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United Way falls short of annual fundraising goal for second year in a row

Ray Molony, board chairman of the United Way of the Lowcountry, puts the final touch on a thermometer sign along Boundary Street. It was announced Tuesday the organization raised more than $2.4 million — about 96 percent of its $2.5 million goal — during its annual campaign.
Ray Molony, board chairman of the United Way of the Lowcountry, puts the final touch on a thermometer sign along Boundary Street. It was announced Tuesday the organization raised more than $2.4 million — about 96 percent of its $2.5 million goal — during its annual campaign. BOB SOFALY | The Beaufort Gazette

In the face of record unemployment rates and a slumping economy, the United Way of the Lowcountry again failed to reach its annual fundraising goal, officials announced Tuesday.

The United Way ended its 2009 fundraiser Tuesday at 96 percent of its $2.5 million goal, raising more than $2.4 million.The 2008 campaign fell about $125,000 shy of its $2.7 million goal.

Ray Molony, chairman of the United Way Board of Directors, said the group opted to pull the plug on the campaign so its attention can turn to divvying up $2,415,155 among 39 Beaufort and Jasper county charities.A group of 60 volunteers interviewed potential recipients throughout the year and the specifics of how much each group will get will be decided at a board of directors meeting next month, Molony said.

"We've really exhausted all of our fundraising avenues," Molony said.

Molony said the agency and its army of 300 volunteers knew that harsh economic realities likely would weaken fundraising efforts.

"We knew we were going into a challenging environment so we're elated that we were able to achieve 96 percent of our original goal," Molony said. "This money is going to go a long way toward serving Beaufort and Jasper counties."

Molony said agency officials will begin meeting this month to determine if next year's campaign will have an open-ended deadline and if the group will reduce its fundraising goal for the 2010 campaign.

The United Way will continue to accept donations in the hopes of making this year's goal, said Jill Briggs, the agency's executive vice president.

Charities and programs receive quarterly payments from United Way, with the first to be distributed by April, Briggs said.

Those payments are crucial to local organizations such as the Child Abuse Prevention Association of Beaufort, said Katie Grindle, CAPA's director of community outreach.

Grindle said United Way contributions account for at least 5 percent of its $1.2 million budget.

"The United Way is one of our bigger (contributors) and we are always grateful to receive that money," Grindle said. "It means we can keep children in a shelter and it keeps us going. It feels great that the community donates to the United Way and they find us worthy of receiving their donations and support. It means the world to us."

United Way staff members monitor how recipient agencies use the group's donations, an initiative launched two years ago that Molony says has helped ensure agencies are making the best possible use of the campaign's dollars.

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