Research shows the success of a bacterial community depends on its shape.
Where does all the money donated to the United Way wind up? This may be a question that many donors to the annual campaign have had, but Patricia Brady decided to find out for herself.
Ms. Brady is senior project manager/team leader for MIT's Human Resources Practices Development (HRPD) team as well as a United Way volunteer and an active proponent of accountability by government, organizations and people.
"It was part of my education. We were taught in civics class that we are the government and the society. If we don't contribute to it, we're responsible for it not working," she said.
Ms. Brady has given her time and money to nonprofit groups for years, often through the United Way. But this year, she asked the charitable organization for something in return -- proof that they were investing donated dollars wisely.
"How do you know that the money my husband and I give is being put where it makes the most sense?" she asked.
The United Way answered by inviting her to join one of their Allocations Committees, which determines which agencies merit contributions. The committee meets with agency leaders and conducts site visits as part of its evaluation. Members verify that agencies have appropriate methods of demonstrating that their services reach the neediest members of the targeted population.
Ms. Brady is impressed by what she's found. "That money is very well invested," she said. "Because United Way agencies are held accountable for long-term, positive impacts, these donations are investments in our society, not handouts.
"For instance, the Success By 6 program really gives us an opportunity to invest in the future. I firmly believe that if we don't provide good support systems for our children, they'll never get out of the support mode. They need good food, good health and a nurturing environment."
The Success by 6 campaign provides funding for programs such as quality day care and well-child health care visits. Some of the campaign's objectives are to make sure that all children under the age of six have an ongoing relationship with a caring adult, nourishing meals, safe places to spend time and proper health care.
"As these programs continue to help children become productive citizens, we may be able to shift the focus from intervention to prevention. But not yet," Ms. Brady said. "When I was a young parent struggling to do my best each day, I would often reach back in my memory bank and ask what my mother would have done in a similar situation. A lot of people today reach back, and there's nothing positive for them to draw upon."
In both her career and volunteer work, Ms. Brady is interested in making sure that financial and human resources get applied in ways that best meet the goals of the organizations and individuals involved. She was associate director of the Center for Real Estate until February, when she was asked to lead the HRPD team, whose mandate is to "evolve a set of human resources practices that go beyond the needs of the reengineering project, to help the Institute maintain its competitive advantage and commitment to being a good employer," she said.
Ms. Brady and her husband Daniel, whom she describes as "an exemplary volunteer," passed down the sense of civic responsibility to their three children. "I'm happy to say they all volunteer," she said.
Anyone who would like to learn more about volunteering for a United Way agency may call the Volunteer Action Center at 624-8186. For more information about MIT's United Way campaign, contact Elizabeth Mulcahy in the Office of Special Community Services at x3-7914 or <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
MIT's United Way campaign runs through December 31. The fund drive has raised $120,593 as of November 24, putting the Institute at 38 percent of its $315,000 goal for 1997. The 491 donors include 27 Leadership Givers pledging $1,000 or more. Donations will go to social-services agencies that help more than 2.2 million children and adults in Eastern Massachusetts.
For more information on the MIT campaign, including drop-off sites for the clothing drive beginning December 8, go to <http://web.mit.edu/campus-activities/www/scs/uwmit.html>. The United Way of Massachusetts Bay also has a web site at <http://www.uwmb.org>.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 26, 1997.