United Way campaign surpasses half-way mark

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Monday, December 19, 2011
— United Way of North Rock County leaders are cautiously optimistic that the organization's 2011 fundraising campaign goal will be met.

"We believe setting the goal at $1.3 million was the way to go," said Ron Ochs, president and CEO, in a news release.

"We are incredibly fortunate to have an enthusiastic and committed group of volunteers who felt it was attainable," he said.

As of Dec. 14, 63 percent—or $816,000—of the fund-raising goal had been raised.

Contributions are up 21 percent over the same time last year.

United Way found 112 new contributors this year, including 31 corporate donors, five employee campaigns and 76 individual donors, Ochs said.

United Way staff and volunteers are pleased with money contributed to date and hopeful that the rest can be raised because 30 percent of campaigns have not reported, Ochs said. Of those, about a dozen are large-company campaigns.

"Some employee workplace campaigns will run through January, and while it is our goal to have as many campaigns as possible turned in by the end of the year, that won't always work for every workplace," he said.

While some campaigns experienced significant increases in giving, others saw decreases, Ochs said.

Campaigns that saw declines included those of Rock County and Janesville School District employees.

Lori Stottler, who co-led the county's employee campaign, said final numbers won't be tallied until after Jan. 1, but she predicts contributions will fall $7,500 short of the $39,489 raised in 2010.

"We've had $40,000 campaigns the past three years," she said.

"I can't help but guess that the public employee is guarding their money more and concerned about being able to make ends meet with the sacrifices they are now making," she said.

Eight of 10 county union contracts expire at the end of the year, and employees will begin contributing to their retirement funds, Stottler said.

Employees also wonder if they'll get pay raises, she said.

"Usually, they're deep into negotiations right now, and the standard has been around 2 percent for an annual raise. But they've taken some freezes in recent times, and that's kind of the concern," Stottler said.

Stottler, however, praised county employees, whom she described as amazing when it comes to helping charity.

"We have very giving people who are faced with the intense needs of this community daily. What they don't know yet is the financial impact on their household, which might cause them to hold back on their contribution (to United Way)," she said.

Janesville School District employees raised $62,309, which was down 11.2 percent or $7,852 compared to 2010, said Yvette Pearson, campaign coordinator.

She attributed the fewer dollars to many retirements and some employees who might be worried about whether they'll keep their jobs.

When the city of Janesville's campaign finished two weeks ago, the nearly $30,000 donated by workers was only a few hundred dollars shy of last year's total, said Kelly Lee, who co-chaired the campaign with Chad Sullivan. The city's campaign is one of United Way's 10 biggest.

Ochs said United Way isn't sure why some giving was down, but he noted that many people are working hard to make ends meet.

Any money United Way raises is important, he said.

"The work done by our program partners in the area of human services is very important, and United Way's investments in the areas of education, income, health and families are vital to the continued success of many of our program partners," Ochs said.

The United Way Board of Directors, however, exercised caution in its Dec. 14 approval of the allocations budget for 2012-2013, he said.

"The best-case scenario, should the campaign goal be achieved, is that additional community investments could be considered," he Ochs said.

Last updated: 7:04 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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