United Way sets fundraising goal for 2017

Published 6:59 pm Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The United Way of West Central Mississippi has officially set its fundraising goal for the 2017 campaign, which will officially kickoff Sept. 23 with the True Color Run in downtown Vicksburg.

This year’s goal has been set at $870,000, up from the nearly $820,000 that was raised last year during the campaign. Executive director Michelle Connelly said the starting goal each year is to increase donations by 4 percent, but they decided to aim for more than that this year.

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“We are stretching ourselves and challenging ourselves,” Connelly said. “We are super excited about that.”

Members of the campaign cabinet set the fundraising goal during a planning meeting Wednesday after months of work and preparation. To reach their target amount, Connelly said they plan to work to build upon their relationships with businesses and other donors and show them the impact their donations are having in the community.

“Our main goal this year is we want to strengthen our relationships with our businesses and individual donors,” she said. “We want to have those face-to-face opportunities. We want to share the story.”

Last year, the United Way gave about $421,000 to its 20 partner agencies and also contributed another $150,000 to community investment grants. Of that total, $45,000 was given as designated donations to specific agencies and $376,000 was designated by the community investment panel.

“Last year, we level funded all the agencies,” David Cox, a member of the executive committee for the community investment panel, said. “We didn’t have to cut any agency from the previous level of funding. That may sound like a good thing, but the agency requests for funding were $961,000. We were able to give $376,000. That is 39 percent of the need we were able to meet through the allocation process.”

The members of the community investment panel work with the agencies throughout the year to determine their needs for funding and then set where money will be allocated for the following year.

“The members of the community investment committee are spending time all throughout the year with specific agencies,” Cox said. “They are tasked with developing a relationship with the agency director, learning what the agency does, how they do it and what the true needs are.”

Because of the time invested in working with the agencies to determine their needs, Cox said that although it is an option, they prefer if donors don’t designate their donations to specific agencies.

“People like knowing where their money it going,” Cox said. “I get that, but it makes the allocation process a real challenge. The real function of the community investment panel is to spread the resources around in such a way to maximize the benefit from those resources. Designations cut into the ability to allocate effectively.”

The money raised by the United Way during its campaign will help the partner agencies throughout 2018. Connelly said the money raised will impact the lives of 16,000 people throughout Warren, Sharkey, Issaquena, Yazoo and Claiborne counties and a portion of Madison Parish.

“The United Way dollar will fund 220 children to be able to attend summer and afterschool programs to prepare themselves for kindergarten, to allow them to be at the grade appropriate reading level and get them ready for graduation,” Connelly said.

The money raised will also enable the United Way to help give 1,500 individuals access to health care, help 500 individuals with safe and affordable housing opportunities or job training and provide 875 individuals with food, shelter and safety.