By Ryan Lewis - Editor/Allegan News
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 5:06 PM EST
Allegan County United Way expects to reach its goal a year early of reaching $1 million from its annual fundraising campaign.
United Way executive director Mimi Gabriel said the current campaign, which began last September, has already raised $994,918.58. The effort will tally incoming funds through the end of May; Gabriel said she is very optimistic the total raised will top the million-dollar mark by then.
“These results are incredible, based on our poor economic times,” she said.
She said donations come in from a variety of the organization’s own fundraising efforts as well as from other local groups pitching in.
One of its most successful ways of raising donations has come from payroll deductions, where a business works with its employees to encourage them to set aside small donations from every paycheck. The business then passes those along to the United Way.
One of the big reasons for the success of that method is Allegan-based Perrigo Co.
“I’d say close to 70 percent of our fundraising comes from Perrigo and its employees,” Gabriel said. the company matches its employees’ donations dollar for dollar.
“Without them, where would we be?” she said.
She said funds come in through personal donations as well.
Individuals may designate the organization they want their money to benefit. Undesignated funds are divided between the 20 partner organizations with which the United Way works.
It also funds the helpline “211” as well as Imagination Library, a program that mails a book monthly to children ages birth to 5. The program currently funds 1,738 children.
Gabriel said 86 cents of every dollar United Way raises goes back out into the community; the rest pays for the organization’s three paid positions, outreach and overhead for its Allegan office.
Gabriel said setting the million-dollar goal was part of United Way’s strategic planning based on recent years of exceeding fundraising expectations. Last year’s campaign raised approximately $975,000, $30,000 greater than its goal of $945,000.
She pointed out that Allegan’s success contrasts with its more urban neighbors in Grand Rapids, Holland and Kalamazoo, who have lowered their campaign goals.
“The urban areas have experienced vast job losses and that accounts for it,” Gabriel said. “However, according to Michigan Works, 50 percent of workers in Allegan County work outside of the county, and we’re still increasing the amount raised.
“We believe that when economic times are tough, the people who can afford it step up to plate and either donate for the first time or increase their donations.
“We are so grateful to our donors.”
Gabriel said United Way piloted several new fundraisers this year she hopes to expand in next year’s campaign.
In one, she worked with the Allegan Area Chamber of Commerce to enlist local businesses to sell sponsorships on miniature United Way T-shirt cutouts. People who donated had their name written on the cutout and then the businesses posted the cutouts on their outer windows.
“It was successful; it gave us great exposure. I’d like to repeat that elsewhere in other communities,” Gabriel said.
A program she hopes to expand to other churches was through Otsego United Methodist Church which arranged a “United Way Sunday” in which some donations are directed to United Way.
For more information, call (269) 673-6545 or visit www.acuw.org.