United Way kicks off fundraising campaign

Screenshot from BAUW website

Organization seeks to raise $925,000 to provide help in the community

BROOKINGS – Resiliency is imperative in these times, and that’s why the Brookings Area United Way chose it as the theme for the annual fundraising campaign. 

The campaign will run through the end of the year and benefit nearly 40 organizations, said Heidi Gullickson, executive director of the local United Way. The goal has been set at $925,000.

“Resiliency really means the ability to overcome, adapt and thrive, and we’ve really seen it over this last year and a half … but people have crises all the time,” Gullickson said.

Fliers have been mailed out and can be returned with a one-time donation or a pledge. Donors can set up a payroll deduction at work or can donate at brookingsunitedway.org online, call BAUW at 605-692-4979 or stop at the office at 619 Fifth Ave. in Brookings.


Each year, the United Way sets a monetary goal that they have calculated will cover the requests of all the organizations it helps fund. This year’s goal of $925,000 is the same as last year’s, but less than previous years’ goal of a million or more.

“That’s a fairly aggressive goal for a community this size,” Gullickson said, especially this year. “Our businesses and individuals are still feeling the disruption from the pandemic.”

“If we can surpass that goal, even better,” she said. “If we reach the $925,000, we’ll continue to fundraise to be able to meet the needs of these organizations throughout the entire year.”

She and her staff stay in touch with their funded partners, so they are aware of any changes, like if an organization wants to expand a program or add another one. 

Gullickson is also always on the lookout for other funding opportunities, like grants and other resources, and passes that information onto the partners.

The annual fundraiser is very important because the United Way does not get any federal funding.

“We don’t get any state dollars, either,” Gullickson said.

She said the United Way tries to make it as easy as possible for those who want to contribute, that’s why the campaign stretches through December.

“A lot of our support comes through work place campaigns,” she said. “For some, it works best in October, some in November, and some in December to do those campaigns, so we are flexible.”

As generous as she knows Brookings is, Gullickson realizes in these times everyone is watching their pocketbook and she is prepared to adapt if United Way doesn’t meet the goal.

“If there is a shortfall, then again, we try to work with them to find other resources,” Gullickson said, such as having another fundraiser, a grant or working with them on other things.

“The goal is to be able to continue at the level that we’re at in the community of providing those resources,” Gullickson said.

Many benefits

“The dollars that we raise between now and December will be allocated out in February 2022,” Gullickson said.

All of the money raised, except 1.5%, stays in Brookings to help fund various programs run by organizations like The American Red Cross, Brookings Boys & Girls Club, East Central CASA, Feeding Brookings and many more.

The 1.5% goes to United Way Worldwide “so we can be part of their system and … have a lot of that corporate support,” Gullickson said.

It’s similar to a franchise fee and entitles her staff to things like training that help them do their jobs. 

“It connects us into those resources … not paying any exorbitant salaries,” she said.

Plus, it enables them to raise more money.

“There are certain companies that if we were not … a United Way full membership organization, we would not receive the local donations,” Gullickson said.

Running programs

A list of the funded partners is available on the flier or on the United Way’s website under Our Partners, which includes information on each. 

Each of them has programs that promote health, education or self-sufficiency and those programs are what the United Way funds, Gullickson said. 

For instance, the United Way funds a program at Advance that pertains to self-sufficiency and another program at Volunteer Service Bank that promotes health.

Helpline Center has two programs that promote education. Lutheran Social Services has three programs: one promotes self-sufficiency and two promote health.

The Boys & Girls Club of Brookings has six programs funded by United Way: one promotes health, one promotes self-sufficiency and the other four pertain to education.

Gullickson explained one program run by My Neighbor, which is headed by Dawn Twedt.

“My Neighbor is an organization that was started by a lot of the local churches,” Gullickson said. “They really work with that population that doesn’t necessarily qualify for some of the other programs out there because (the clients are in a) make-five-dollars-too-much kind of situation.”

Many families are living on the edge and “one little glitch can start a spiral-down effect,” Gullickson said.

“The My Neighbor program, they can help with rent or utilities or maybe a car repair ’cause if you can’t get your car repaired, you can’t get to work and then you lose your job. That spiral can happen pretty quickly on a family,” Gullickson said.

Each organization must apply to United Way each year and request a certain amount of funding. 

“I think we range from about $500 to over $100,000,” and each organization has different needs, Gullickson said.

“Some will use it for scholarships for kids maybe to use that program. Some will use it for supplies,” Gullickson said.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library uses the money to buy books.

“For just about $30 a year, Dolly Parton Imagination Library program will send out one book a month to a child. So it’s from birth to age 5,” Gullickson said. “We have just about 1,100 kiddos in Brookings County that receive a book each month through that program.”

“That’s one of the programs that we actually coordinate ourselves, so it’s an early childhood education program,” Gullickson said.

The local United Way also coordinates the Delta Dental Mobile Program and the SingleCare prescription discount card.

“We contract with Delta Dental to come to the community, and it’s $2,500 per week. We schedule the kids to come in and any work that needs to be done, any dental care that needs to be taken care of is covered by Delta Dental,” Gullickson said.

“We’re paying $2,500 (to bring the dental van here), and then Delta Dental takes care of the rest,” Gullickson said.

“We will leverage $2,500 of donations and depending on the week and how much dental care that set of kids needed, it might be $20,000 worth of care, it might be $40,000 worth of dental care that was done,” Gullickson said.

“It’s being able to provide those services to families that otherwise, their kids just wouldn’t be going to the dentist,” she said, adding she’d like to expand it from four weeks to five next year.

Working together

Many of the organizations work together because their programs complement each other, and that makes the money go farther, Gullickson said.

“BATA works with so many of these organizations to make sure people can get to where they need to go for the programs. We see our food insecurity programs working together (asking) ‘hey, we have this, does anyone else need it?’ And be able to share some of those resources around, versus something sitting and going to waste,” Gullickson said.

Brookings County Youth Mentoring staff was trained on mentoring people with disabilities “and now they’re able to work with and share curriculum with Advance and with Independent Living Solutions,” Gullickson said.

Adapting and changing to meet needs is what resiliency is about, she said.

“There’s a lot of good stuff that happens in Brookings,” Gullickson said. “As a United Way, we get to see all of the impact that these organizations do because we know the big social issues out there cannot be solved by just one organization, one non-profit; it is really that collaborative, how-do-we-attack-it-together.”

Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected].