United Way sets $1.5 million goal

A local helping agency has set a record goal.

The United Way of Johnson County hopes to raise $1.5 million this year, the highest amount ever and 2.3 percent more than the $1.45 million that was raised last year.

The nonprofit agency announced its goal at a campaign kickoff breakfast Thursday. About 300 people attended.

The speaker was Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles, who shared his story of Hoosier hospitality and running the speedway. He recalled summer days in Johnson County when he worked on family members’ farms west of Franklin and Trafalgar.

Hoosiers have a giving spirit, he said, and that spirit is on display with the United Way of Johnson County.

“What we are about as Hoosiers to the core is helping others,” he said.

United Way helps support 17 nonprofit agencies, such as area senior centers, Boys and Girls Club and Girls Inc. The agency also runs eight programs, such as Operation Bundle Up and Christmas Angels. In total, about 38,000 people are helped annually by United Way-funded agencies and programs, campaign leaders said.

United Way’s budget is 100 percent donated. Money comes from employee pledges, corporate gifts and individual donations.

Companies that ran early employee campaigns already have raised $70,443 this year. Now, the agency has about eight months to reach their goal, with the campaign wrapping up in April.

United Way leaders hope to meet the increased goal by adding companies to the campaign, with a focus on manufacturing and locally run businesses, according to Nancy Lohr Plake, executive director of the local United Way.

New manufacturers have moved into the county in the past year, and volunteers are targeting those firms for employee campaigns, she said.

Plake said locally run companies are more apt to participate because they can see where their money goes.

“It’s letting them know that the money is going to be used locally and go to the highest needs in the county,” she said.

Volunteers will take a new approach to asking for donations, Plake said.

Calling to ask for donations has historically been a way for the agency to raise money and will still be part of this year’s campaign. But last year, the agency did more focused calling, such as by having volunteers with a connection to a business or individual solicit donations, and that will be done more this year, Plake said.

“What works is having the right person make the right call,” she said.

Employee campaigns are still the largest chunk of fundraising, Plake said.

United Way agency representatives travel from company to company to tell employees what the agencies do and how they help, asking employees to make donations that come straight from their paycheck.

Those contributions are easier to get than making calls asking for individual donations, Plake said.

“We know it is easier for people to give $1 a week or $2, than for them to write a $200 check from their pocket,” she said.

Each year, the fundraising goal is set when United Way leaders look at the budgets of the participating agencies and what it costs to run United Way programs, Plake said.

If the goal isn’t met, she added, the United Way board will have to look to reduce how much is given to agencies, staffing and programs.

“What we get from the community is what we give out,” Plake said.

At a glance

Here is a look at how much money United Way has raised in past years:

2015 goal;$1.5 million

2014;$1.45 million

2013;$1.43 million

2012;$1.436 million

2011;$1.377 million

2010;$1.335 million

Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at mkritsch@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2770.