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United Way will act to spark donations

MIDDLEBURY — United Way of Addison County (UWAC) officials are organizing an impassioned donation pitch to reinvigorate a 2009-2010 fund-raising campaign that has been sorely tested by the sluggish economy.
UWAC officials knew at the outset of the campaign that raising funds during the current economic climate would pose an extra challenge. And while organizers didn’t set a specific goal at the outset, they hoped the drive would net as much as last year: $775,000, funds distributed among many human service agencies throughout the county.
But as of late last week, the 2009 fund drive had yielded around $570,000, or 73 percent of last year’s donation total.
“We’re fairly concerned, but optimistic,” UWAC Co-Director Kate McGowan said of the current fund tally and prospects for some new momentum.
It should be noted that the symbolic UWAC thermometer near the Middlebury Post Office on Main Street currently reads “60 percent” of the total goal. That’s because that thermometer — for the first time this year — represents the actual human resource needs in the county, as expressed by expenses and the collective funding requests submitted by local human services agencies. Those needs add up to around $980,000, according to McGowan. Typically what is believed to be an achievable goal is set, rather than the actual need.
Campaign organizers will, in the near future, be sending out donation reminders to past contributors and other prospects.
“People should expect to hear from us,” McGowan said. “We hope to quickly raise another $100,000.”
That $100,000 would push the total yield to around 86 percent of the $775,000 threshold.
“Every little bit will make a difference,” McGowan said.
UWAC recently switched its accounting to a fiscal year timeframe, meaning the books technically won’t close on the 2009-2010 campaign until June 30. But McGowan noted that the UWAC board is set to make its granting decisions by the end of March “and we can’t grant money we haven’t been promised. We can only make grants based on what we can reasonably project.”
McGowan has been heartened by donation trends she has been seeing in the “Robert Frost Leadership” category of giving. It’s a category in which donors are able to give $1,000 or more.
“Many have increased their giving during the past two years despite their concerns about the (stock) market,” McGowan said.
But that has not been the case in other giving categories, including payroll deductions. Many employers have been paring back on their workforces and/or been unable to award raises, thereby reducing what employees have traditionally been able to give.
“It is troubling,” McGowan said of the diminished wherewithal of people to donate, especially at a time when more and more people are in need of charity.
Linda Schiffer, vice president of the UWAC board and a member of the allocations committee, is hoping the campaign gets a boost as it nears the finish line.
“If people were thinking about giving, or have given before but haven’t yet written that check, this is the time to do it,” Schiffer said.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to UWAC can do so by calling the organization at 388-7189, or by visiting www.unitedwayaddisoncounty.org.

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