This week United Way of Hunterdon County volunteers will be engaged in an old-fashioned telethon to raise money for our organization. For many, the idea that United Way has to raise funds just like any other nonprofit comes as a surprise. It may come as a surprise to you now. But the fact is that we rely on individual donations to fuel our work in the community. One of the volunteers who will be leading the telethon also wanted to send a letter to fellow volunteers to make them aware of our ongoing need for individual supporters. Here is what she shared:
Hello, and I hope this letter finds you well! You may find it a bit strange to be receiving a letter from a fellow volunteer, but please read on to let me explain why I am reaching out to you. We both share a dedication and commitment to United Way of Hunterdon County. I have been volunteering with our programs for over ten years now, and in that time have also filled the roles of board member, committee chair, and I currently still sit on the Resource Development Committee. My husband Terry and I both volunteer extensively for all of the programs, and I can truly say I love being involved with this organization. To put it simply, it makes me happy. I hope that you would say the same.
Several months ago I was at the volunteer center helping to prepare a mailing, and was working alongside a few volunteers I had just met. We got into conversation about the building, and the programs, this and that. The conversation turned to donations, and it was surprising to me to learn that these other volunteers were not aware of how much United Way depends on donations from private individuals. They didn’t know (why would they?) that there has been a huge shift in how corporations give; or that there is a mortgage on the volunteer center; or that each of our programs COST United Way to run them. I guess I am “in the know” more than most because of my seat on the Resource Development Committee. But it got me thinking- if more volunteers like myself WERE aware of all of this, if we made sure they were better informed, would they be willing to give of themselves, but also give financially? I like to believe that you will.
I think it’s important that we- as invested volunteers with this organization- know that we have hit challenging times financially. There has been a dramatic change in the way corporations run their workplace giving campaigns. Most corporations are no longer running “United Way Campaigns”, and now just encourage employees to give to a charity of choice. This means United Way no longer has the influence or contact with those corporate donors the way that they used to. We have relied heavily on the corporate campaign to support our efforts to help those in need, but the number of corporations in Hunterdon County has diminished (like Merck), leading to a decrease in funds raised. This means less dollars raised- much less.
Yes, the volunteer center is always warm (or cool) and has snacks and drinks and is clean, but these changes in fundraising make it challenging to keep all of those things at the volunteer center plentiful; not to mention the phone, lighting, and internet bills that we all know well, show up month after month.
Another little known fact- every tax return that is done though our VITA program, costs United Way $47.00. And this year we hope to do more than 1,400 of those returns. You can add into the cost of VITA- volunteer trainings, certifications, and the costs of equipment & technology. Holiday Hands and Tools 4 School bring in loads of donations of gift items, but they each cost United Way money to run, especially in staff costs (but no one would argue how essential Amy is!). I know this is a lot to take in, and I don’t mean to overwhelm you with all of this information. I just feel it is important for all of us to know; and to evaluate if there are ways we can do more to support an organization that we love, and believe in, and that makes us happy.
United Way does a lot of good in Hunterdon County. I know Terry and I both feel that we are a big part of that, and that we both play meaningful roles in making all of the programs that we work within, successful. You all do too. Without volunteers like all of us, thousands of people in our communities would go unserved, unsupported, and fall into greater instability. I am happy to do what we do. But I know that most of us can do a little more. Some of us, a lot more. You just have to be made aware that the need is there.
So this is me, a regular volunteer just like yourself, sharing with you what I know. United Way of Hunterdon County, the organization in which we are like one big family, needs our help. They appreciate our time, but they also need our support financially. As they adjust to and plan for these changes in workplace giving that has sustained the organization for so long, they need us.
Terry and I have been honored to support them in this way. I am hoping you will consider doing the same.
Thank you for reading, and letting me share all of this with you. If you have any further questions, I would encourage you to reach out to our Director of Development, Rachel Eichem. She would be very happy to hear from you.
I look forward to seeing you and meeting you, over at the volunteer center!