Butler United Way short of funding goal; final appeal for donations under way

| Saturday, May 17, 2014, 7:06 p.m.

Directors of United Way of Butler County agencies are scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss fundraising after the charity announced last week that it is at least $200,000 short of its $1.6 million goal for 2014.

The agency is anticipating that it will cut grants overall by 40 percent, though reductions will not be made across-the-board, officials said. The agency said that it anticipated “one-time” adjustments.

The 2013-14 campaign closes June 30. The agency said a final appeal is under way to donors.

Leslie Osche, executive director of the Butler County chapter, said the organization has made investments over the past two years to hire younger staff, train staff differently and change how it uses technology to keep up with a new generation of donors.

The fundraising model of having employees make pledges directly to the United Way through payroll deductions no longer works with millennials, Osche said, especially as people move from job to job. The younger generation wants to be more engaged in its fundraising and volunteer efforts.

“Our old model isn't going to work for that new generation,” Osche said. “So to not lose them, we need be in contact with them more often, also because they want to be more engaged in the community. It's not just about money, especially with millennials.”

The nonprofit organization announced last year that it had raised $1.48 million in its 2012-13 campaign, $200,000 short of its $1.68 million goal. For 2011, the organization raised a record $1.7 million.

“We just finally got to the point where we had the people in the right seats, but unfortunately it happened at a time when the campaign came down,” Osche said of the changes the United Way has made. “We had to buckle down, and it's going to be a tough year and a half, maybe two, to get back where we want to be.”

Osche also attributed the lag in fundraising to declines at two major corporate partners, which she would not identify. She said one firm cut its team of managers, many of whom gave generously.

The United Way's national model has also moved to push local chapters to have a more direct impact on the community, rather than just being a safety net. Osche said the United Way has begun new initiatives, like the Butler County Education Summit held last fall, to start “moving the needle” on community issues.

When next year's campaign kicks off in early September, Osche said the United Way will have a number of new community initiatives to announce.

“We'll be ready to say this is it, and hopefully we'll be standing there arm in arm with school leaders, business leaders, banks and other institutions,” she said.

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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