By CRISTINA JANNEY Hays Post
The United Way of Ellis County is only 77 percent to goal, and officials are concerned this will mean cuts for its partner agencies in 2020.
The agency has raised $309,ooo of its $400,000 goal.
Erica Berges, executive director, said the agency is close to where it was at this time last year. The agency raised about $350,000 and was propelled to its goal by a late donation by the Robert E. Schmidt Foundation.
The campaign is still waiting on donations from a few businesses, but a majority of businesses have made their pledges for the year, Berges said.
"We are making a final push with donors in the past who have not given this year," she said.
"We really want to get the word out that we are still in need. Our campaign is not done by any means. We still have some time left. We just need those last donations to help reach our goal."
The United Way hopes to wrap up donations by the end of January. This will enable its Care Council to have distributions to partner agencies by March.
The United Way supports 22 programs at 17 partner agencies:
Arc of the Central Plains
American Red Cross
Big Brothers/Big Sisters
Center for Life Experiences
Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation
Court Appointed Special Advocates
Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas
Early Childhood Connections
First Call for Help
Hays Area Children's Center
KVC Wheatland Hospital
Options Domestic and Sexual Violence Services
Parents and Children Together
Western Kansas Association for the Concerns of the Disabled
Western Kansas Child Advocacy Center
"Obviously, the amount we give to agencies will have to be decreased," Berges said. "We try to keep that at a minimal amount. We try to cut every way possible from the United Way budget before we want to make that cut to the agencies.
"We know when donors give, they want the money to go to the agencies."
If United Way has to make cuts to partner agency funding, it will affect the people those agencies serve, Berges said.
"The people in need, unfortunately, that number does not decrease," she said. "It always seems to increase."
Berges said nationwide trends are resulting in the United Way seeing declines in donations. The baby boomer generation is retiring, and the workers who are replacing them are not donating at the same levels.
"I think the general landscape of how people give and why people give has changed," she said.
She said the style of giving has changed. More people are giving to nonprofits directly online or through GoFundMe campaigns. This is a change from older workers who gave through payroll contributions through their work, which has been a staple for United Way for years.
More young people are also volunteering and giving of their time instead of making monetary donations.
Berges said United Way is continuing to spread its message.
"That is something that we are continuing to explore," she said. "Are we not reaching people enough? Do they not know enough about what we do? We try each year to do more to get the word out, but we can still do more."
Berges said the economy is another contributor to the declines in donations. Members of the younger generation might not have as much to give.
"Not hitting this goal doesn't hurt the United Way," she said. "It hurts the agencies we help fund. ... That trickles on down.
"The agency doesn't have the funds to help the people. It is the people who are losing out on whatever need they have — whether it's a child who needs a mentor or someone who needs help with utilities, someone with disabilities not able to get the services they need. It hits every area of the population."
You can contribute with a credit card online at www.liveunited.us
. You can establish a monthly ACH withdrawal from your checking account. You can also donate directly by cash or check at the United Way office at 205 E. Seventh (Hadley Center, Suite 111, Hays. Checks can also be mailed to PO Box 367, Hays, KS 67601.
All donations are tax-deductible.