift to Valley of the Sun, she stated how Valley of the Sun United Way was among organizations chosen.
“We took a data driven approach to identifying organizations with strong leadership teams and results, with special attention to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measure of racial inequality, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital,” Ms. Scott said.
John Graham, incoming chair of the board of directors for Valley of the Sun United Way and chairman and CEO of Sunbelt Holdings, noted the transformational gift will go directly into the community over the next five years.
“The gift from MacKenzie Scott helps elevate and accelerate key parts of United Way’s five-year plan, however these are big issues with big goals and to achieve them we’re going to need local organizations working together and support of local funders and volunteers more than ever before to truly move the needle,” said Mr. Graham in a prepared statement.
Valley of the Sun United Way will use the gift to provide multi-year support to help stabilize foundational community programs that have been stretched because of COVID-19 including food banks, pantries, and emergency shelters; closing the digital divide, and creating “deeper engagement opportunities,” around key issues to involve members of the community like never before, the release said.
Additionally, United Way will partner with Southwest Human Development, Chicanos Por La Causa and YWCA Metropolitan Phoenix, which also received gifts from MacKenzie Scott to develop initiatives.
Details about Mighty Change and the MC2026 plan: vsuw.org/mightychange.