United Way fund drive falls short

Courtesy photo: The Brookings Area United Way’s 2018-19 fund drive reached about 75 percent of its $1.2 million goal, meaning the United Way board has some tough decisions to make on how to distribute the money.

Board has tough decisions on what to fund

BROOKINGS – In September, the Brookings Area United Way launched its annual fund drive with a Week of Impact. While the Week of Impact went well, the overall goal is short by about 25 percent, said Heidi Gullickson, executive director.

The original goal was $1.2 million, and that amount is based on the needs of the organizations that United Way serves locally, she added. 

With the overall goal still lacking, the United Way board will have to decide by the end of January how to distribute the money that was given, Gullickson said. 

Whether that means everyone gets a little less or some don’t get any United Way funding at all will be up to the board, she said.

Week of Impact

This fall was the first time the local United Way had put on a Week of Impact.

“That was great,” Gullickson said. 

There were 190 volunteers. In seven days, there were 70 hours, 25 minutes of volunteering, Gullickson said. For every volunteer, 13 people were impacted, resulting in 2,500 people impacted. 

Of all the volunteers, 85 percent were first-time United Way volunteers and 75 percent saw a direct impact.

There were 22 projects, 36 volunteer shifts, eight drives and 75 items donated.

There was a Red Cross blood drive with the Bobcat Backers Booster Club as partners; there were food packing events with Feeding Brookings and Brookings Backpack Project; and Habitat for Humanity and Sleep in Heavenly Peace had building events. Volunteers helped the Brookings Domestic Abuse Shelter and United Living Community with fall clean-up, the Brookings Activity Center with painting, the Big Blue Birthday Box with wrapping presents, and the Salvation Army with assembling cleaning and hygiene packs. Other volunteers collected dental care and cleaning care products on drives.

“We had over 20 different organizations partner with us to do a project,” Gullickson said.

Still short

The Brookings Area United Way has received about $878,000 in monetary contributions for which Gullickson and campaign chairs Craig and Della Tschetter are thankful. 

“I will celebrate every dollar that comes in … Of our current $878,000, every dollar of that was a celebration,” Gullickson said.

But not making the goal means some tough choices for the board.

“Our board members read through the applications and then we can see where we’re at dollar-wise and make that plan for the 2019 year to allocate out,” Gullickson said.

“What will happen is the funding requests that will come in will just have to be adjusted, so we won’t be able to fully fund those requests,” said Craig Tschetter, who served on the United Way board for six years.

How that pie gets sliced is up to the board, Gullickson said.

“There’s a scoring process that the board members go through,” she said.

Craig Tschetter has faith in that process.

“What really happens is that the United Way donations are, in my opinion, wisely invested by a highly efficient board, a board that seeks high quality results (by) agencies that are producing very oriented programs,” Tschetter said. 

“And they’ll probably put the money where the impact means the most,” said Della Tschetter.

“It’s not a quick meeting; lots of discussion,” Gullickson said.

People may think what little they can give won’t help, but even just a few dollars do a lot.

“You’re helping people with self-sufficiency, you’re helping people with security and you’re giving them hope … plus it feels good to give,” Craig Tschetter said. “United Way is only as good as the community is willing to fund it.”

That money makes the community that much better, he said.

“They focus on food and housing and children and youth, disabilities and older adults. I mean, it’s everything that we think of every day in our life,” he said.

United Way works with many different organizations, and the annual fundraising is designed so those organizations don’t have to worry about hunting down federal or state dollars or finding grant money, Gullickson said.

“If you can’t reach the goal, like Heidi said, then whatever funds you have, the board has to work with. That’s not a negative, it’s just that it’s time-sensitive,” Craig Tschetter said.

If United Way can’t provide the money, those organizations will have to take stock.

“It just means some of the agencies might have to raise some funds on their own. Have to figure out ways to cut their expenses or get revenue from some other place than United Way,” Della Tschetter said.

That might mean they can’t do as much for the people who need it the most.

Can still contribute

If you planned to contribute and forgot, United Way can still take donations in a variety of ways.

“The majority of our donations come in through a payroll deduction. We’re so thankful to those companies that support us in that fashion,” Gullickson said. 

People can also contribute through a one-time check or credit card payment.

“We can even set it up to come out of your checking account. People can set it up to happen quarterly or monthly. Whatever works in that family situation,” Gullickson said.

People can set up contributions or get information through the Brookings Area United Way website at brookingsunitedway.org online or call 692-4979.

They can also think farther into the future.

“As much as we need these yearly dollars to come in, (we need) long-range donations, as well,” Gullickson said. 

People can leave a living legacy for the future and make a donation after they die through a trust or through their will.

“(We are) kind of focused on both of those aspects: the here and now, the today, but also growing for the future,” Gullickson said.

“It’s very important to United Way,” said Craig Tschetter.

Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]


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