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United Way short of goal

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The United Way of Johnson County fell just short of its annual fundraising goal after not receiving a grant and a drop in business donations.

The agency raised $1.43 million during this year’s annual campaign, just short of the nearly $1.49 million goal. This year’s goal was the highest amount the agency ever tried to raise, executive director Nancy Lohr Plake said.

This is the first time since 2011 that the United Way fell short of its goal.

The results were announced during the organization’s annual campaign-ending dinner Thursday at Jonathan Byrd’s in Greenwood.

Now, the agency is asking for local employees and businesses to chip in a bit more than they have already pledged, with the hope of still meeting the goal, said Stephanie Wagner, volunteer campaign chairwoman.

If not enough donations come in, the United Way might need to consider giving less money to local agencies, Plake said. The money raised each year supports 20 local agencies, such as Gateway Services, Youth Connections and American Red Cross. Fundraising also supports six United Way programs, such as Christmas Angels, which gives children holiday gifts, and Operation Bundle Up, which gives coats to hundreds of children. An estimated 37,000 people were helped by a United Way agency last year.

The agency’s board will meet to decide how the shortfall will affect the budget, Plake said.

Most of the money raised comes from donations by employees who work at local businesses and corporate donors. About a month ago, the United Way was about $50,000 short of the goal and asked people to donate more money.

Since then, volunteers conducted phone-a-thons for donations and mailed 2,000 letters asking for money. By Thursday, volunteers and donors raised 96 percent of the money this year. Employees pledging to give from their paychecks made up 67 percent of the total amount raised.

“Yes, it looks like we fell short this year, but we still had a lot of positive things happen during the campaign. We had several new companies run new employee campaigns,” Wagner said.

Every year, the United Way of Johnson County increases its goal of how much to raise. This year, the agency wanted to collect $1,488,000, an increase of nearly

4 percent over the $1,436,000 raised last year.

Fundraising goals are set after local agencies submit their budgets and what they will need from United Way.

Company giving is down with corporations pledging less money, Plake and Wagner said.

“Yes, the economy has come back up; but in a combination of health care reform and regulations from government, companies are lean,” Wagner said.

Last year, the agency also received a matching grant of $129,000 from the Lily Endowment, which wasn’t available this year. The grant went to internal United Way programs, such as the economic assistance plan, but more people donated for the first time last year because their money would double after it was matched by the grant, Wagner said.

United Way leadership thought manufacturing companies would give more, but the level of giving from that sector remained the same.

Companies that are still running employee campaigns are being asked to give more to reach the final goal.

The campaign results were announced during the annual celebration with the theme “Why we do what we do.”

Diners saw slideshows and photos of United Way agencies helping county residents. They heard an elderly man talk about how Access Johnson County allowed him to visit his wife in a nursing home. About 700 Indian Creek and Center Grove students helped at a Day of Caring, and 1,661 children were helped through Christmas Angels.

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