Nancy Vaughan column: On the reality of gaps and giving

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Nancy Vaughan For The Herald Bulletin| Jan 26, 2020 
 
In December 2005 my column began like this:
 
One of my personal goals when I began writing this column was to limit my discussion of fundraising and fundraising appeals, for several reasons. For a number of years, our United Way has been working diligently to shift our focus away from an operational agenda centered on fundraising to a community agenda focused on improving lives. In addition, I have always believed that when Americans understand a need, they will respond, thus a discussion of fund raising, per se, is less effective than a discussion of community need.
 
Fundraising, however, remains vital to the operation of any nonprofit. Things just don’t get done without funding. This week we wrapped up our annual fundraising campaign by announcing a rather disappointing number.
 
In the years since I wrote those words, I have continued to limit discussion of fundraising, despite having more than a few “disappointing numbers.”
 
The gap we are currently working to close by March 31 – nearly $100,000 – is concerning for a number of reasons. It can’t be attributed to one event such as a large corporate restructure or plant closing; it is part of a long-term decline in overall campaign and in number of donors; the 2018 tax law that limits the ability to deduct charitable contributions will likely create permanent losses; every local nonprofit organization is reporting downturns in financial support.
 
We hope the call to “close the gap” will bring in additional donations because needs are certainly not declining. State energy assistance is tapped out just as temperatures are dropping. We are simultaneously raising funds specifically for the Friend to Friend energy assistance program, but the overall United Way campaign has always supplemented this drive.
 
Winter brings additional challenges; however, more than 40 percent of households struggle year-round. We are working on an update to the ALICE report on struggling households in our community, but we already know that these families, though employed, do not earn enough to maintain stable, safe homes. Overcoming the barriers they face takes time and resources in order to provide assistance for rent, utilities, child care, healthcare, transportation and more.
 
All gifts make a difference, but one check that arrived last week made a huge impact on me. Inside was this note:
 
United Way of Madison County, I’m elderly and on a limited income, but wanted to donate what I could. Several people I know have benefited from your services. Hope it helps for your “close the gap” campaign a little. Keep up the good work.
 
And there it is. Despite huge structural changes, despite technology and tax laws and corporate closures, the reason for United Way hasn’t changed in its more than 130 years of existence. We live here. We know people that need help. We want to help.
 
To help close the gap, log on to unitedwaymadisonco.org/closethegap or mail your contribution to P. O. Box 1200, Anderson, IN 46016.
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