United Way kicks off 2013 campaign by sending Pacesetters out early

Nicole Johnson, chair of the Huntington County United Way’s 2013 fund-raising campaign, thanks the companies who volunteered to be Pacesetters for the campaign during a Pacesetter kick-off luncheon on Wednesday, June 26. Photo by Cindy Klepper.

The United Way of Huntington County kicked off the preliminary portion of its 2013 campaign on Wednesday, June 26, sending its Pacesetter companies out into the field to begin the fund-raising.

The 12 Pacesetter companies have volunteered to run their campaigns early to set the pace for the community campaign, which will officially begin on Aug. 21.

Nicole Johnson, chair of the 2013 United Way campaign, said she expects "lots of fun activities" from the Pacesetter companies.

This year's Pacesetters are Beacon Credit Union, Bendix, Huntington Sheet Metal, Bippus State Bank, Village Animal Hospital, First Federal Savings Bank, Miami Tool and Die, Myers Funeral Homes, Otis R. Bowen Center, Pathfinder Services, Teachers Credit Union and Edward Jones.

A campaign goal will be announced at the Aug. 21 kick-off for the community event, says Jenna Strick, the United Way's executive director, following an analysis of the economic climate in Huntington County.

"We're approaching our goal more scientifically this year," she says.

The local United Way, like those across the nation, is experiencing a decline in contributions - but Strick points out that giving in Huntington County "hasn't dropped as significantly as other communities.

"We're still raising over $600,000 and not a lot of communities, especially communities our size, can say that," she adds.

The 2012 campaign raised $655,000 in donations and pledges from the community. A panel of volunteers examined local needs and requests from area organizations and allocated $401,000 to 18 organizations.

The amount allocated included some funds already in United Way coffers.

"We had some funds that weren't utilized last year that were allocated," Strick says. "We took some funds from our reserves as well."

The $401,000 raised was allocated to specific "impact areas" targeted by the United Way board - $113,400 for education, $53,500 for financial stability, $80,750 for health and wellness and $154,000 for crisis needs.

Those four broad areas for funding were designated in 2011 as United Way volunteers and agencies sought ways to identify and meet the greatest needs in Huntington County, Strick says.

As agencies request United Way funds for specific programs, a United Way volunteer panel assesses the program's effectiveness in meeting those designated needs.

Agencies receiving United Way allocations from the 2012 fund-raising campaign, grouped by the impact area that agency's program addresses, are:

Education - Big Brothers Big Sisters, $11,000; Boy Scouts Anthony Wayne Council, $10,000; Boys & Girls Club, $12,500; Huntington County Literacy Coalition, $8,900; Pathfinder Kids Kampus, $40,000; Salvation Army latchkey program, $21,000; and Youth Services Bureau, $10,000.

Financial stability - Boys & Girls Club, $7,500; Council on Aging Huntington Area Transportation (HAT), $20,000; FinancialHope, $3,500; Junior Achievement, $2,500; Pathfinder Transitional Housing, $15,000; and Pathfinder VITA, $5,000.

Health and wellness - Boys & Girls Club, $12,000; Council on Aging homemaker program, $12,250; Girl Scouts of Northern Indiana-Michiana Girl Power program, $4,000; Youth Services Bureau On Your Way Up and Empowering Parents programs, $21,000; Youth Services Bureau Teen Court, conflict mediation and Skills for Life programs, $29,000; and YWCA of Northeast Indiana, $2,500.

Crisis needs - American Red Cross, $31,000; Cancer Services for Huntington County, $15,000; Huntington County Free Health Clinic, $25,000; Huntington House, $20,000; Love INC, $10,000; McKenzie's Hope, $16,000; Salvation Army, $30,000; and YWCA of Northeast Indiana, $7,000.

Strick says the approximately $254,000 difference between the amount raised and the amount allocated represents funds used for operating expenses, pledges that will not be paid and donations designated for organizations that are not among the United Way's 18 partner agencies.

Each year, Strick says, about 7 percent of pledges go unpaid. In addition, donors who designate a specific agency as a recipient of their gifts send between $45,000 and $50,000 to agencies that are not United Way partners.

The $655,000 raised in 2012 fell short of the year's $735,000 goal, continuing a slide that began in 2007. The 2007 and 2008 campaigns each raised $785,000, down from the more than $800,000 that was raised in 2006. The amounts raised dropped to $710,000 in 2009, increased to $727,000 in 2010 and fell to $716,000 in 2011.

"Individual gifts tend to climb, but overall gifts in the community are decreasing," Strick says, a signal that fewer people are making contributions to the United Way.

She attributed a large part of the drop from 2011 to 2012 to "a couple of companies that chose not to participate."

A poor economy is part of the reason fewer people are making United Way contributions, Strick says, but she also believes there's a generational shift as the Baby Boomers age out of the United Way's targeted donor group.

"The new generation coming in has different values," she says. "They connect differently than the older generation does."

Philanthropic organizations such as the United Way need to find an answer to a new question: "What would it take to get them involved?" Strick says.

It may be, she says, that the path to giving begins with convincing younger adults to become involved in community organizations as volunteers so that they can experience first-hand the benefits those organizations provide to the community.

"With them, it's not just, ‘It's the right thing to do, to give,'" Strick says.

Complete caption: Nicole Johnson, chair of the Huntington County United Way’s 2013 fund-raising campaign, thanks the companies who volunteered to be Pacesetters for the campaign during a Pacesetter kick-off luncheon on Wednesday, June 26. She stands behind a poster bearing this year’s campaign theme, “Be the One.”