United Way campaign reaches goal, still time to give

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 31, 2010

NATCHEZ — Each penny, quarter and dollar has been counted, and the United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou has met its fundraising goal for the 2009-2010 campaign.

Marsha Colson, executive director of the United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou, said a $5,000 pledge from a local company came in last Friday sending the campaign over its $175,000 goal.

“We are very grateful to the community for the work they did in pledging and raising the money,” Colson said.

The money was raised through a combination of pledges, donations and payroll deductions.

The money raised through the United Way campaign is distributed to local agencies which have applied for funding. This year there are more than a dozen agencies in line for money.

Colson said that while most of the hard work is finished now, she never stops worrying about fundraising.

“It relieves a little bit of stress for us to know we’ve met our goal, but we never stop thinking about fundraising,” Colson said. “Just like last year, this year’s need is much greater than in the past, so the more money we raise, the more we can allocate to the agencies that need it.”

Since a percentage of the funds counted in the fundraising drive comes through paycheck deductions from local companies, the actual amount collected is less than what is pledged. Employees can opt out of their donation or leave the company before the end of the year causing their donation to United Way to end. Colson said the allocations committee and board of directors takes this shrinkage into consideration when deciding how much funding to award to qualifying agencies.

Colson said it is hard to tell how much shrinkage will occur this year, though she is planning for more than normal.

“Typically, you estimated between 7 and 8 percent shrinkage, but last year I think we ended up with closer to 13 percent shrinkage,” she said. “For whatever reason, people who had pledged weren’t able to meet their pledges and that effects how much money we actually bring in.”

For that reason, Colson said while she is happy to have reached the goal, it is important to exceed the goal. The United Way campaign will continue until the second week in February.

“Every $25 donated really makes a difference,” she said. “The more money that we raise in the next few weeks, the more money we can allocate to the people that need it.”

Unless a donor specifically ask for money to be sent to another United Way, the money is used by the local chapter and distributed locally. Colson said requests to send money elsewhere are few and far between.

Colson said going into the current campaign, she wasn’t sure what to expect because of the national economic climate, but she said, now, she has been impressed with local companies and donors.

“Some businesses were able to get their employees really revved up to go out and do as well or better than they did last year,” she said. “We had some small businesses that, proportionately, gave a tremendous amount.”

Currently, the allocations board is meeting with local agencies and hearing presentations on how the United Way money is used by each organization. After those meetings end this week, the hard task of assigning dollar amounts to agencies begins.

Agencies will receive money on a quarterly basis, Colson said.

“It is really important that we get as much as we can between now and the middle of February,” she said. “Anything we get between now and then can go on this year’s campaign.

If it comes in after that, we have to save it for next year.”

Donations can still by made by mailing donations to United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou, P.O. Box 1466, Natchez, MS 39121. Donations can also be dropped off at the United Way office on Canal Street, next door to the post office. On-line donations can be made at liveunitedmisslou.org.