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MU Evaluators Assess Local Basic Needs Services

Columbia and Boone County officials tap MU to review organizations who receive funding

June 14th, 2010

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— Every year, local mid-Missouri governments must make numerous budget decisions regarding how much funding to allocate toward community social service organizations. To help in this process, the City of Columbia, the County of Boone and the Heart of Missouri United Way contracted with Emily Johnson from the Institute of Public Policy, located in the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri, to conduct an evaluation of their funded Basic Needs and Emergency Services programs.

Johnson evaluated several mid-Missouri non-profit organizations who currently receive funding from the City of Columbia, the County of Boone and the Heart of Missouri United Way. The goal of this evaluation was to assess the operation of the organizations being funded and how they make use of their funding.

“The city, the county, and the United Way are constantly evaluating the agencies they are funding, both for impact and capacity,” Johnson said. “Ideally, the city, the county , and the United Way want to improve both their relationship with the agencies and the agencies’ ability to deliver programs in the community.”

Johnson evaluated the ten agencies that are included in the Basic Needs and Emergency Services category. The agencies include:

• American Red Cross

• Community Garden Coalition

• Comprehensive Human Services – The Shelter

• The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri

• Harvest House

• Mid-Missouri Legal Services Corporation

• Reality House

• Salvation Army

• Voluntary Action Center

• Welcome Home

These 10 agencies represent 18 programs funded by the city, county, and Heart of Missouri United Way. Johnson met with the executive directors and key staff to get a sense of each agency’s capacity in seven different areas, such as human resources, systems and infrastructure, and process and delivery of programs.

Johnson believes that all of the programs she evaluated met expectations and are operating efficiently. After assessing these mid-Missouri agencies, Johnson says she feels pleased at the state of the local social services agencies.

“When I sit down and learn about all the different programs that these agencies offer, it makes me feel proud as a community member,” Johnson said. “To know that we are taking care of people in this community that have needs, whether it is assistance for housing or food, it makes me feel good that there are this many resources that are supported by the city, county, and United Way.”

 Johnson and the Institute of Public Policy are in the first year of a three-year evaluation process that will provide a comprehensive review of services for the City of Columbia, the County of Boone and the Heart of Missouri United Way. In 2011, Johnson and the Institute will evaluate children, youth, and family’s services funded by local entities, followed in 2012 by an evaluation of economic opportunity, independent living, and mental health services.

The Institute of Public Policy is a research and public service entity committed to increasing knowledge and understanding of issues facing Missouri state and local governments. It provides policy research to policymakers and conducts program evaluation and other applied research through contracts with public and non-profit entities. The Institute is a part of the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri.