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2/28/2012 8:26:00 AM
Dollars short for Henry County United Fund

Bethany Mauger, Courier-Times Staff Writer

Henry County United Fund staff or board members are attending training or conferences this year.

People who show up to the nonprofit's annual meeting will be asked to leave donations to help pay for their meals.

And office supply costs will be reduced even further.

Executive Director Jenny Dennis decided to slash her own budget when she learned last year's fundraising campaign came in at $187,084, about $30,000 short of its goal. She's giving up training and free food for volunteers to make sure she has the cash for the organization's mission - providing funds for people in need.

This year, all nonprofits that requested money from United Fund will receive about 10 percent less than they did last year. If Dennis hadn't cut the United Fund's budget, that reduction would have been even higher.

She knows the organizations that receive United Fund money provide crucial services for the Henry Community. In today's economy, she doesn't want to see those services cut.

"Our donors gave us their precious financial resources," Dennis said. "We're going to put it to the best use, to make the most difference in our community."

Each year, Dennis and United Fund board members visit Henry County businesses and speak at events searching for donors. They kick off their fundraising campaign at Henry County Day of Caring, where volunteers swarm the community doing various projects. The organization collects dollars until the end of the year.

All the cash and pledges they collect then go to nonprofit organizations that turn in requests.

Money is used to buy diapers for the Henry County Pregnancy Care Center or to pay the shared maintenance fee that area food pantries pay Second Harvest Food Bank. It helps provide medical equipment and nutritional supplements to clients at Cancer Services of East Central Indiana. And it's an integral part of keeping many nonprofits running as their fundraising dollars fall short of their needs.

Last fall, Dennis set a goal of $215,000. She knew it would be a challenge. She'd raised $223,734 the year before, but only because of a matching grant. That year, new donations were matched dollar for dollar up to $22,374.

When Dennis told people about the grant during the last campaign, new donors signed up to have money drawn from their paychecks, and people who were already donors decided to step up their amounts.

But without the grant this year, Dennis didn't have that leverage.

Job losses in the community also hurt United Fund's bottom line. When workplaces cut employees or didn't replace people who retired or resigned, Dennis had fewer people to ask for donations.

She wasn't surprised when the total came in far below the goal amount.

"Of course it's a disappointment," she said. "To have to reduce is discouraging, because the needs are increased. But it was not a shock. I understand the state of the economy."

When the numbers were final, Dennis and her board members took a hard look at United Fund's budget. They decided that this year, Dennis would skip the state association conferences and other costly training events. She left about $50 to $75 in that line item in case a cheap, local event comes up instead.

The other big ticket item was food at the organization's annual meeting. Normally, United Fund provides the food at the event, which is designed to tell its volunteers thank you. The board decided it can't afford to do that anymore. People who attend will be asked to donate money to help cover the cost of the meal.

Dennis did not want to cut the money given to nonprofits but is glad she could keep the reductions to about 10 percent. The money given by donors will still be put to good use in the community, she said.

Related Stories:
• Jefferson County United Way raises $340,000 of $350,000 goal
• United Way of Cass County raises more than $600,000, surpassing goal
• Steuben County United Way surpasses 2011 campaign goal of $150,000
• Miami County United Way ends with 80 percent of $280,000 goal

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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