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United Way pledges down, campaign carries on

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WATERTOWN - The United Way of Northern New York’s 2013 campaign is down, but not out.

While Chief Executive Officer Robert D. Gorman said campaigns in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties are down significantly from the 2012 campaign, there’s plenty of time to forge new partnerships and encourage giving.

He also said the United Way often must wait to determine the level of corporate giving it will receive.

“If they’re a national organization, they may not say until May,” Mr. Gorman said,. “We know the St. Lawrence County number will jump, but I’m not expecting it to be at $130,000, as it was last year.”

For the 2012 campaign, the St. Lawrence County United Way campaign raised $133,790, and thus far for the 2013 campaign, the agency has raised $82,231,25 — so far a $51,558.75 deficit. In Jefferson County, the United Way raised $598,622 in 2012, and has raised $108,121.51 less, $490,500.49, thus far in the 2013 campaign. Lewis County, so far, is up $113, from $60,055 raised in the 2012 campaign to $60,168 so far for the 2013 campaign.

Fewer major, large-scale employers are participating, and businesses that have had contract negotiations and/or layoffs are giving less, both contributing factors in the donation decline. Mr. Gorman said the United Way has knocked on doors to spread the word of need throughout Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties,and will continue to do so in hopes that pledges and donations continue to trickle in.

In Jefferson County, he said, the United Way is still raising money, although participation in the county “waxes and wanes.”

He said the agency is working in Jefferson County with about four businesses to develop their first-ever campaigns. Throughout the fundraising season, he said, the United Way works toward maintaining relationships with donors and establishing new partnerships. Mr. Gorman said the agency also recently has spent time with some nonprofit organizations that were not funded last year, in hopes of resolving any issues.

The United Way hopes to become less reliant on its $1 million endowment to help supplement funds that are awarded to local nonprofits, Mr. Gorman said. For the past few years, the United Way has tapped into that endowment.

“We just can’t keep eating our seed corn,” he said.

Meanwhile, one of the misconceptions Mr. Gorman said he’d heard from people about the United Way is that the agency receives federal funds. He said while that is inaccurate, the agency does receive a fraction of the money collected through the combined federal campaign. So far this year that amount is $7,045, out of a total of about $160,000 collected from area federal employees.

The State Employees Federated Appeal is down in Jefferson/Lewis counties and for St. Lawrence. So far, the Jefferson/Lewis campaign is down $10,736, from $79,270 for the 2012 campaign to $68,534 in 2013. The St. Lawrence County SEFA campaign is down $13,307, from $58,373 for the 2012 campaign to $45,066 so far for 2013.

Some overall campaign highlights so far, such as Beaver River and Copenhagen central school districts having increases in their campaigns, are countered in neighboring counties.

“This year we’re putting a lot of emphasis on St. Lawrence County,” Mr. Gorman said. “There are no public schools that have a United Way campaign.”

He said he knew the United Way’s overall campaign wouldn’t completely turn around in his first year as the organization’s leader, and although donations are down for now, there is a plan in place to get the United Way on an upswing.

“I’ve been very excited; our three campaign chairs have signed up to do it again,” he said. “We’ve started to put together a strong team, so year after year we’re not reinventing the wheel.”

Mr. Gorman said former SUNY Canton President Joseph L. Kennedy, Carthage Republican Tribune and Journal and Republican Managing Editor Jeremiah S. Papineau and Jefferson County Local Development Corp. Deputy CEO David J. Zembiec again will lead campaigns in 2014-15 for St. Lawrence, Lewis and Jefferson counties, respectively.

For more information, visit www.unitedwayofnorthernnewyork.org.

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