Community Impact Requires Detective Skills

Volunteers Bring Skills and Heart to Impact Panels

by Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director – United Way of Charlotte County

Through the month of May, United Way of Charlotte County’s office has been transported to 221B Baker Street.

I am Dr. Watson to a team of community volunteers who could rival Sherlock Holmes in their sleuthing skills. While we aren’t solving mysteries, these volunteers are using their incredible powers of observation, deduction and reasoning to pour over this year’s local government funding applications.

United Way of Charlotte County (UWCC) is the administrator of local government dollars from the Charlotte County Board of County Commissioners and the City of Punta Gorda. These dollars are used to support the amazing work being done by health and human service organizations across the county. Our role is to create and implement the vetting process, which is done through our Community Impact Panels. 

Our volunteer Community Impact Panel members work in teams to review grant applications, participate in site visits to the applying agencies, and discuss the merits of all that they learn. The funds are limited, and the panels ensure that the dollars go toward the programs that are making the most impact in Charlotte County. 

Much like Holmes, they quietly soak in the details from the applications, the budgets, the presentations. They score each program on its merit in the categories of Agency Standing, Program, Program Financials, Outcomes & Data and Outreach & Collaboration. Panel members are recruited from across Charlotte County. Many are employed in various fields such as accounting, education, banking, law or human resources. Others are retired from a formal career, offering a lifetime of knowledge and experience to this process.

Each panel member brings a unique perspective to the table. I am always intrigued to see which volunteer will be the one to dive deep into the presented goals and outcomes of the programs and which volunteer will use a fine-toothed comb when reviewing the agency financials and program budgets. Sherlock Holmes had great knowledge and insight into many topics, giving him an edge over other detectives. Diversity of panel members gives us this same vast knowledge base.

But what truly touches my heart is the simple fact that these volunteers genuinely care about Charlotte County and the individuals and families who are in need and striving to reach their full potential.

They take time out of their busy lives, their careers, their leisure time to look closely at the programs that are working behind the scenes in Charlotte County, helping those who are making every effort to just make ends meet. They care enough to look, learn and provide feedback.

The majority of non-profit organizations run on very small staffs, staying focused on the work of their programs. UWCC is able to see all the pieces (these individual programs) in comparison to the whole picture (Charlotte County). Working together with Community Impact Panels, we offer suggestions on improving programs, expanding collaboration across the community and stretching dollars to maximize impact.

As we go into our third week of Community Impact Panels, which wrap up May 26, I give thanks to our volunteer panel members.

Your time is valued. Your insight is valued. Your input is valued. You are valued.

If you would like to learn more about the programs that are currently being funded through UWCC’s Community Impact Panel process, please visit

For more information about United Way of Charlotte County’s mission:  Mobilizing the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty, please contact Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director. She can be reached at