Leaders look for alternate funding sources
The last quarter of 2012: presidential elections, economic uncertainty, the approaching fiscal cliff. And at the same time social service agencies across the country were struggling to make ends meet.
The Dodge City United Way, which currently helps support nearly 20 social service agencies, began their annual pledge campaign in September and wraps things up by February.
"We like to show our appreciation for our donors around Valentine's Day," said Gayle Ausmus, executive director of United Way.
Ausmus says that the local United Way increased their annual goal incrementally from 2006 to 2010 while the economy was strong.
"We received special recognition for increasing our goal by 49 percent over five years," Ausmus said.
But in the last two years, donors have been uncertain about the economic future and that's affected giving.
At a time when social service agencies are facing cuts in state and federal funding, leaders are forced to turn to United Way for additional funds.
"That puts a burden on United Way — we're not in a position to fund any of our partner agencies at 100 percent," Ausmus said.
Although the numbers are still coming in from the 2013 pledge campaign, Ausmus is confident United Way will make its goal.
"Individual giving is up but company giving is down somewhat," she said. "We expect to make our goal of $285,000 for 2013.
United Way's financial position is complicated by the way they receive donations.
"We're pledge driven, so people are thinking about the future when they make their pledge and they're just a little uncertain now," Ausmus said.
In addition, United Way has to anticipate a certain amount of pledge loss, which occurs when donors leave town or fail to complete their pledges.
"We're thankful that, through the generosity of our donors and individuals in the community, we can fund organizations that are dedicated to helping youth, seniors, struggling families and newcomers in Dodge City," she said.
Many of the organizations supported by the local United Way have fundraising campaigns of their own in addition to United Way support. Some host special fundraising events and most send out periodic letters asking for donations.
A Nov. 28 fundraising letter on behalf of the Crisis Center of Dodge City documented over 650 services to victims of abuse to that date in 2012. The center averages two new clients per day and was occupied for 541 bed nights and experiencing a significant increase as the holidays approached.
The letter asks people to consider a significant membership donation for the year.
"The Crisis Center's other funding sources have been slashed dramatically as the state of Kansas suffers from a significant shortfall in tax collection. These shortfalls are affecting state programs aimed at local safety initiatives and victims' rights and protection. All of this is occurring in an atmosphere at a time when the incidence of sexual assault and domestic violence are on the rise," wrote Onna Gebhart, president of the center's board of directors.
The national United Way organization has begun to focus less on setting and achieving fundraising goals and more on increasing the number of people affected by partner agencies.
"Our focus is on three areas: education, income and health," Ausmus said.
"When you support United Way, you're not just making a donation to one agency, you're supporting all of our partner agencies," she said.
The United Way partner agencies complete a funding application every two years. The last round of hearings for community investment was in the spring of 2012, so partner agencies are assured of funding through spring of 2014.
And in the current economic climate, United Way and its partner agencies will be looking for creative ways to fund their organizations.