NEARING THE END ZONE

Months ago, Jackson County United Way officials set their 2014 “Hope for Our County Campaign” goal at $745,000.

Now that the drive is winding down, they are happy to report they are close to achieving that mark.

“We have a very engaged board, a very engaged campaign committee and our campaign team, and they have helped drive the success in 2014,” Executive Director Tonja Couch said. “We can’t do our work without the volunteers we have.”

The final tally won’t be announced until the group’s annual meeting Jan. 26 at Cupid’s Arrow in Seymour. Some company campaign contributions are still coming in, and donations will be accepted up until that meeting.

“We’re within reach of our goal this year, and it’s something that we’re feeling positive, we’re feeling optimistic about, that we’re going to get there,” said Sean Hildreth, resource development director.

Setting their sights

Each year, United Way staff and campaign volunteers begin preparation for the drive in the spring. The main campaign runs from August to November, but there are some companies that do drives other times of the year.

In determining the campaign goal, Hildreth said, organizers talk to previous campaign volunteers, board members and community volunteers on the resource development committee.

“We talk together and say, ‘Hey, this is where we were last year,’ and we look at the history,” he said. “But then we also look and say, ‘Hey, where do we have room for growth? Are there any challenges that present themselves this year that we think might cause us to scale back a goal?’ We really try to be aggressive with it. We try to move things forward but also be aware of any potential roadblocks that might be there.”

Building a relationship

A big boost this year was having board members participate in visits with company leaders. The board members, who volunteer their time,

talked about what the United Way does to address community conditions.

“It was less about, ‘Hey, we want your money,’ but more about, ‘Hey, we want a relationship,’” Couch said. “We’re trying to move away from transactional relationship to relationship. That’s what our work is. It’s about helping people, and it’s about helping our community.”

Hildreth said it was a great experience for the board members.

“It’s great for us to go out as a staff and build those relationships but also having volunteers there saying, ‘Hey, we’re doing this because we believe in this and it’s important to our community,’” he said.

There was good communication among industries, small businesses, volunteers and campaign chairman Jim Potts. Hildreth said Potts played a crucial role in the company leader visits.

“It’s opened those doors and kept that two-way communication going so we know things are going well, people are responding well to this; and it gives us a good pulse on the campaign,” Hildreth said.

Double up

Another boost to the campaign was the Indiana Association of United Ways’ Work2Gether Grant through the Lilly Endowment, through which donations could be doubled up to $86,494. United Way will have the opportunity to match all new gifts of $100, and any increased amount is matched dollar for dollar.

Couch said the plans are for that grant to go toward addressing the drug abuse issue, ensuring prekindergarten opportunities continue and helping the office provide support to the community.

The United Way also worked with media outlets to get its message out and had people volunteer their talents with campaign marketing, including video, photography and posters.

Hildreth said everyone in the county coming together helps the United Way support its 20 partner agencies and continue offering programs such as Day of Caring, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Rock ‘n’ Ready School Supply Distribution.

The public is invited to attend the United Way’s annual meeting. Along with the final campaign numbers being released, new board members and past board members will be recognized.

Continuing momentum

While the United Way reflects upon the 2014 campaign, the staff already is thinking about the 2015 drive.

“When you’re feeling comfortable and confident with the goal you have and the success that the county may have, we’re already saying, ‘How can we continue this momentum?’” Couch said.

Hildreth added, “It’s exciting for us to get to the goal, but we’re also looking forward to, ‘OK, what else can we do?’ There’s more that can be done. We’re looking forward to what we can do to raise more money, to make an impact there because we know our work is not done. It’s going to continue.”

At a glance

There is still an opportunity to contribute to Jackson County United Way’s “Hope for Our County Campaign.”

To get involved, visit jacsy.org or stop by the office in the Community Agency Building in downtown Seymour at 113 N. Chestnut St. Suite 301.

All contributions must be made before the annual meeting Jan. 26 at Cupid’s Arrow in Seymour.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.