September 28, 2009

United Way hits Catch-22 in tough years

Various United Way chapters said they were lowering fundraising goals despite the increased need for services as U.S. unemployment rises.

Many local United Way chapters failed to reach their fundraising goals last year -- for the first time in memory several United Way organizers said.

We don't rally around a dollar goal and a thermometer, said Heidi Funk, executive director of United Way in Brainerd, Minn., USA Today reported Monday.

It's not about raising dollars. It's about changing lives, she said.

But the recession has provided a Catch-22, a virtual no-win situation, for the United Way. As the economy worsens, the need for services increases just when donations are harder to find.

The Ada Regional United Way in Oklahoma fell short of its goal of raising $300,000 in 2008. It was the first time we hadn't made goal in forever, executive director Latricia Bryant said.

Tennessee's United Way of Greater Knoxville is setting the goal of $11.8 million for 2009 after falling $600,000 short of its goal of $12.8 million in 2008.

Virtually every need category is up, said chapter President Ben Landers. At the same time, fund raising fell short for the first time in anybody's memory, he said.