HOPEWELL — This will be a critical year for the Hopewell-Prince George United Way campaign.
Organization officials say contributions continue to decline despite the fact that the need remains and even has increased year to year.
Last week, members of the campaign committee including several volunteers, United Way staff, director Wayne Walton and President Stephen G. Henry, gathered at Gun Cotton Coffee for breakfast and to discuss the upcoming campaign that kicks off with a luncheon on Sept. 20.
Though he is optimistic they can meet the $225,000 goal, Henry, director of operations at Hopewell Cogeneration, admitted the situation is dire for the local program that helps more than 10 agencies providing services in Hopewell and Prince George.
“The campaign has had a downward trend, and that trend has a negative impact on the community and the agencies we support,” he said. “The outlook is less than favorable, given the past performances.”
Some of those challenges include that larger corporations have changed how they contribute and often money is going to competitive agencies many of which have large operating expenses. Walton suggested when giving that donors always ask what percent of their donation goes to those in need. In some instances, funding goes to outside agencies managing solicitation campaigns. In fact in those cases ... when you receive a call to donate to a non-profit organization, the company making the calls receives 80 to 90 percent of the donation.
For the United Way, funds that are given for larger organizations not on their partner list, like the Red Cross, do not come back to the local community.
“We are worried about sustainability and survivability,” Walton said. “This is not necessarily a good day for these organizations in need that give so much locally from education to health care. In all, 18 agencies are United Way partners for this year’s campaign. Ranging from the Progressive adult rehabilitation center, the Hopewell Youth Football League with so many others in between helping to provide food to legal aid for those in need.”
“We really need the support from our local businesses,” H-PG United Way Executive Assistant Teresa Brobst said. All of agencies provide services to the Hopewell and Prince George Community.”
“To meet these needs, it can’t be business-as-usual with declining contributions. We must try to do things differently. We’re hoping to turn the tide.”
These volunteers who met for the first committee meeting made some suggestions that could help raise funds. Dan Matthews explained that while vacationing in Carolina Beach that at each restaurant or store they went into the cashier asked if the customer wanted to round up the payment to the nearest dollar to donate to a non-profit. He said that with going out for three meals a day that adds up for local agencies if local stores are willing to participate.
Many companies have large participation and others only have a few. Walton said, for example, if every city employee gave $1, Hopewell government would meet its overall goal.
Henry acknowledged that change can be difficult, but the local non-profits will suffer without the funds raised through the United Way as larger organizations are attracting more and more donations. Walton added that those donations are often not seen in Hopewell and Prince George, and funding goes to operations and not just those who are in need.
“Every year there are more and more challenges, yet the needs are still there,” Mark Haley, campaign co-chair commented.
The former Hopewell city manager commended H-PG United Way for how it operates. “We have low overhead, and not some large corporate headquarters or high salaries,” he said. “We put the money right where it belongs: in the hands of the people.”
“We are proud of that; 100 percent of the funds raised go to help organizations that are our member agencies,” Walton added. “We are an independent, small organization and take care of a lot of small agencies that wouldn’t see funding otherwise. This is an important year.”
Hopewell-Prince George United Way’s goal is to raise enough money to meet the needs of participating agencies. These agencies are evaluated by a panel of volunteers made up of people from the community and each of the program and funding requests are reviewed by allocation panels to ensure monies from those who contributed go where it is most needed.
The kick-off campaign will be held on Sept. 20 at John Randolph Foundation. Anyone who wishes to donate or to volunteer may call the United Way office at (804) 541-3969.
By Adrienne Wallace, Herald-Post Editor