For the second straight year, United Way of Douglas County has fallen short of its annual fund-raising goal.
But officials said Monday enough donations were still trickling in that the sought-after $1.46 million could soon be in hand, although the campaign ended with only about two-thirds of that raised.
"My guess is, to use a political phrase, we're just too close to call," said Jo Bryant, director of the agency that provides funds to 29 county agencies.
This year's goal was the same as that for last year's drive, which came up $64,000 - or 4.4 percent - short. Officials attributed that shortfall to a boom in donations to Sept. 11 charities, a slumping national economy and local businesses that closed or laid off workers.
As of Thursday, when the formal campaign ended, United Way had collected about $1 million, Bryant said. That was slightly more than had been raised by the same point in last year's campaign, she said.
Bryant said some businesses hadn't yet turned in their donations, and it could be months before donations from Lawrence residents who work in other counties make their way back to Douglas County. Also, some large employers allow workers to donate through the Internet, and those funds won't be booked until later.
Bryant said a final campaign announcement would be made Jan. 15.
David Ambler, the former Kansas University administrator who co-chaired the campaign with his wife, Mary Kate, said he was optimistic United Way would reach its goal.
"The story is, it ain't over until it's over," he said. "I'm encouraged. A year ago it was pretty easy to tell we weren't going to make it. We think we have a better chance this year than we had at this point last year."
Several organizations have fallen short of their goals for the campaign. KU has raised $194,209, or 85 percent of its goal of $228,000. University employees raised $227,019 last year.
Lawrence Public Schools raised $38,494, or 81 percent of its goal of $47,523. Last year, school staff raised $43,467.
Julie Boyle, communications director for the public schools, said impending budget cuts in education probably were to blame for the decrease.
"This is a difficult time for public education," she said. "The outlook is just really uncertain. We have an awful lot of people who support United Way who weren't able to give this year."
Steve McAllister, dean of the KU School of Law and chairman of KU's United Way campaign, said the combination of a staff salary freeze and the Kansas University Endowment Association's KU First fund-raising campaign hampered this year's university effort.
"Everybody feels saturated for giving," he said. "There's competition for funds."
United Way of Douglas County provides money to organizations in such areas as health care, services for the poor and character-building.