Carmen Derby: United Way faces revenue challenge with ripple-effect


When I think of the mission of United Way of Windham County (UWWC), this observation from Mother Teresa comes to mind: "I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples." For 60 years, UWWC has been that stone, creating ripples of change for the better. But as 2019 begins, we confront a revenue challenge caused by the ripple effects in demographic and economic trends. So, I'm putting the call to action right up front: please step up so UWWC can continue to create the ripples rather than be rocked by them.

Individual donor attrition is a major factor in our revenue shortfall for this time of year. People who have moved away from the area have stopped making annual donations. Others have eliminated or significantly reduced their donations when they retired and a few long-time, high-level donors have passed on.

Compounding these trends is the ongoing challenge we face of outreach to new community members and CEOs of new or restructured businesses to encourage them to support their community through United Way.

Another major revenue challenge stems from closures and restructuring of local businesses that have supported our annual fundraising campaign for many years. UWWC has a long history of working with employers to contribute to the community fund, and employers have embraced this effort as a means to support the community by making it easy for their employees to donate. But this fiscal year alone, we have seen a reduction in corporate donations for reasons ranging from planned staff reductions to business challenges.

What will a funding shortfall mean for Windham County? Quite simply, ripple effects that will adversely affect our community by jeopardizing critical UWWC-supported programs at the same time other organizations are requesting assistance from us for their own funding challenges. Programs that may be imperiled include:

- Free tax preparation that assists approximately 464 working families and last year recouped more than $753,000 in refunds for the community.

- The Kids in Coats program, which has also experienced a large reduction in donations this year while the number of families in need continues to increase, especially in light of a 52 percent increase in the number of children in foster care over last year.

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- The Spark Fund, which provides limited start-up funds to organizations with innovative ideas for programming. Examples include recovery treatments; diaper banks; and a program that helps local high school students focus on alternative ways to deal with stress, relationship building and emotional regulation. These funds offer the only means for launching many new programs in our community.

- Windham County Smiles, which helps qualifying county residents get dentures.

- Volunteer Engagement, a free online system used by more than 60 non-profit organizations to recruit local volunteers.

- Finally, UWWC's ability to support other Windham County organizations through our annual grant process. These grants assist in funding programs that provide, for example, adequate nutrition, case management, leadership training for girls, workforce development and transitional funding for families.

Again, the urgent call to action: Please step up by making a donation to the annual fund. If you're a business owner in Windham County, please consider a corporate donation or partnering with UWWC to create a matching campaign that enables both your company and employees to provide invaluable support for our community. Visit or call 802-257-4011 x118 to help set in motion ripples of positive change. Better yet, with your help, let's make waves in 2019.

By Carmen Derby is executive

director of United Way of Windham County. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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