United Way of Southern Chester County allocates $800,000 to 26 nonprofits that serve the community
● By Steven Hoffman
Officials from the United Way of Southern Chester County (UWSCC) announced last week that the organization will be allocating $800,000 to 26 different programs that work to improve the lives of residents in the community. That’s a $50,000 increase in allocations over the current year.
At the annual meeting at the Genesis Building in Kennett Square on May 17, Dave Salomaki, the out-going UWSCC board president, provided an update about the current campaign and explained how several changes were made this year that allowed them to reverse a three-year trend of declining allocations.
Dozens of nonprofit organizations in the community rely on funding from UWSCC to provide their much-needed services to residents in southern Chester County. The allocations make a real difference in the lives of residents in southern Chester County as funding is utilized for everything from food cupboards to senior centers to adult literacy training to programs that help people in crisis, like the Crime Victims’ Center of Chester County. In 2016 alone, more than 18,000 local residents benefited from programs that were funded in part by UWSCC allocations.
“We are unique in that we only fund programs in this community. The donations stay right here in southern Chester County,” explained Carrie Freeman, the CEO of the United Way of Southern Chester County.
UWSCC provided $385,240 to nine programs that deal with crisis intervention, $179,880 for seven programs promoting stability and sustainability, and $234,880 for ten programs dealing with transitioning to independence through education.
Freeman explained that UWSCC currently has a rare opportunity to boost donations thanks to someone in the community who has pledged to match all contributions at the leadership level, which starts at $1,000. If a current leadership donor boosts a donation by $2,000, for example, the anonymous donor will match it. If a brand new donor makes a contribution of more than $1,000, the anonymous donor will match that, too.
“We have an incredibly generous anonymous donor who gifted us $100,000,” Freeman explained. “We’re just thrilled about this.”
Freeman noted that one of the leadership donors, after hearing about the matching donation opportunity, immediately presented a check for $5,000.
Even before the anonymous donor made the offer, the UWSCC had taken steps to boost donations. John Moriarty, who will be the board president for the next year, said that UWSCC doubled down on its efforts to get more people to contribute to the campaign.
They established a new marketing plan, built relationships with current donors, targeted in-area campaigns, and hired a marketing and communications manager to do more to spread the word about the impact that contributions to the UWSCC have on the community through the work of the nonprofit organizations. They also developed a new strategic plan.
“We realize that we have to push marketing and communication,” Freeman said.
Moriarty said that they were able to boost the number of donors to 1,690 so far for the current campaign, up from a total of 1,625 last year. Out of the 1,690 donors, 635 of them are new.
“We’re encouraged by the number of donors,” Moriarty said, adding that the contributions from corporate donors were also very good this year, including larger companies like DuPont, Gore, Chemours, Exelon, and Bank of America.
An ongoing goal for UWSCC is to get people who work in Delaware but live in southern Chester County to designate their home United Way for their contributions.
“It’s great that they make the extra effort to send it back home,” Freeman said.
Each year, the UWSCC allocations panel meets to decide how much funding can be provided to agency partners. The decisions are difficult, especially with requests for allocations out-pacing the money available.
According to Freeman, requests from agencies and organizations were 22 percent more than what the United Way could allocate.
As Freeman was preparing for the annual meeting, she looked back at the allocations for the last ten years. The impact that the contributions to the United Way had on local programs surprised even her. Approximately $8,840,000 has been allocated to nonprofit organizations and agencies during the last decade. More than $1.2 million has been allocated over that time to Kennett Area Community Services, and another $1.1 million was distributed to La Comunidad Hispana. The Garage youth programs have received more than $1 million. More than $900,000 has been allocated to both the Tick Tock Early Learning Center and the Oxford Neighborhood Services Center. That funding is critically important to the nonprofit organizations that are on the front lines of helping the people who need it the most in the community.
“We couldn’t do what we do without that funding,” said Cheryl McConnell, the executive director of the Neighborhood Services Center in Oxford. She explained that funding is used in part to stock the Neighborhood Services Center’s food cupboard and to help provide emergency assistance to people who need help to pay their rent or utilities. The Neighborhood Services Center is able to sometimes pay the rent or utilities on behalf of its clients so that they have shelter or heat during a difficult time.
This year, the United Way was able to provide funding to one new program, the Study Buddies after-school initiative in Kennett Square. Freeman explained that nonprofit organizations must be registered as a 501c3 for a minimum of two years before they are eligible for allocations through the UWSCC. Then, the allocations process is rigorous to ensure that the money is being utilized in a way that will benefit the residents of southern Chester County.
Salomaki noted that a chapter in “The Story of Kennett: Shaping Our Future One Child at a Time,” a book by Joan Holliday and Bob George, includes a chapter on recommendations of things the community could do to strengthen itself. One of the recommendations is to adequately fund the United Way of Southern Chester County. Salomaki quoted the book, saying that Kennett Square “…has a lot of heroes, but United Way is the glue that holds a lot of it together, and we need to let them keep doing their job. This means building value for giving holistically to the region and providing additional revenue to keep the lights on in the agencies that do the most good.”
Freeman explained that giving to UWSCC is a good way to impact a number of different, and very worthwhile programs, with just one donation. She explained, “Everybody has causes that they are passionate about. I do, too. But I never forget a general gift to the United Way because I know that the gift gets magnified with all the other gifts.”
“The money given here, stays here,” Moriarty added. “It’s taking care of the most vulnerable neighbors. You know the money is going to be put to very good use. We’d love to be able to fully fund what the agencies need to be successful.”
The current campaign runs through August. Freeman said that she hopes they will be able to bring in an additional $70,000 or so before the current campaign ends.
“We treasure gifts both large and small,” Freeman said.
For more information about how you can help, visit www.unitedwayscc.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 610-444-4357.