United Way of Southern Chester County is rallying local support to meet increasing needs
By Steven Hoffman
One contribution to the United Way of Southern Chester County (UWSCC) can help many people.
One donation can ensure that the resources are there when a family in crisis reaches out to the Oxford Neighborhood Services Center or the Kennett Area Community Service for food or other emergency assistance.
One donation enables a family to seek shelter through Family Promise of Southern Chester County, and ensures that help will be available when a person reaches out to the Domestic Violence Center for help.
One contribution can allow a child to attend the Tick Tock Early Learning Center or benefit from one of the programs offered by the After-the-Bell program in Kennett. It can allow a senior citizen to enjoy programs and services offered by the Kennett Area Senior Center.
Last year alone, UWSCC helped out more than 18,000 residents in the community because of the funding that the organization provided to 26 programs that are run by 18 local nonprofit organizations.
At the annual meeting of the UWSCC last month, officials announced that during the current campaign, $800,000 will be allocated to 22 vital health and human service programs in the coming year. Nine of the programs will receive a total of $357,080 for crisis intervention services. Seven programs that offer services that help people transition to independence through education will receive a total of $239,120, and six programs that promote stability and sustainability for individuals and families will receive a total of $203,800.
Add it all up, and it amounts to a big impact on the southern Chester County community. But it still isn’t enough.
The needs in the community still exceed what UWSCC can provide. The community members involved in the UWSCC’s allocation process had the difficult task of shaving 21 percent from the total funding requests. UWSCC would love to be in a position to fully fund all the requests.
“We currently fund about 80 percent of the needs in the community,” explained John Moriarty, the board president for the current campaign. “We need another $200,000 in donations to fully fund the programs.”
At the annual meeting, officials outlined a plan to increase campaign contributions so that all the community needs can be met. The plan includes increasing outreach to the local business community, engaging local residents through new approaches, and strengthening communication and connection efforts with committed and potential donors.
“We need the community to get and stay engaged in making southern Chester County a great place,” explained Moriarty. “The United Way of Southern Chester County is going to make that easier by reaching out to the community in new and different ways.”
Carrie Freeman, the CEO of the UWSCC, talked about the importance of expanding the base of donors who contribute to the United Way of Southern Chester County.
“In order to achieve our mission of moving people from crisis to independence, we need full engagement of the caring power and resources of the community,” she explained. “Together, as a giving community, we can accomplish things that no one person could.”
Over the last ten years, Freeman explained, the UWSCC has been able to allocate more than $10 million to nonprofit organizations in the area, even as new challenges have arisen regarding how the UWSCC attracts and maintains its donors. New challenges or not, the mission remains as important as ever.
“The needs in our local community have continued to grow,” explained Rick Bond, the incoming board president for UWSCC. “Chester County is one of the most expensive places to live in Pennsylvania, and our lower-income families struggle to afford local housing and other basic needs. These people turn to our local agencies for help, and those agencies turn to the United Way to fund their programs. We are asking the local community, both individuals and businesses, to join the challenge and help meet these growing needs.”
UWSCC serves the needs of residents living in the Avon Grove, Kennett, Oxford, and Unionville-Chadds Ford school districts. And while the area is comparatively vibrant and economically strong, there are still segments of the population who struggle to meet their basic needs. The nonprofit organizations that are supported by the UWSCC are on the front lines in the fight against poverty, violence, and homelessness. At the same time that needs are rising, UWSCC is facing significant hurdles to providing the assistance that is needed to meet those needs.
Moriarty explained that just four years ago, corporate donations from those who live in southern Chester County but work elsewhere contributed 52 percent of the annual campaign. These are called out-of-area donations. The out-of-area donations have been declining steadily for years, and they plummeted by 24 percent in the last four years alone.
The UWSCC, like many United Way organizations, is challenged to keep up with the changing dynamics of charitable giving. Traditional United Way channels to solicit contributions through large corporate campaigns have become less effective as employee careers are increasingly mobile. Additionally, corporate campaigns are evolving from traditional annual corporate events to year-round giving platforms.
These changes have created the need for UWSCC to focus on strengthening relationships directly with individual donors as well as local businesses and community organizations.
Local giving now makes up 59 percent of the total UWSCC campaign, which is an increase of 11 percent, or about $75,000, since 2005. Leadership giving is up 7 percent per donor and they have grown the total number of leadership donors by about 10 percent over the last four years. The improvements in some areas of the campaign have not yet been enough to make up for the decreases in other areas of the campaign, particularly the out-of-area donations.
“The result is that we are off by nearly $100,000 over the last four years,” Moriarty explained. Therefore, we have had to reduce the amounts of allocations.”
UWSCC officials are starting a number of initiatives to reverse that trend. For example, they launched a new marketing campaign to increase outreach to the local business community and to engage more residents directly. One thing that the UWSCC can point to is its excellent record of having an impact on southern Chester County—that’s the $10 million over 10 years, that’s the hundreds of organizations that have received support over the years, and that’s the tens of thousands of people who have benefitted from the various programs through the years.
According to Freeman, a renewed effort is underway by UWSCC to communicate the impact that giving to the UWSCC campaign can have. Contributions of any size help to make a difference.
UWSCC has also been working hard to expand “leadership giving,” which is classified as donations of more than $1,000. Only 16 percent of the UWSCC total donors participate in leadership giving, but they contribute 60 percent of the total donations.
“We have done much to appreciate and communicate with and fundraise from our leadership donors,” Moriarty explained.
The use of technology and social media platforms has become more important in recent years.
Freeman said that UWSCC is committed to making participating and donating to the UWSCC easier.
The UWSCC website includes videos on local people being helped through the efforts of nonprofit agencies that are supported by the United Way. UWSCC also has a Facebook page. Contributions can be made online at www.unitedwayscc.org/give or they can be mailed to 106 West State Street, Kennett Square, PA 19348.
Explained Freeman, “We thank those supporting the community today and hope to make participation and donation easier for those interested in making southern Chester County a great place to live for all its residents.”