October 31, 2013

United Way halfway to the finish line

Charles Oliver

— Barely six weeks after officially kicking off its 2013 fundraising campaign, the United Way of Northwest Georgia has already raised half its goal of $3.5 million.

“We’ve still got a ways to go, but we are off to a very good start,” said campaign chairman Bob Ringer on Wednesday in a meeting announcing the agency has raised $1.75 million.

“We’ve raised half of our goal, but we hope that we can exceed that goal,” Ringer said.

United Way President Amanda Burt said companies typically run their United Way campaigns through Thanksgiving, though some do them through the end of the year.

“That’s the deadline. We need to tally everything up,” she said.

Burt said the United Way is on target to meet its fundraising goal.

“Every year is a little bit different. We are probably a little bit ahead of last year, and I think this little rally today will encourage more people to get involved,” she said.

In 2012, the United Way met its fundraising goal of $3.35 million.

Though the campaign kickoff happened in September, Burt said some “pacesetter” companies actually started their fundraising drives for the agency as early as July.

On Wednesday, Ringer recognized several of those pacesetters, including the local school systems, Hamilton Health Care System, Dalton Utilities and several floorcovering companies, among others.

Ringer said that, to date, United Way has done 120 presentations at local businesses.

Burt said that with the local economy starting to grow again, giving has started increasing as well.

“Last year our campaign took a good turn and started inching back up. This year we expect it to grow just a little more,” she said. “Our donors are very steady. Many of them stayed with us during the (economic) downturn, and our collection rate is great.”

But while giving is up, so is the demand for United Way dollars.

“Many of our partner agencies are losing grant dollars from the federal and state governments, and they are looking to United Way to help fill those gaps,” Burt said.

The United Way serves as a “clearinghouse” for distributing donations to 20 agencies in Whitfield and Murray counties.