Archive for Thursday, December 20, 2012

Local United Way still $700,000 short of campaign fundraising goal

December 20, 2012


Leaders of the local United Way are hoping the giving season won’t be over as Christmas comes and goes.

The top fundraising official with the United Way of Douglas County confirmed Thursday the organization is still more than $700,000 short of its annual fundraising goal.

Colleen Gregoire, United Way vice president and campaign manager, said the United Way was in the process of sending out a special appeal to area businesses asking them to help generate publicity for the need for more donations.

“We’re hoping businesses will be able to put a message on their marquee signs or something like that,” Gregoire said. “We need to remind folks that we still have a ways to go.”

The organization announced in early December that the United Way fundraising drive was about $900,000 short of its $1.8 million goal. On Thursday, Gregoire said donations had grown to almost $1.1 million.

“We’re so grateful for the generosity that our donors and volunteers have shown so far,” Gregoire said. “We’re just still going after that final goal.”

Officially, the annual fundraising campaign ended on Dec. 7, but United Way leaders extended the time period for soliciting donations. Gregoire said the United Way needs to have a good handle on how much money it will have for 2013 by mid-February.

The organization 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. The United Way will make the first round of funding disbursements in late January. Other disbursements are scheduled for late February and late March.

Gregoire said the United Way’s Board of Directors would need to make a decision about whether it wants to dip into the organization's reserve funds to help make up the shortfall.

“We would have to go beyond our stated policy and dig deeper into our reserves in order to fund the agencies at the level we have promised,” Gregoire said.

United Way officials expect donations to continue to come in between now and February to reduce the $700,000 shortfall. Gregoire said some large corporations have not yet finalized their pledges. She said the local United Way also generally receives a significant amount of funding from other area United Way organizations because Douglas County commuters make pledges in their workplace communities but direct the dollars to go to Douglas County.

Predicting how much money will come in during those times, however, is difficult. Gregoire said her books show that this year’s fundraising effort is at least $100,000 behind last year’s campaign, which raised $1.7 million.

This year’s campaign team — which was led by Baldwin City businesswoman Becki Dick — decided to up the goal to $1.8 million, which would be the most money ever raised by the local United Way.

Gregoire on Thursday said she couldn’t point to any one area where donations were falling short. Previously, United Way officials said donations sometimes do slow down during presidential election years when uncertainty about future economic conditions tend to rise.

This year also marks 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 organizations saw a dramatic dip in United Way funding and had to make mid-year budget adjustments as a result.

Gregoire previously said some of the decline in donations is probably attributable to questions donors have about the new funding philosophy. But United Way leaders have stood behind the new plan as a way to promote better cooperation and efficiency at the local agencies.

Local social service agency leaders said they were struggling to understand why the donations were coming in slower this year.

“It has been hard to put your finger on,” said Joan Schultz, executive director of Willow Domestic Violence Center. “Lawrence is a very giving community, and it supports social services. But we are getting concerned about the United Way situation.”

Schultz said the United Way funding often has outsized importance in an agency’s budget. Willow, for example, receives about $40,000 of its $700,000 budget from the United Way. But Schultz said that $40,000 often is used as matching funds for federal or state grants.

“It is an important way that we leverage other funds from state and federal grants,” Schultz said.

People interested in donating to the United Way can call the organization’s headquarters at 843-6626, or can donate online at


Douglas Thompson 5 years, 4 months ago

There are better ways to give than through the United Way. While it has somewhat cleaned up its pay to executives, the organization has a history of excessive overhead. If you want to give give directly to those organizations whose mission you support. It is not necessary to use a federated fund like the United Way, especially these days when the Internet makes it so easy to find and donate to charity.

If you support the Boy Scouts, give directly to them, if you are opposed to the Boy Scouts' stance on LGBT rights, give to something like the Human Rights Campaign. The United Way is not necessary these days.

Give and give generously, but don't line the pockets of the United Way.

Clovis Sangrail 5 years, 4 months ago

"Colleen Gregoire, United Way vice president and campaign manager, said the United Way was in the process of sending out a special appeal to area businesses asking them to help generate publicity for the need for more donations."

Read --

"We're hoping businesses will ramp up the pressure on their employees and strong arm a few more bucks out of them."

Andy_Brown 5 years, 4 months ago

There is a difference between giving money directly to an agency and giving to UW. When you give money to an agency, you are saying, "I approve of what this agency is doing and how they are doing it. Keep up the good work! Don't change a thing." When you give money to UW you are saying "I agree there are these three important unmet needs in my community and I would like to encourage local agencies to work together to try and find new ways of meeting those needs."

oldbaldguy 5 years, 4 months ago

I hated giving money to the United Way, give it directly to the cause/agency you support.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 4 months ago

I too, pick the agencies and organizations I give to. After being around the United Way, both the boy and girl scouts, and the American Red Cross on a few occasions, I give to the boy scout that is selling the popcorn and the girl scout selling her cookies and don't take the product. I explain to the adult just how little of the cash for the overpriced goods goes toward the pack, troop or child selling the wares. All 4 of the aformentioned groups have huge amounts of overhead in facilities and executive pay schedules. Very little of what is collected goes towards their stated missions, that is of course, after they collect enough to pay the massive salaries and facility costs, then what ever is left is available to their stated missions. Therefore, I give directly to the groups that I personally choose to support.

If you are looking for an organization to support, please take a close look at Bikers Against Child Abuse. Although they too are ate up with politics, everyone works for free and funding goes to protect our children from abusive homes. The parents also tend to get into line when thunder rolls up and their lawn is full of black and tats. Quite effective.

kernal 5 years, 4 months ago

If they hadn't spent all those dollars on unnecessary overhead over the years, they'd have the $700,000 needed to cover the shortfall. Time for United Way to be run by volunteers, not paid pseudo executives.

NewKansan 5 years, 4 months ago

That's not really fair to say. Yes, I agree that United Way is probably not the best way to donate anymore. Personally, I'd rather give to the charities themselves. However, I've had a lot of interaction with different chapters and they work very hard (for the most part) to support the charities they help fund. It really does depend on the chapter though. Most of the charities don't have the tools in place to raise the kind of dough the UW can bring in. That said, if people donated more directly...they might be able to have that reach. It's a "real job" just like any other non-profit agency or fundraising arm of any other business. If they had volunteers run most likely wouldn't get the kind of results compared to having a professional staff. It's all about finding that balance of paying someone properly, but not too much where it looks bad and takes too much away from the cause.

Old_Oread_Phart 5 years, 4 months ago

Because Wilbur and Toe care and give so much to the community......ha.

boot2009 5 years, 4 months ago

I didn't donate this year because I don't agree with the new funding plan. First time in my entire adult life that I didn't donate. I bet the new funding plan has a lot more to do with it than any other issue...I was told by many people that they were not going to donate this year because of the change.

Talia Jael 5 years, 4 months ago

The agencies were meeting needs nicely before the failed "work together" strategy started. I have friends who work for UW agencies and from what I've heard from them, and that is probably only the tip of the iceberg, key parts of the social safety net are at risk of falling apart. Just watch, in a year or two there will be more "unmet needs" than there are right now.

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