United Way lifts fundraising blackout for Beaufort County nonprofit groups

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comDecember 12, 2013 

  • How to donate

    Seen those United Way donation thermometers around town?

    The United Way of the Lowcountry has eight such signs throughout Beaufort and Jasper counties to track its annual fundraising campaign.

    So far this year, it has raised nearly $1.9 million -- or 80.1 percent -- of its $2.3 million goal.

    To find out how to donate to the United Way of the Lowcountry, go to uwlowcountry.org or call 843-982-3040 in Beaufort, 843-837-2000 in southern Beaufort County, or 843-645-6500 in Jasper County.

Member organizations of United Way of the Lowcountry will have two more months of fundraising next year, thanks to a rule change this week.

The United Way announced Thursday it is ending its annual, two-month fundraising blackout period, which prevented member organizations from raising money during that time.

The blackout has been in place in some form since the 1990s and was designed to reduce competition for donations while the United Way held its annual campaign, United Way spokesman Ryan Copeland said. For the past three years, the blackout has been from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31, he said.

"We believe lifting the blackout period serves not only our agencies but local donors in the community, as well," United Way of the Lowcountry president Tina Gentry said in a news release.

The United Way of the Lowcountry has 33 member organizations in Beaufort and Jasper counties. Lifting the blackout might cause more competition for donor dollars in the fall, but the United Way raises money year-round and wants its partners to be able to do the same, Copeland said.

"Most United Ways had a blackout period similar to this, but a lot of them have just done away with it," Copeland said. "It helps our agencies because they can better plan during that time period."

Having two additional months to raise money would help any organization, but September and October are especially important, said Chris Protz, director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry, which is a United Way member.

The clubs don't do much summer fundraising, when many "snowbirds" are spending the summer in cooler weather to the north, Protz said. So the opportunity to raise money in early autumn, when those part-time residents return to South Carolina, would likely bring a financial boost, he said.

The blackout "forced us to kind of compress our fundraising into different times of the year," Protz said. "With the blackout lifted, we can kind of spread those events out."

The opportunity to raise money during the former blackout months is particularly important to Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse, because October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, said Kristin Dubrowski, the organization's director.

"Since we have such a focus on October anyway, we've been talking for forever about how great it would be to do a fundraising event then," Dubrowski said.

It is already considering events it might host next October, she added.

To date, the United Way of the Lowcountry has collected 80.1 percent -- or nearly $1.9 million -- of its $2.3 million 2013 campaign goal, according to the news release.

That goal is down from last year's unfulfilled, $2.8 million goal, Copeland said.

"We think it's a little more realistic, and we can fill the needs of our agencies with that $2.3 (million)," he said. "We haven't made goal for six or seven years, so making it is very important this year."

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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