United Way renews call for donations

MIDDLEBURY — United Way of Addison County (UWAC) officials are renewing requests for support of two concurrent fund drives aimed at helping people get food, shelter, counseling and other services that are currently beyond their reach.
UWAC in September launched its 2017 fundraising campaign, through which it hopes to raise $650,000 to benefit local nonprofits helping Addison County residents in need.
At the same time, the organization announced establishment of a “Legacy Society” endowment fund that will be built on 50 independent gifts of more than $1,000. Interest income from the Legacy Society endowment will mainly be used to help plug any shortfalls in future annual UWAC campaigns.
As of Monday, United Way had received a combined total of 719 pledges totaling $325,862 toward this year’s quest for $650,000.
The organization had harvested $347,887 from 733 sources at this time last year, according to Nancy Luke, marketing and development director for UWAC.
Also as of Monday, the separate Legacy Fund endowment effort had yielded $16,200 and some additional prospects, according to UWAC Executive Director Kate McGowan.
Along with promised cash gifts, one person thus far is considering a bequest and two couples and an individual are considering charitable gift annuities, according to McGowan, who is confident the Legacy fund momentum will pick up. A steering committee including some of the United Ways most dedicated supporters — such as former Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, Roth “T” Tall and Fran Putnam — is helping the organization pitch to prospective donors.
Boosters are hoping the Legacy Society campaign yields $2 million to $3 million. Once established, that money will be combined with an existing $1.1 million UWAC endowment fund.
“Our wonderful volunteers have started to have conversations with loyal donors, and this will be going on through the end of our fiscal year in June,” McGowan said through an email.
Meanwhile, United Way officials are analyzing giving trends in the $650,000 annual fund drive to determine where to prioritize their solicitation efforts as 2017 draws to a close. Like the Legacy Fund effort, the annual campaign doesn’t technically wrap up until the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2018). UWAC closed the books on its 2016 campaign this past June 30 having slightly topped its goal with a yield of $656,272.
“We’re a little behind,” Luke said of the current 2017 fund drive total. “But we will continue to do the work we do with what we are given.”
The latest tally sheet shows donations are down primarily among some businesses taking part in UWAC’s payroll deduction program, including Middlebury College, the county’s largest employer. Cumulative donations from college employees are currently lagging around $10,000 behind last year at this time.
Luke added the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union recently phased out its participation in the payroll deduction option.
“Payroll is on the decline, for sure,” Luke said.
On the bright side, individual donations as of Monday totaled $196,269, up more than $20,000 compared to this time last year, according to UWAC statistics. And Porter Hospital employees have pledged a combined total of $16,058 so far, up from $11,960 at this time last year.
“Over the past couple of years, we’ve been seeing a shift to individual donors,” Luke said.
At the same time, individuals have more philanthropic outlets than ever before. Some folks have elected to earmark their limited donation dollars to other worthy causes outside of the county — such as hurricane relief efforts in Texas and Puerto Rico.
Several county nonprofits are in the midst of their own fund drives, thus adding to the menu of contribution candidates. For example, Town Hall Theater is midway through a $2.5 million endowment fund drive to permanently finance a new artistic director position and ongoing THT building repairs. And Middlebury-based WomenSafe is trying to raise $1.2 million to purchase and fix its new headquarters, create two transitional apartments for clients and expand its acclaimed violence-prevention programs throughout Addison County schools.
“For a long, long time, we were the only game in town,” Luke said of the United Way. “More and more of our partners have their own development people. That means that instead of one of us knocking on the door, there are 15 of us knocking on the door. Our small businesses are hit up five times a day by every group in town, and for some of them, business hasn’t gotten back to where it was pre-recession, and they’re still struggling somewhat.
“Even though we represent almost all of the nonprofits in the community, it’s becoming harder for even some of the larger businesses to say, ‘We’ll let you in the door, but nobody else,’” Luke added.
UWAC is taking on some specific causes that could draw more support from people who share those human services priorities. For example, United Way is spearheading programs aimed at educating youths about the dangers of opioids, the benefits of job training, and help for workers requiring additional supports to remain in their jobs.
Fitness enthusiasts have an upcoming opportunity to stay in shape and support the 2017 UWAC campaign. It’s called “Spin United,” scheduled for Jan. 21 at Middlebury Fitness. Participants will gain pledges for a marathon spinning session. Last year’s event raised $11,500, according to Luke.
For more information about United Way and contribution options, log on to unitedwayaddisoncounty.org, or call 388-7189.
McGowan has high hopes for what is UWAC’s 50th campaign.
“We are feeling great about the response of donors as they consider current year support and whether a planned gift might be something to set up now or down the road,” she said. “As we reflect with gratitude on our founders, early leaders, donors and volunteers who established our leadership society and original endowment, I know that future executive directors, board members and community partners will reflect with gratitude on the efforts and contributions made in 2017-18.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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