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United Way exceeds campaign goal

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More money expected with some campaigns still active

By Marty Finley

The challenge has been met and surpassed.

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United Way of Central Kentucky officials Thursday announced the agency broke its goal to raise $1,025,000 for its 2011 campaign, raking in roughly $1,031,236 before a press conference at The Cecilian Bank’s Hillcrest Banking Center on Leitchfield Road.

Campaign Chairwoman Marilyn Ford admitted the goal was steep and significantly higher than last year’s total, which was less than $950,000, but she said the five-county region served by United Way rose to the occasion to set a record campaign total.

United Way of Central Kentucky has cracked the $1 million mark only one other time in its history, raising around $1,013,000 in 2007.

Ford said there still are  active campaigns so officials expect the total to rise before the campaign’s cutoff at the end of the month.

Leadership chairman Brian Kerr said United Way saw a great response from its leadership givers, which pledge to donate $1,000 or more. In this area, the agency recorded about a 36 percent increase in giving, he said.

United Way also launched an emerging leader category of giving between $500 and $999 that had about 160 participants during the campaign, Kerr added.

Executive Director Christopher Wilborn said around 64 companies saw increases in workplace campaigns over 2010 totals and roughly 24 companies partnered with United Way for the first time to launch workplace campaigns.

Each gift has had a magnified effect, Wilborn added, and he dismissed any notion that a gift is too small to matter.

“I would argue on the contrary, it really does (matter),” Wilborn said.

All three agreed the increases in giving this year can be tied to the ability to get in front of companies and individuals and share stories of those who have benefited from United Way. Ford said they also have looked to “gatekeepers” within organizations to pitch United Way’s mission and build trust that the money donated will be used wisely.

Ford said she has had an opportunity to personally meet those who have turned to United Way for help this year, and those face-to-face conversations have touched her life and left her emotional.

“You tell the story, people respond,” Ford said.

Wilborn said United Way has worked to make giving accessible and easy for donors as well.

With the goal met and money collected, the focus now shifts to disbursing money back into the communities of Breckinridge, Grayson, Hardin, LaRue and Meade counties based on the focus of education, income and health on which United Way has built its foundation, Wilborn said.

The deadline to apply for a United Way grant is March 7 and more than 40 organizations have expressed interest in funding, Wilborn said. Meeting the goal will help United Way answer these needs more effectively, he said.

As applications pour in, hundreds of hours will be put into research by the community investment team to determine where donated money should be placed, Wilborn added.

Wilborn said the team will review the financials and budgets of each applicant to determine how compelling and appropriate the need is and how the organization’s mission matches up with the alignment of education, income and health espoused by United Way. Wilborn said the agency also will determine if an applicant can be efficient and effective with grant money.

“Really, our work’s just now beginning,” he said.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.