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United Way, struggling to hit its target, issues a plea for donations

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United Way, struggling to hit its target, issues a plea for donations
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- With only two weeks to go until its annual community review, the United Way of West Central Minnesota is more than 25 percent short of its fund-raising goal.

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The regional United Way put out an urgent plea this week for people to dig into their pockets and give, so all United Way agencies can get their full budget allocations for the year.

"We're trying very, very hard to keep our level of funding the same to our programs," said Stacey Roberts, executive director of the United Way of West Central Minnesota.

"We had a lot of people drop off in giving," she said.

It has made for a rocky road for the United Way's first year as a regional organization.

Last year the United Way of Kandiyohi County expanded to become the United Way of West Central Minnesota, adding a dozen regional communities under the umbrella of its programs and services.

With no previous numbers for comparison, setting the $950,000 goal for the campaign was "kind of a shot in the dark," Roberts acknowledged.

But the board also believed it was realistic to raise $950,000, she said, noting the United Way of Kandiyohi County last year surpassed a goal of $750,000.

The most immediate priority is to ensure all the participating United Way agencies receive their funding for the coming year. For agencies that have lost government funding, it's going to be especially important to receive their full United Way allocation, Roberts said.

"We're really hoping that we can do that," she said.

The annual community review of agencies is March 25. The United Way board of directors will finalize its funding decisions in May.

To make up for the shortfall, the United Way of West Central Minnesota has dropped a program that allows local organizations to apply for a one-time grant for community projects. Money will no longer be available for special projects undertaken by the United Way.

Internal cutbacks, including pay freezes, also have been instituted. The United Way has reduced some of its marketing and increased electronic communication to save on paper and postage costs.

"We're applying for grants and we're trying to look for nontraditional means to raise money," Roberts said. With no endowment to draw on, "every year we start over at ground zero and work our way up to our goal," she said.

This year's campaign officially ends May 14 but donations for the current fiscal year will continue to be accepted through June 30.

With decisions pending on agency allocations, however, it's important for extra donations to arrive soon, Roberts said.

"That's why we're doing one last push, to see if there's any more we can glean," she said.

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Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at http://healthbeat.areavoices.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

(320) 235-1150
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