United Way helps us dig deep for our community

By Dan Ingham

For almost a century United Way of Waco-McLennan County has worked to address the needs and provide services for individuals and families in our community. In 2017 we centralized that work to focus on the areas of health, education, financial stability, and safety net services. 

This focus of need can come in many forms. It could be ensuring our most vulnerable families have access to food and nutrition, assisting victims of abuse, helping young adults who do not have a home to go to at night, counseling support for mental health issues, or a wide variety of many other services.

The work and commitment of your United Way has remained steadfast to core principles of community need, community investment, community will. We ensure philanthropic dollars are strategically invested in the areas of greatest need through high-impact programming, and that the granting of those dollars is led by Community Investment Councils and guided by rigorous standards of reporting and accountability. 

Responding to COVID-19

When the COVID-19 pandemic surfaced this past spring the immediate needs throughout our community quickly became much more serious and wide-spread. Many families were suddenly put in the new position of not having the income they once had, and for many the needs spiraled out of control. Suddenly, there were a higher number of concerns about meeting the very basics of feeding a family, paying the rent and utilities, and finding childcare so that parents could work. 

By the end of April, United Way of Waco–McLennan County and Waco Foundation provided lead gifts and partnered to create the COVID-19 Community Response Fund. Within 90 days, the fund provided more than a quarter of a million dollars to support the work of our nonprofit community that was being asked, in real time, to quickly rise to the challenge of meeting these needs. Through the generosity of local companies and many individuals, our community rose to the occasion.

While thousands of people were helped, the pandemic continues, new needs arise, and long-term needs compound. The needs are greater than ever. That is what makes the success of this year’s United Way Annual Campaign even more critical.  United Way knows that our primary obligation is to ensure our nonprofit partners have the support they need to do the hard work we ask them to do and need them to do — every day.

Nonprofits need your support to continue providing services

United Way’s 22 Funded Partners and 33 funded programs rely on funding from contributions to the Annual Campaign to continue meeting needs throughout the coming year. These organizations have already missed out on numerous fundraising opportunities in 2020 and have lost critical operating dollars.  

Here is what we know to be true. In August of this year, 82% of Texas nonprofits reported to United Ways of Texas, our state association, that they were experiencing a reduction in revenue due to the cancellation of programs and events. Alongside that inability to fundraise, 62% of these same nonprofits reported an increase in demand for client services. These findings are in direct alignment to a local survey United Way of Waco-McLennan County commissioned this fall. 81% of McLennan County families say the pandemic has had a direct impact on their finances, and 63% are concerned about their mental health.  

These findings confirm what we know to be true—our trusted nonprofits are being asked to do more with less. Each agency has had to make financial adjustments to simply make it through the year. I understand quite well that this is no different than what many other businesses in our community are facing right now. Yet, when our neighbors, whose income is negatively affected because of business disruptions, find themselves in need of assistance, where do they turn for help?  Many look to nonprofit organizations like United Way’s Funded Partners.

Together, we can rise to meet this challenge

This year’s United Way Annual Campaign has faced many new challenges, much like our community at-large. Some of our long-time supporters are just not in the position to help as they have before. Others have stepped up their support because they are able. Through it all, United Way recognizes and appreciates every contribution, no matter its size.

Our community has risen to meet whatever challenges are facing us many times before. As one community we will persevere and find a way to take care of our neighbors in need. United Way and our Funded Partners must help those who have little hope for the future. United Way is needed now more than ever. Your support is appreciated more than ever, and yes, needed more than ever.

To give and learn more, visit UnitedWayWaco.org/donate. 

Dan Ingham is resource development chair of United Way of Waco-McLennan County and vice president of communications & marketing at The First National Bank of Central Texas. 

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