United Way Launches Its Fall Campaign No Target Amount Announced As Goal For Annual Fund-Raiser
No longer will the Spokane United Way campaign look like a Jerry Lewis telethon with volunteers biting their fingernails and monitoring the money meter.
There is no goal this year. No magic number. No lofty target.
The Spokane United Way kicked off its annual fall fund raising efforts Wednesday morning with the traditional fanfare. But no grandiose dollar amount was touted for the public to see.
“Any goal we would announce would be a great deal less than the real need out there,” said Assistant Police Chief Dave Peffer, campaign chairman. “Why limit ourselves to an incremental increase over an amount that wasn’t enough last year?”
In addition, Spokane United Way has failed to reach its stated goal for the last three years. The fund-raising organization has met its goal half the time over the last 10 years.
“A lot of volunteers get really disappointed and some people think that because you are short by a couple hundred thousand dollars, they think we are losers,” said Jose Pena, director of the Spokane area United Way.
Behind the scenes, volunteers still will closely monitor the pledges as they come in over the next two months. Pena said he anticipates at least a 3 percent increase over the $5.1 million raised last year.
But that number won’t be waved in front of potential donors.
Not having a goal is just one of the many changes Pena envisions over the next five years. Eventually, United Way will have to expand who it hits up for donations and when it comes knocking, Pena said.
“Traditionally, we have focused our efforts in the workplace. That’s where United Way made its name,” Pena said.
And that’s what will happen over the next two months as thousands of employees who work for private businesses and government agencies sign cards agreeing to payroll deductions.
Those workers are the same 25 to 30 percent of the Spokane County population United Way targets every year.
Eventually, Pena hopes to tap people who don’t work in standard jobs. Retirees, small business owners and people who work out of their homes all are untouched markets, he said.
Like other charities, United Way is realizing that the same old formula of raising money is not good enough as governments cut back the money given to social services.
Pena said he is encouraging people to name United Way in their wills. He also is looking for big donors - $1,000 isn’t too small but $20,000 is even better.
With that kind of money, United Way could start endowment funds of its own or help some of the 36 member agencies start similar funds.
Currently, about 10 percent of the $5 million United Way raises every year goes to administrative costs. The rest is distributed to 36 social service agencies. Donors also can designate an outside charity and United Way will pass that money on to that organization.
Pena said that option has been the biggest change for United Way in years. In the future he hopes to offer even more alternatives to encourage more people to donate.
“United Way has a good, strong reputation in Spokane, but for too long this United Way has been asleep at the wheel,” Pena said. “Old stereotypes are no longer sacred cows around here.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Hard-to-reach goals