The United Way of Johnson County has reached its annual campaign goal, meaning the organization can fully fund the helping agencies that rely on it.
Volunteers had been working since August to raise $1.45 million, and the total raised — exactly $1,455,000 — was announced Thursday during the annual United Way celebration dinner at Franklin College.
Money raised over the past nine months funds 19 agencies, such as Boys and Girls Club of Franklin, Turning Point and Reach for Youth, as well as annual programs through United Way.
“We are so excited about hitting this goal, and so many of you stepped up in the final days to fulfill it,” campaign chairman John Lorentzen said. “There are so many needs, but there are also so many people who are ready and willing to help.”
The campaign was a success in part because nine new companies signed up to give this year, United Way executive director Nancy Lohr Plake said.
“I think the most exciting part is that we did have nine companies (join the fundraising campaign), and that amounted to $15,000 more,” Plake said. “That gets you really, really pumped.”
Momentum has been growing for the past three years, when the United Way campaign team tried to expand the list of companies that were asked to conduct drives and ask employees to contribute through payroll deductions, Lorentzen said.
“Something we have tried to do for a long time is to diversify the number of employers in employer-driven campaigns,” Lorentzen said.
Last year, United Way raised $1.43 million, falling short of the $1.49 million goal.
This year, United Way volunteers tried a new strategy to get more companies to sign on, Lorentzen said.
Instead of having all 15 members of the campaign team together for monthly or bimonthly meetings, groups of four or five met every three weeks to focus on one business field in the area, such as health care or manufacturing. The volunteers then were able to come up with ideas to specifically target that kind of business, Lorentzen said.
The new strategy got nine companies signed up to donate that had never done so before. Last year, four companies joined the campaign for the first time, Plake said.
Since United Way did not meet the goal of $1.49 million last year, the organization spent the money on the most-needed programs, such as providing child care for parents with low income, transportation, domestic violence and other immediate needs, Plake said. United Way also wanted to keep certain annual programs fully funded. Operation Bundle Up provides hundreds of children with free coats, and Christmas Angels gives holiday gifts to children, Plake said.
Campaign volunteers looked for companies that opened or relocated to Johnson County within the past few years to conduct employee-giving drives, including Berry Plastics. United Way volunteers also tried asking longtime Johnson County organizations, such as the Greenwood Public Library and Central Nine Career Center, to donate, Plake said. All agreed.
The companies that have employees from Johnson County typically see how residents are in need on a daily basis, so that is an easy way to get a company on board, Lorentzen said.
“When United Way serves 40 percent of the county’s residents, it really hits home,” Lorentzen said.
United Way also got a fundraising boost by receiving a matching grant from the Lilly Endowment. The grant promised another $137,700 to the United Way of Johnson County, Plake said. The matching grant money will fund the Fast Track program, which buys a year’s worth of school supplies for students and pay for a needs assessment so United Way can address the needs of homeless families throughout Johnson County.
Even though more Johnson County residents are back to work, people still need financial help, Plake said.
“The reality is, yes, the economy is better, but people did not return to the same-paying jobs,” she said.
“So we’ve got families and individuals that are still struggling to make ends meet. Those people that are one car breakdown, one flat tire, one medical bill from not being able to make the rent — those are the people that we are really, really seeing that are struggling.”
Here’s a look at how much has been raised by United Way during the past five years:
This year’s award winners:
Paramount award: NSK Corp. and NSK Precision America
Outstanding small-company award: Indiana American Water Co.
Professional major firms award: Sherman and Armbruster
Division award for manufacturing: Dunham Belting and Rubber Corp.
Best campaign for government/nonprofit division: Boys and Girls Club of Franklin and Johnson County Public Library
Education division award: Franklin Community School Corp.
Banking division award: Huntington National Bank
The following nine companies or organizations signed up for United Way campaign drives this year, bringing in $15,000 in new money:
Endress + Hauser
Greenwood Public Library
Central Nine Career Center
Earl Gray and Sons
Franklin Family Dentistry
Jones, Hoskins and Anderson CPA and Accounting Firm
White River Family Dental