In case you were of the perception that the United Way of Ellis County exists primarily to raise funds once a year and transfer those dollars to member agencies, it’s time to rethink your position.

While the annual United Way fund-raising undeniably is critical for the local agencies’ continued success, the close to half-a-million dollars generated does have a few strings attached.

For example, member agencies must submit budgets and financial information to United Way that are scrutinized to ensure responsible spending is taking place. Additionally, the agencies are challenged to defend their individual missions align with core areas UW is targeting.

In Ellis County, the umbrella agency emphasizes education, income and health as primary building blocks.

According to United Way’s website, its “goal is to create long-lasting change by addressing the underlying causes of those problems. Living united means being a part of the change. It takes everyone in the community working together to create a brighter future.”

On a regular basis, the organization revisits its strategic planning to “ensure direction for community service impact.”

One of the tools United Way is using this year is a survey to further hone in on the seriousness of various issues as well as determine support levels of various potential solutions. Staff is hoping members of the community will take time to take the survey, which can be accessed online at liveunited.us.

Survey-takers, whether they are community members who utilize services provided by local agencies or not, are asked to rate the usefulness of a wide range of solutions such as job training, adult education, transportation and technology — just to name a few. They also will be asked to rate the importance of community issues such as early childhood education, access to health care, whether dental clinics accept Medicaid, and costs of child care.

As the tabulated outcomes will be used to assist staff and board members pursue current and future strategies, the more community participation the better. The survey only will be open through Monday, so participants are encouraged to visit the website as soon as possible.

We applaud the United Way of Ellis County for including the general public in its strategic planning — and for making it easy to do.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry