United Way to replenish reserves, campaign collection projected to fall 10 percent

Sue Guinn Legg • Dec 28, 2019 at 9:00 PM

The United Way of Washington County will use 5% of contributions pledged to this year’s fundraising campaign to replenish reserves depleted by two years of declining donations.

United Way President and CEO Kristan Spear announced the decision to rebuild the reserves after a Dec. 20 vote by the United Way’s executive board.

Board Chairman Keith Johnson attributed the decision to two years of lower-than-expected campaign contributions.

“Our reserves were depleted because the funds collected in 2016-2018 were lower than anticipated, and the board chose to dip into reserves to continue payments to our agencies,” Johnson said in a press release.

“At this point, we no longer have reserves that can be utilized, and our goal is to, over time, build the campaign and replenish the reserves.”

According to the press release, the 21 nonprofit health and human services agencies that share in funds generated by the annual campaign were first notified of the United Way’s intent to replenish the reserves in April and were given notice again in October.

Rick Van Hoever, the United Way’s immediate past board chairman, said the 5% reserve is a minimum, annual target amount and could be changed based on campaign results.

Spear said, although the reserve will not be a large, it will help the United Way continue to maintain operations and assist its partner agencies ”well into the future.”

Earlier this year, the United Way implemented an across-the-board reduction in annual allocations to its 17 long-term partner agencies based on a then-$188,000 decline in giving to its 2018 campaign compared to 2017. Five new nonprofit programs brought on board by the United Way in 2018 together received a total of $25,000 for the first time in 2019.

In a July interview with the Johnson City Press, Spear attributed the decline in giving to the decrease in federal tax credits for corporate contributions to nonprofits and to the local loss of some larger corporate United Way supporters who left the area or merged with other companies.

In the press release announcing the decision to replenish the reserves, Spear said the annual campaign is the United Way’s largest source funding and also the largest funding source for many of its partner agencies.

The fundraising goal for the 2019 campaign, which wraps up next week, is $1.5 million dollars. Campaign Chair Jenn Owen said in the press release, “based on the historical success of the remaining company campaigns,” not yet completed, the United Way projects this year’s campaign will finish at approximately 90% of goal.

In a final campaign appeal, Owen said, “As individuals consider a year-end gift to the nonprofits of our community, please remember United Way and its partner agencies. Over 50% of the residents of Washington County are impacted by this combined effort and every dollar makes a difference."

Spear said, “We want to thank everyone that has already given and those that plan to give. It means so much to us. Our entire staff is working feverishly to try and raise funds. We are out talking to existing donors, businesses and new potential donors every week.

“Many of the agencies we help fund do not have the administrative team or staff to raise funds. They are focused on doing what they do best, and that is caring for the people of Washington County. That is why we work so hard for them to raise funds each year.”

Donations to the campaign may be made online at uwowc.org, by mail to United Way of Washington County Tenn., P.O. Box 4039, Johnson City, TN, 37602 or by calling the United Way at 423-220-1229. 

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