The official numbers show that the United Way's annual fundraising campaign ended several hundred thousand dollars short of its goal this year, but board member Peggy Johnson said she's confident the shortfall will be overcome.
The organization announced a 2018 campaign tally of $1.16 million at its annual banquet Feb. 27. That was less that the $1.5 million campaign goal, but Johnson said it's normal for pledges from some participating businesses to not be counted by the time the numbers are announced.
“Last year, when everything was counted, our final total was $40,000 short of our $1.5 million goal,” she said. “I still think we will get there. We’re not that far off. We’re tracking pretty even with last year.”
But Johnson said that doesn't mean the United Way campaign and other fundraising campaigns aren't facing problems. She said donations have been trending downward nationwide. Previous Journal-World reports also indicate recent United Way campaigns have been less successful than those of a decade ago. A Journal-World story on the 2007 United Way annual banquet, for example, reported that that year’s campaign raised $1.63 million, and 2006 was similar at $1.58 million.
This year’s campaign was further challenged when three major hurricanes devastated Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico just as the campaign was getting underway, causing many people to give to hurricane relief efforts instead of the United Way, Johnson said.
“There’s no ifs, ands or buts that hurt us,” she said. “There’s only so many dollars people can give.”
Some of the United Way's partner agencies are feeling an impact from the decline in donations. Three of them — Trinity In-Home Care, Douglas County Visiting Nurses and the Douglas County Red Cross — were informed in November 2017 that they wouldn't receive funding from the United Way this year.
Jane Blocher, executive director of the Douglas County Red Cross, said she understood why the Red Cross did not receive funding this year as money got tighter.
“They are a nonprofit just like Red Cross is,” she said of the United Way. “We’re very grateful for the United Way funding they gave before. We always knew it wasn’t entitlement money, but funds were received at the pleasure of the United Way board and how well the annual campaign went.”
Blocher said the $20,000 the Red Cross received from United Way last year was used to help individuals and families who had experienced disasters. The lack of United Way funding this year would not affect the Red Cross’ ability to provide emergency assistance, she said.
Cynthia Lewis, CEO of Douglas County Visiting Nurses, also was understanding of the United Way board’s decision not to fund her agency. Last year, Visiting Nurses received $16,667, which was used to provide its clients therapy at Health Care Access.
“They are trying to distribute reduced resources, so they have to make really tough decision of where dollars go,” she said.
Megan Poindexter, executive director of Trinity In-Home Care, said the United Way decided not to fund her organization because it couldn't provide data on the outcomes of its services. She said Trinity faced two problems: that it couldn't afford staff to track the outcome data, and the fact that it doesn’t produce many positive outcomes because its elderly or disabled clients often move to nursing homes and other care facilities as their health declines.
United Way provided between $12,000 and $15,000 annually for the organization in recent years, Poindexter said. That was a small but “critical” part of its annual $1.2 million budget, which was used to cover the funding gaps for providing services to some clients, she said.
“We made adjustments to continue service, but I did have to eliminate a couple of other things we do,” she said.
Although the three agencies were not funded this year, United Way CEO Jannette Taylor said she remains committed to helping them succeed. The agencies still have access to United Way training and other benefits, she said, and United Way has hired a staff member to help all of its partner agencies put together outcome data.
Taylor said she also was helping the agencies identify grant possibilities and develop fundraising opportunities.