Local United Way initiates new funding model to stem giving declines

Local United Way initiates new funding model to stem giving declines

Joanne Huist Smith

Dayton Daily News, Ohio

United Way of Greater Dayton is struggling to reverse a nearly $1 million decline in donations in 2012, compared to the previous year, while contributions overall to United Way Worldwide grew during that period.

The local organization has experienced a 50 percent drop in donations to its annual charitable giving campaign since 1989. That year, the campaign raised nearly $20 million, including just more than $17 million for local health and human service agencies. The 2012 campaign tapped out at $9.95 million. Workplace giving from the top 100 local companies fell $485,000 in 2012, compared to the year before.

"That's a very seismic move," J. Thomas Maultsby, president and CEO of United Way said."Philanthropy has changed, but our model was still traditional. We can't use an old business model for new times."

The organization reduced 2013-14 allocations to local non-profits by 5 to 10 percent to 35 area agencies as a result of fewer contributions. Catholic Social Services remains one of United Way's top funded agencies with a $400,000 allocation, despite a 7 to 10 percent reduction in funding to seven programs.

"The community needs United Way to be successful," Laura Roesch, executive director of Catholic Social Services said. "Those dollars have been decreasing consistently. That has an impact on the number of people we can serve. The need is still there."

As the local United Way prepares to kick-off its 2013 Campaign in September, Maultsby said it's evolving from the traditional role of fundraiser into that of community problem solver. He believes that model will instill confidence in the community that their donations make a difference.

"We are looking for solutions," said Maultsby, who joined United Way in September as the non-profit launched its 2012 campaign."We are not just looking for programs to fund."

United Way is the largest private funder of health and human services in Montgomery, Greene and Preble counties serving about 69 partner agencies. Agencies that receive funding are now required to evaluate the impact their programs have on the community, whether they are succesfully addressing a problem. Those evaluations will be shared with the community so people can gage the impact of giving to United Way.

"A lot of people live to evaluate me by the money I raise. What we are doing is not an overnight solution. It's going to take a few years," Maultsby said. " We are trying to raise more money across the board so we can maintain the social service safety net and also solve more human services problems. If they go unsolved, they are just going to create more problems."

The campaign to increase giving is full-time work, David L. Thompson, vice president of public policy for the National Council of Nonprofits said.

"Every non-profit on earth is seeking to increase giving," Thompson said."I gave at the office used to be the old cliche, when someone came to the door. Now, there is a "give now" button on every charitable website."

Nationally, charitable giving levels fell sharply during the recession, but showed signs of recovery in 2012. Overall, U.S. donations to support the arts, health, religion and other activities totaled $316.2 billion in 2012, a 3.5 percent increase from the $305.5 billion donated in 2011, according to the report, "Giving USA."

Donations are still down about 8 percent from their 2007 peak of $344.5 billion, according to the report.

The annual report is published by the Giving USA Foundation and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. The study analyzed U.S. tax data from the Internal Revenue Service, government economic indicators, and other research.

"In 2012, Americans were feeling better -- but not great," Gregg Carlson, chair of the Giving USA Foundation, wrote in the study. He said even the small increase in giving showed the "healing continues, with the prognosis being good." Giving, as a general rule, follows the economy and consumer confidence, he said.

Meanwhile, Felipe Benitez, a spokesman for United Way Worldwide, said the tally for its 2012 campaign will be released later this month. While he would not say how much was collected, he said "we did see an increase" in donations compared to the year before.

Statewide, United Way contributions have held steady over the last two years at about $260 million annually, Barbara Sykes, president and CEO of Ohio United Way said.

"Some counties raise a little more, others raise a little less," Sykes said.

United Way organizations in Toledo, Columbus and Cincinnati all managed to increase their donations last year.

"We have not moved ahead as far as we would have liked, but we have basically been able to maintain," Carol Aquino, United Way Cincinnati's vice president of marketing said. "We are encouraged by some of the positive signs we are beginning to see in the economy."

The sudden departure of former United Way of Greater Dayton President Allen Elijah in September came as the organization tried to pump adrenaline into a campaign that had been flat for several years with contributions ranging from $8.2 million to $8.7 million.

Loss of auto industry jobs cut the local chapter's workplace giving campaign by about $6 million between 2007-12. The agency reacted by cutting 14 staff in 2009, then selling the former United Way building. The move into rented space at 33 West First Street, saved about $100,000 a year in upkeep expenses.

"As soon as we thought we might be good, that we'd have a flat campaign, then NCR happened," Tanisha Jumper, United Way's vice president, for Community Impact said.

The campaign took a $500,000 hit after NCR announced in 2009 plans to move its national headquarters and 2,100 jobs from Dayton to Georgia.

"We were already established in most large companies in the region. There were no large companies left to recruit to make up that difference," Jumper said.

This year, representatives of United Way are meeting with associations, chambers of commerce and clubs to explain its new impact model. They also are working to increase its base of 4,699 volunteers to carry the workplace campaign into more small businesses.

"We don't ask enough people to support us," Maultsby said. "A lot of people don't know what United Way does. We want to share our message."

Reuters contributed to this report.

2013 Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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