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Reliable donors help United Way toward goal

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GREENFIELD — The United Way of Central Indiana’s Hancock County office is well on its way to reaching a lofty fundraising goal, thanks to generous giving from a select few.

Paula Jarrett, area director, said the county has raised 85 percent of its $586,000 goal for the year – an 8 percent increase over last year’s total. Jarrett said she is optimistic the county will meet the goal, but if it does it will be because campaign stalwarts gave more. It will not be due to broad-based community participation or new participants, she said.

“We run this campaign on the backs of a few big businesses and a few smaller ones and individuals,” Jarrett said.

Traditionally, more than 90 percent of contributions to the county’s campaign come from six companies: Covance, Elanco, Greenfield Banking Co., Hancock Physician Network, Hancock Regional Hospital and Keihin.

Greenfield Banking Co. and Hancock Physician Network have not yet finished their campaigns, but Jarrett said Covance, Elanco, HRH and Keihin will meet their individual organization goals this year. Elanco will once again lead the campaign, donating nearly $400,000. Greenfield-Central schools have also been successful in drastically growing participation over the last few years, Jarrett said.

Aside from the organization’s dollar goal, campaign organizers also challenged themselves to get more businesses involved. Campaign co-chair Bobbi Dunne said volunteers sought out businesses that had not run campaigns before, but had few takers.

“It’s disheartening … that in our community to get new participants to conduct United Way campaigns has been a real challenge,” Dunne said.

For the past several years, campaign organizers have been on a mission to increase fundraising to pre-recession levels. In 2009, campaign totals fell to $275,000 – down from a goal of $410,000 the previous year.

If goals are met this year, it will be the first time since the recession that United Way campaign giving has topped $400,000. That figure does not include a dollar-for-dollar corporate match from Elanco, which is the largest campaign contributor by far. This year is the first time that corporate match will be included in Hancock County’s fundraising total, accounting for the large jump in both goal and donation figures.

Existing businesses can only grow their programs so much, though, said Jarrett. To really keep the campaign rolling, she said the organization needs to get new businesses interested in participating.

Both Jarrett and Dunne said they are not sure why attracting new partners has been such a struggle. Running a United Way campaign does not cost a business anything, other than some volunteer time for the campaign coordinator. Individual employees make the choice to donate or not, and if so, how much they give.

“We make it very easy,” Jarrett said. “Probably some companies just don’t understand that United Way supports the entire community.”

Indeed, setting up the campaign is easy, said Robb Farris, Keihin’s human resources manager. It’s getting employees to donate that is more difficult.

“Our business has been impacted by the economy,” Farris said. “We’ve been on a roller coaster with work, number of hours and that’s impacted associates’ earnings and ability to contribute.”

Despite those challenges, Keihin will meet its fundraising goal this year, thanks in part to a $10,000 corporate donation.

Farris said that gift is larger than past company contributions, because Keihin recognizes the important of supporting the community through United Way.

“It is important to get involved, to support the community. That’s where your associates are coming from,” he said. “United Way is a good agency that supports many other organizations.”

Raising awareness and educating the community about United Way’s role will continue to be an important part of the organization’s fundraising efforts. United Way supports a variety of partner agencies within Hancock County, including the Boys and Girls Club, Hancock County Senior Services and Meals on Wheels. It also supports programs like ReadUP and Youth as Resources, and has taken on new initiatives, like community hunger.

“Our partner agencies serve thousands of people,” Jarrett said. “United Way makes the community a better place in which to do businesses.”

The fundraising goal for United Way of Central Indiana’s six-county campaign tops $40 million this year. As in years past, more of that money will be spent in Hancock County than is raised here during the campaign. Though increased goals are being met, needs are not decreasing, organizers say.

“What we collect in this county doesn’t cover our needs,” Dunne said. “It would be nice if our citizens would feel like they could contribute more to help people in this community.”

Donations to the United Way campaign can be made through March 1. Call 467-2346 or email hancock@uwci.org for more information.

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