CHENANGO COUNTY — The Chenango County chapter of the United Way is closing in on the final days of its annual campaign and taking a close look at the numbers that are beginning to trickle in — and things could be better.
As of Tuesday, the dire straits comes in the form of severely decreased community funding in 2014 for next year’s allocation budget, set at $421,000. Of that goal, the organization has about 47 percent, a stark contrast to the 90 percent typically seen this late in the campaign season.
“We're struggling to get the word out there that our support much needed community programs that thousands of our neighbors rely on might not be there next year. The situation is becoming increasingly urgent by the day,” said CUW Executive Director Elizabeth Monaco.
While last years campaign fell just short of its goal by a margin of 8 percent, Monaco — along with Operations Manager Victoria Mitchell — fear that is very likely that fall out from this year’s campaign will have an immense impact upon the community. “Projections indicate that — if all goes well — we may meet 80 percent of this year's goal,” explained Mitchell. “It's not looking good right now, and we need a boost from as many people as possible to ensure continued funding for these vital services.”
DECREASE IN EMPLOYMENT YELDS INCREASED NEED
A majority of Chenango's most called upon charitable organizations — such as Opportunities for Chenango, Chenango Catholic Charities (CCC)/Roots and Wings, and The Place — rely on funding streams that originate from the CUW that are raised from the annual campaign.
“The funding support for most of our programs are much like a jigsaw puzzle,” said Robin Beckwith, Executive Director of CCC. “By losing just a piece of those grants, we're unable to provide these services to the community.”
She added, “We source funding from multiple grants for many of our programs, and at least four of them are direct allocations from the CUW. With an anticipated shortage of grant funding in 2015, Catholic Charities will have to completely cut out programs like Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing, Roots and Wings, and Options Counseling for Seniors.”
Beckwith added that organizations such as Catholic Charities are counting on United Way funding now more than ever due primarily to a hole left where government once picked up the slack. Likewise, she indicated that Catholic Charities is being looked to by an ever increasing population of non or under-employed citizens just looking to make ends meet.
“We are seeing unprecedented numbers of community members turning to us for assistance. Funding shortages into next year will make it impossible for us to help,” said Beckwith.
CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS IN JEOPARDY
Echoing Beckwith's concern, Rebecca Sands, Executive Director of The Place, maintains that potential funding cuts of this magnitude could jeopardize several of the programs that The Place offers children and families.
“Currently, the Chenango United Way’s funds make up 30 percent of our program revenue, and four out of five of our programs receive funding,” said Sands. Three of them rely solely on the United Way to operate.”
According to Sands, The Place has made great headway in the past year with the community's support through the CUW. “Our organization has faced a great deal of transition this past year and a half, but during that time we have worked non-stop to ensure that this organization is here to serve the youth of our community,” said Sands. “We're seeing some great changes here and things are turning around. But as a small organization, a 30 percent funding cut to our programs would be hard to overcome.”
LACK OF SMALL DONATIONS ADDS UP TO LOST REVENUE
By all accounts, one of the most detrimental factors in a down campaign is the number of individual donors who pitch in rather than the amount of donations received. The United Way is unique in that they are the only charitable organization permitted to seek donations in the workplace from employees locally, which usually works to its advantage. “If everyone in our County that could give just a dollar every week did, we would exceed our goal with no trouble,” said Monaco.
A lack of visibility in some of Chenango County’s largest employers spells trouble for an organization that gives to so many. Monaco regularly calls upon local industries to promote the annual campaign and seek donations deducted directly from payroll. Larger businesses that deny the United Way access to their employees have a direct impact on the donor pool.
COMMUNITY NEEDS TO STEP UP
Recently, New York State has cut back funding to the county as well, bring hard times upon safety net departments such as the Department of Social Services (DSS).
United Way Treasurer T.J. Moorehead said, “The programs that the CUW fund are helping DSS. There's a joint effort between community and government and when the government is cutting back, that means we as a community need to step up.”
Since all funds donated to the United Way stay in Chenango County, Moorehead indicated that the United Way is one of the best places community members can “step up to.”
WITH THE END IN SIGHT, THERE'S STILL TIME
With three weeks left until the end of the campaign drive, it’s important for the public to understand that there is still ample time to donate. “We will do whatever it takes to make the donation process as easy as possible,” said Mitchell.
The organization can accept one-time or scheduled credit card or debit payments at specified intervals or draft payments direct from any bank account.
Seeking additional donations is the most basic way to fill the gap, but volunteer board members aren’t betting on that alone. Since the projection of lost revenue, board members have brainstormed a number of creative initiatives to gain ground.
A “Paddle Party” was organized by the Norwich Pharma United Way Committee in an effort to recoup funding. The event will be held beginning at 6:15 p.m. on Friday, Dec 12 at the Norwich American Legion Post 189, 29 Sheldon St.
“Calling us Directly is the best way to donate if you’re unsure how,” said Mitchell. “We have many payment plans and arrangements available to suit everyone’s budget, and the amount doesn’t matter. Just give what you can.”
For more information, call 607-334-8815.