United Way making positive change

Published 12:06 am Tuesday, July 31, 2012

When United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou launches the 2012 Community Investment Pledge Drive Aug. 24 at the Natchez Convention Center during its eighth annual jambalaya cook-off, there will be one major change.

No longer will its partnering agencies be prevented from conducting their own individual fundraising events this fall during the annual United Way campaign.

The United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou Board of Directors has voted to lift the “blackout period” that prevented what was perceived as “duplicating fundraisers,” at which a Miss-Lou resident would be solicited in duplicate — first via their United Way contribution and then secondly by a United Way partnering agency/organization.

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The blackout policy — during which people don’t get solicited twice during the same time period — has been in effect during each United Way Campaign for as long as anyone here in the greater Miss-Lou can remember.

Recently, the decision was made to allow fundraising year round after several agencies were forced to dissolve their partnerships with United Way. These agencies needed to fundraise during the campaign months in order to keep programs afloat during these tough economic times.

Many local non-profits have lost grants over the past few years, some of which have been quite substantial, making up large portions of operating budgets. Many of these programs make a huge impact on this community and are able to provide measurable results. United Way’s role as community assistance partner makes research and development concerning the needs within the community a necessity.

There has been a trend among United Ways nationwide away from the traditional “blackout” during campaigns in favor of a more limited “blackout.” United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou has joined other United Way organizations by recognizing the need for partner agencies to procure funding, particularly unrestricted funds, beyond what the United Way can provide.

The board encourages partner agencies to seek a balance of funding sources to help ensure financial stability and long-term sustainability. With these principals in mind, this eliminates any “blackout period” previously established by the United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou.

United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou was established in 1954 as a “community chest,” so to speak, where residents of the Miss-Lou could contribute to a central organization that supports a variety of worthy causes. Since those early beginnings over half a century ago, rigorous evaluation, verification and allocation processes currently are in place at United Way to ensure that all contributions are being utilized effectively and being distributed where the need is greatest in the Miss-Lou.

For a building to be stable for the long term, it needs a solid foundation. The same is true in a community, and the building blocks for a solid community are a strong public education system, economic prosperity and quality health care.

The measure of United Way is not in the fundraising campaign, but in the ways we are improving the foundation of our community.

United Way does the critical but largely invisible work required to reach community goals, recruit people to the cause, get commitments for action and pull together the expertise and resources necessary to see them accomplished.

The United Way Board of Directors’ decision to amend the fundraising policy is a huge step forward toward accomplishing these goals.

For more information about United Way of the Greater Miss Lou, partnering agencies, or the countless ways to give, advocate and volunteer, contact Tammy Prince at 601-442-1081.


Tiffany Mascagni is the director of the United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou.