With just one week left in their fundraising campaign, United Way of Odessa is working hard to reach their $2 million goal to ensure they have the money to provide to the local agencies they help support.
Since they began their campaign last August, United Way of Odessa Executive Director Hank Herrick said they have collected $1.8 million so far, about $200,000 short of how much they would like to reach.
The money raised by United Way goes to the 22 local partner agencies they provide to supplement their budgets, which means less time spent by those agencies will have to be spent raising donations for themselves.
“We raise money in the community to give back to the community,” Herrick said. “The more money we’re giving them, the less they have to fundraise, and the more they can do what they were designed to do, and that’s help people.”
Less money being raised by United Way means funding cuts for their partner agencies. Herrick said during the 2015-2016 fundraising they had to cut the amount of money they could provide to their agencies by 30 percent, which he said reduces the amount of aid they can give to the community.
A variety of agencies receive funding from United Way of Odessa, including the Permian Basin Mission Center, the Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels, and Odessa Day Nursery which helps low-income families by providing them with scholarships for their children. But without the funding from United Way, Odessa Day Nursery Director Dian Gouard said they wouldn’t be able to provide those scholarships.
“We try to keep our fees at a low cost for them, and that way, the money United Way gives us covers their tuition,” Gouard said.
The money from United Way also helps Odessa Day Nursery to buy things like art supplies and puzzles for the children they take care of.
Herrick added that that United Way not only raises the money for these agencies, they also vet the agencies. Every year, panelists made up of community volunteers and members of United Way’s board of directors visit the agencies to look at their budgets, their overhead, and determine if they are meeting their goals of how many people they are helping in the community.
Every year, any agency can apply, and partner agencies have to reapply, for United Way funding. Herrick said there are three qualifications to be able to apply: The agency has to be a 501(c) nonprofit, they need to have an annual audit, and they need to have a localized board for governance and oversight.
Despite lower amounts of funds raised in previous years, Herrick said they expect to have a better fundraising campaign at least by next year.
“In nonprofit business, you always kind of lag a year behind,” he said. “Next year, chances are we’ll have a great campaign, because people will have a year-and-a-half, two years of a good economy.”
Herrick also acknowledged that as the economy recovers, there will still be population segments that need help, and will continue to need help.
Anyone who wishes to donate to United Way of Odessa can do so by visiting unitedwayofodessa.org, or they can donate over the phone by calling their office at 432-332-0941. United Way will be accepting donations until Feb. 15.
“We just want to thank the community of Odessa for the generosity,” Herrick said. “And if they could look within their hearts to help us get from $1.8 million to $2 million, we would certainly appreciate it.”