United Way: Early returns show sluggish start

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By Marty Finley


By MARTY FINLEY mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com

HARDIN COUNTY — Early returns for the United Way of Central Kentucky’s 2008 Live United campaign are showing slightly sluggish numbers, with some regular contributors turning in totals below what they did last year, said Executive Director Susan Asher.

Asher said the organization has collected about $200,000 so far, about $15,000 off last year’s pace. That has led to some concern as returns continue to roll in. Asher said there is no solid evidence the trend will continue, but additional donation decreases could accumulate to a significant loss.

“We’re cautious, that’s what we are; we’re cautious,” Asher said.

United Way of Central Kentucky set a goal of $1.1 million for this campaign after reaching its goal of $1 million last year. Asher said it was too early to gauge the possibility of reaching the goal with only 20 percent of donations collected, though. Fifty percent of returns will likely be in by late November and 85 percent should be collected by mid-December, Asher said. The campaign ends Dec. 31.

Asher attributed the decrease in funding to the waning economy with both businesses and individuals afflicted in the midst of a volatile market and credit crunch.

But Asher said United Way has faced critical periods before, such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, with that year’s campaign kicking off the following day. The organization prepared for the worst, armed with an expectation that money would leave the county to aid people in New York. Hurricane Katrina also posed a potential challenge, yet Asher said both campaigns fared well.

This year, however, the mixture of frustrations and fears is creating a mood not felt in the United Way of Central Kentucky’s history.

“This is definitely the toughest year we’ve had,” Asher said.

Asher said the reaction is understandable, as people normally like to hang onto their money when the economy is struggling.

“There’s just a lot of apprehension,” she said.

Despite the early setbacks, one avenue of success the United Way has found is with individual donations of more than $1,000, also known as the Leadership Giving Program. Asher said United Way plans to utilize those successes to offset some of the losses.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762.