Social service agencies throughout Douglas County may see a cutback in funding unless donations pick up significantly for the local United Way fundraising campaign.
Leaders with the United Way of Douglas County announced they only have raised about half of the campaign’s $1.8 million 2012 goal, even though the campaign officially ends on Friday.
“We’re hoping to get there, but it is really challenging times,” said Becki Dick, the United Way’s 2012 campaign chair.
The United Way will accept donations for the campaign past the original Dec. 7 deadline in an effort to reach the goal. Officials, though, conceded they are concerned with whether enough donations will come in to match the $1.7 million the campaign raised in 2011.
“I’m being optimistic about our chances of reaching $1.7 million, but it definitely will take a few more people stepping up,” said Colleen Gregoire, vice president and campaign manager for the United Way.
As of earlier this week, the 2012 campaign had raised about $925,000, Gregoire said. She said it is not unusual for the fundraising campaign to be at about the 50 percent mark at Thanksgiving, but she said to be this far from the goal this late in the campaign is unusual.
The campaign provides funding for 29 social service agencies throughout the county, ranging from the American Red Cross to the Girl Scouts to Willow Domestic Violence Center.
“It is going to be very challenging,” Dick said, if agencies end up receiving less money than they did in 2011. “There just aren’t the grants out there that there used to be. Agencies already are having to learn how to do more with less.”
Dick said some of the financial uncertainty that comes with a presidential election has perhaps slowed some giving. The last time the local United Way campaign fell short of its goal was about four years ago, but Gregoire said campaign only fell short of that goal by about two to three percent.
The organization decided to set a $1.8 million goal for 2012 because there was more need than could be met by the $1.7 million raised in 2011. If reached, the $1.8 million would be the most ever raised by the United Way in Douglas County.
This year’s fundraising campaign is the first one since the United Way began using a three-year plan that restructures how it allocates its funding to agencies.
The United Way has created three broad community goals: education, self-sufficiency and health care. Participating social service agencies are being required to show how their mission fits into at least one of the three goals, and then commit to collaborate with the other agencies in their goal group.
When the United Way used the plan earlier this year to allocate funding for agencies, some organization saw a dramatic dip in United Way funding and had to make mid-year budget adjustments as a result.
Gregoire said some of the decline in donations is probably attributable to questions donors have about the new funding philosophy.
“I think there are a few donors who were uncomfortable with the changes and decided to support their favorite agencies directly,” Gregoire said. “But I think the more they learn about the collaborative process and how it positively impacts the agencies, I think we’ll get more people to come back to the United Way campaign.”
United Way leaders have touted the new process as a way of increasing efficiency in the social service community and ensuring that agencies aren’t unnecessarily duplicating efforts.
In addition, Dick said the new approach allows the community to direct resources to attack specific community goals.
“We’re working toward systemic change,” Dick said. “It really is about much more than just plugging holes in the dike.”
People who want to donate to the United Way of Douglas County can do so online at the organization’s Web site: unitedwaydgco.org. Donors also can call the organization at 843-6626 or stop by its offices at 2518 Ridge Court in Lawrence.
“We just want to encourage everyone to look at their year-end situation and consider a donation to United Way,” said Dick, who along with her husband owns a Baldwin City-based manufacturing company. “It helps so many people throughout Douglas County.”