CUMBERLAND — The County United Way has revamped its campaign programs over the course of the last year while contending with the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to continue to cater to the community. The largest changes were the CUW shifting to virtual communications as it set its annual budget and the model in which funding was decided for organization partners.
“We’re going from a specific campaign time frame where we had a begin date and an end date (to where) we’re doing year-round solicitations. The campaign would usually kick off in September and run through April 30,” said Michele Walker, CUW executive director.
By moving to year-round funding, Walker said, the agency can target businesses that have the bulk of their income come in during the summer.
So far, of the financial targets CUW put in place, Allegany County has raised $318,117 of a $348,700 goal; Garrett County, $55,128 of $70,000; and Mineral County, $56,976 of $64,000. Hampshire County has exceeded its $25,000 goal and is now targeting $30,000 in the revamped campaign cycle.
“We were confronted, like everybody else, with the challenge of working with our partners, volunteers and financial supporters in new ways,” Walker said. “At first, it felt cumbersome and seemed time consuming, but it was actually in keeping with our team’s commitment to be change agents who invent new ways to deliver programs and to serve local needs in our four counties.”
County United Way works with more than 68 recipient organizations. An estimated 35,000 individuals in need were assisted during 2020.
“Our progress report reflects the time period that typically marks the end of the campaign, but we are so encouraged by the resiliency of our community, we’ve decided to continue building the (fiscal year) 2022 budget by extending the campaign work to early June,” said Cliff Wendricks, County United Way’s board chair. “We’re particularly excited to see that 9.6% of our 2021 pledges and donations to date are coming from first-time contributors.”
Previously, CUW would first raise funds and then decide how much funding could be offered for partner requests. Now the agency is working with the service providers to make programs a possibility and then coming to potential funders and presenting the possible programs, said Walker.
Some big events for CUW were canceled last year like Stuff the Bus, a school supply drive done in three counties in partnership with Walmart, and in Allegany County, Staples as well as Walmart. CUW recently got word that that fundraiser will not take place because Walmart will no longer take part.
The Day of Caring and Sharing was moved to September last year and had significantly fewer volunteers due to the pandemic.
However, Walker is hoping CUW can still reach its regular funding goals.
“I’m hoping,” said Walker. “We have a fundraiser coming up Memorial Day weekend. At DelFest, we’re volunteering there and then there’s an event — Dig Deep is holding a raffle for a four-day pass to DelFest, and we’re going to benefit from the sale of all of the tickets there. So we’re hoping that helps us make up the difference.”
At DelFest, taking place Sept. 23-26, County United Way will be volunteering at the beverage truck.