Wednesday, 22 January 2020 20:32

United Way of Richmond County exerts final push for current fundraising season

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The United Way of Richmond County has raised a little more than 70 percent of its $250,000 goal for this year. The United Way of Richmond County has raised a little more than 70 percent of its $250,000 goal for this year. Contributed photo

ROCKINGHAM — With less than a month to go in its annual fundraising campaign, the United Way of Richmond County has only reached about 71 percent of its goal.

Executive Director Michelle Parrish said the organization, which helps provide funding for 17 agencies across the county, had hoped to raise $250,000 but has only brought in around $178,000.

“It’s really no better than last year,” she said, an issue Parrish said she thinks other nonprofits may be facing, not just the United Way.

That year, the local United Way collected $212,000, plus a $15,000 grant from the Cole Foundation for a total of $227,000 — short of its $300,000 goal.

According to the website The Fundraising Coach, 35 percent of the nation’s nonprofits reported that contributions in 2018 were down from the previous year.

Several news outlets reported last year that giving was down in 2018 for charities that rely on middle-class donors, with the finger of blame being pointed toward a federal tax policy change.

Parrish said other United Way leaders across the state felt like Hurricane Florence had an impact in North Carolina.

“We’re having to look at other alternatives and ways to raise money,” she said. 

One of those outside-the-box strategies for 2019 was the “Round Up,” with a dozen local businesses asking customers to round up their purchase total to the next dollar.

Parrish said that campaign “did really good,” bringing in about $500  — all from change.

“It was something different (and) the community embraced it,” she said. “We truly appreciated them  doing that.”

There was also a special “Business Blitz” in April, where the United Way’s Board of Directors, members of the partnering agencies and other volunteers went to local businesses to ask for donations.

The charity, both locally and nationwide, gets most of its donations — around 85 percent — from payroll deductions.

Parrish said the annual Stuff the Bus campaign, which resulted in 32,500 school supplies being collected for local students, was about the same as the previous year.

“We have a faithful donor base for that,” she said.

The 17 partnering agencies that receive funds from the United Way are:

Back Pack Pals; Boy Scouts; Girl Scouts; Leak Street Alumni; Richmond County 4-H clubs; Richmond County Schools Exceptional Children; Sandhills Children’s Center; Richmond County Aging Services; Samaritan Colony; Habitat for Humanity of the N.C. Sandhills; Pee Dee Pregnancy Resource Center; Richmond County Literacy Council; American Red Cross; New Horizons Life and Family Services; Our Daily Bread; Richmond County Rescue Squad; and the Salvation Army.

Each of the partnering agencies receives a quarterly check from the United Way, Parrish said. Other non-partnering agencies get paid out by Dec. 31.

One of the suggestions from The Fundraising Coach was to communicate with donors the impact their contributions are making.

“Based on survey comments, nonprofits indicated that better storytelling increased their fundraising results,” the website said. “Showing donors the impact of their giving helped across all gift ranges. And likely protects the nonprofit from the (effects) of politics and tax code changes. As one nonprofit stated, ‘If we're not raising funds, it's because of a lack of compelling story, not tax laws.’

That’s something Parrish said the United Way has been doing for about a decade.

“We were able to assist 12,169 individuals with these agencies” nearly 150,000 times, she said.

She also provided a handout listing what a $26 donation can do for one of the agencies. Some of the examples include:

  • Providing comfort kits through the American Red Cross;
  • Providing a backpack with food for over the weekend for three children for a month through Back Pack Pals;
  • Purchasing supplies for the Leak Street Alumni after-school program;
  • Providing meals to feed six home-bound seniors through Richmond County aging services;
  • Paying for two GED or High School Equivalency tests through the Richmond County Literacy Council;
  • Providing meals to clients of Samaritan Colony; and
  • Providing 30 minutes of speech, physical or occupational therapy for children with special developmental needs through Sandhills Children’s Center.

The 2020 fundraising season will begin around mid-February.

“We’re still going to push and hope something magical happens,” Parrish said, adding that if the goal isn’t met, “we’ll go with what we have and make things work.”