Closing the books on a milestone campaign

Our 2018-19 annual campaign officially drew to a close last Sunday. We have been actively working in that campaign since last August so it felt tremendous to close the books, take a breath and just reflect. This was a milestone campaign in several ways. It was the first campaign since the 2018 merger. This was the first full campaign cycle experienced by two of our staff members. This campaign saw busier engagement, increased workplaces and hundreds of new donors. It spanned a time of uncertainty as our community faced everything from flooding to work stoppages, a federal shut downs and a political climate that has become polarizing for many. Each of those things alone can impact a fundraising campaign; the combination of them as a whole had a palpable presence alongside our work. Yet those distractions were never deterring. In fact, they seem to be inspiring and bolstering of our efforts. As we work to generate final campaign reports and prepare to make an announcement to the community in the coming days about the 18-19 campaign we are filled with anticipation. We know that we have closed out another successful year at our Untied Way. We are all so anxious to see…and share…that final number!

As we wrap up this campaign cycle, many have asked us about the “down time”, the “off season”. We sometimes chuckle to ourselves when this question is posed, and sometimes we just laugh out loud! The down time never really comes. There is no extended celebration of success. Why is that, some might ask. Why can’t we just take some time to breathe and shift to a lower gear? As a coach who might preach that the championships are won in the off season, we know that the successful campaigns are anchored in the impact we make year round…not just when pledge cards are being handed out. Our work is 365 because the needs of our community are 365. We can give no less than our best effort every day.

Our campaign was successful because of the people who see our work and share our vision. The workplace campaigns and industry partnerships that we have built do not happen because we show up with a brochure and a payroll deduction form. They are existing and strong, because we bridge these corporate partners to the community where they do business. We connect their desire to be good stewards with the opportunities to make a difference. They give generously to our campaign because they have had the opportunity to see and become engaged with the impact that we are making in the community. The individual donor base that we have is an absolute blessing as well. They are concerned citizens from every corner of our community who pick up a checkbook and give from their hearts. Sometimes they give $25, sometimes they give $2500 and the most amazing part is this — EVERY SINGLE DOLLAR makes a difference. These folks see our newspaper columns or our social media posts..sometimes they hear about a project through a friend or a neighbor. They feel compelled to be a part; they realize that their gift can have a colossal impact. Those relationships are built in the “off season.” Those programs are strengthened and showcased in the “down time”. Those bridges of opportunity are built when we are “out of campaign”.

So why do we care so adamantly about the annual campaign and the final results? I have been asked if there is a performance bonus of sorts tie to our success. Again, here comes the chuckling from our end. We don’t function on a bonus system and there is no monetary incentive to our team to ensure that the campaign closes strong each year. The incentive is something far bigger than that and much, much more dire. The success of the annual United Way campaign has a direct and undeniable effect on the local nonprofits and programs in our community. We support dozens of programs with our campaign proceeds. We administer programming that changes, even saves, lives. We create a backbone of stability and a simultaneous opportunity for growth and collaboration. The impact our campaign dollars makes is local — it makes a difference for our neighbors, our families, our friends and our co-workers. A successful campaign for your United Way is a victory for our community. The opportunity to make a difference that colossal and that far reaching….it’s too big of an opportunity to take a break from.

Stay tuned as we will be announcing our 18-19 campaign report in the coming days. And keep watching, as we keep the wheels in motion and the gears grinding for even greater successes on the horizon.

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Stacy DeCicco is the executive director of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

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