The United Way of Buffalo & Erie County has been working to build a better community for nearly a century, thanks to generous Western New Yorkers.
This year citizens are being asked to dig a bit deeper. The “Live United” campaign hopes to raise $15 million, a half-million-dollar increase from last year’s campaign.
It won’t be easy, but it is possible. The agency had 43,000 donors making regular contributions last year. There are more than 410,000 people employed in this community. We urge those who are not contributing to consider the United Way. The United Way adds to the health and well-being of countless residents through its investment in more than 100 local programs, providing millions of dollars to “help people build knowledge, skills, independence, self-sufficiency and well-being.”
As it gears up for its 100th anniversary next year, officials are applying what has worked over the past several successful fundraising efforts. The annual campaign grew for a sixth consecutive year in 2015, totaling $14,520,483. Compare that with 2009, when the agency raised well under $13 million. The trend is positive, but the additional money doesn’t address all the needs the community has, including working to ease childhood poverty and improve family dynamics, beginning with maternal health.
United Way officials want to engage more millennials, meeting them on their own territory in order to build and sustain a commitment toward giving. Traditional strategies involving outreach through businesses don’t always apply to young people, who are more apt to change jobs or work in the freelance or gig economy.
The agency has for the past few years sought to engage people in different way. Those include checkout counter contributions at grocery stores and requests for contributions through social media.
The 2016 United Way Challenge offers prospective contributors the chance to get involved with a small ask; give a minimum of a dollar per week, or $52 a year. That amounts to less than the price of a coffee shop cup of coffee once a week. There is also a reward possible for participants, beyond the good of helping others. Prize drawings are being held weekdays through Dec. 2. Twenty-one grand prizes – including sports tickets, a Florida vacation and $1,000 gift cards – provide extra incentive.
The United Way’s strategic plan developed in 2010, has succeeded in transforming the organization. The plan reversed a 10-year trend of declining contributions. Goals in the 2015-2020 strategic plan include growing the endowment and diversifying revenue streams beyond traditional sources by establishing lasting relationships with what officials call “affinity groups,” which include young, emerging leaders. One key emphasis will be refocusing from workplace-based relationships to “lifetime, individual relationships.”
The United Way wants to understand what is important to donors and deliver on those priorities. The agency is an invaluable resource, as its series of Community Report Cards demonstrates. Those reports – on childhood obesity and third-grade proficiency, with more to come – examine a problem and recommend solutions.
The United Way passes millions of dollars to its nonprofit partners and other organizations. Donors make possible high-value programs resulting in improved health and self-sufficiency in our community.
All good reasons to give to the United Way.