United Way boosts its 2013 fundraising goal

MIDDLEBURY — The United Way of Addison County will kick off its 2013 campaign to raise $725,000 with its customary “Days of Caring” this Thursday and Saturday, Sept. 26 and 28. It is an event that has thus far attracted 675 community volunteers who will perform dozens of helpful jobs for the various local nonprofit agencies that receive financial support through the UWAC.
The $725,000 goal is $25,000 more than last year’s target and represents the first time in four years the local United Way has raised its annual fundraising bar. The organization closed the books on the 2012 campaign earlier this year after having raised $671,000 — or 96 percent of its 2012 target.
But organizers this year are confident they can set their sights higher, and that they can meet the $725,000 goal with a lot of hard work, some newly recruited volunteers and a renewed effort to explain UWAC’s mission and track record to prospective donors.
Leading the way, with United Way staff, will be 2013 campaign co-chairpersons John and Ann Hanson of Bridport. The Hansons have lived in the area for 25 years and have seen first-hand the services — ranging from fuel assistance to affordable housing — that UWAC-sponsored nonprofits have been delivering to their fellow county residents for many years.
“We’ve watched our children and our lives intertwine with United Way agencies all the way through, from childcare to programs offered through the schools and now at this stage of our lives, where we have friends who have used Elderly Services and hospice care, so it  has been kind of a lifetime of appreciation for the things United Way offers,” Ann Craig Hanson, dean of student affairs emeritus with Middlebury College, said on Thursday. “We want to help out, because it has had an important impact on us.”
John Hanson is former director of admissions at the college. So he and his wife have also seen first-hand how UWAC agencies have helped members of the college community.
“Having resided in Middlebury, Cornwall and Bridport, we’ve also seen the inter-relationships,” John  Hanson said, noting United Way services transcend town lines. “Supporting (UWAC) seems to be a comprehensive way of  addressing what we’ve appreciated in our own lives.”
The Hansons will be the face of a 2013 campaign that organizers promised will be well explained and that will seek to involve what it hopes will be the next generation of volunteers and clients.
“In the nonprofit world, this is really a big concern,” said Kate McGowan, executive director of the United Way of Addison County. “When we look at our donor demographics, it’s really clear that some folks are moving out of the community, aging out of giving; they’re retiring, so income changes. Part of the discussion in the nonprofit community is, ‘Who’s going to replace the leaders? Who’s going to replace aging board members? And who’s going to replace aging donors?’ So it’s important to think strategically about how we engage folks who are busy, but who are committed to their communities in this kind of way.”
To that end, UWAC enters the 2013 campaign having dissolved a co-director’s position but having hired a development and marketing director — Nancy Luke. Luke has been putting together publications, videos and other publicity materials to enable county residents to rediscover what UWAC is all about. This need was underscored in a recent online survey conducted by the United Way. The survey featured 12 multiple-choice questions about UWAC, measuring awareness of United Way work and the perceived value of that work. A large percentage of the 209 respondents were aware of UWAC and its grant making function, but relatively few knew that UWAC priorities are chosen based on a community dialogue, that the organization monitors and evaluates the nonprofits it funds, and that UWAC is also involved in education and advocacy.
United Way officials also want citizens to become more aware of the ancillary services it provides to local nonprofits and businesses. Those services include financial counseling and free tax preparation. These services can help people with limited means to better budget for themselves and therefore not need as much assistance from nonprofits.
McGowan and Luke hope to see UWAC increase its donor rolls in all categories. The organization currently counts around 2,000 total donors who contribute through paycheck deductions, small financial contributions and larger outlays (in excess of $1,250) as part of the “Robert Frost” category of giving. People can also donate stock gifts. Those who want to learn more about their giving options can call the United Way at 388-7189, or log on to unitedwayaddisoncounty.org.
Officials also want people to realize they can help throughout the year, and not just during the Days of Caring. As an example, McGowan cited the “Everybody Wins” literacy campaign through which adults periodically go into local schools to read to young students.
“We are trying to show people how they can make a difference every day,” McGowan said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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