COVID hurting 2020 United Way campaign

By David J. Coehrs - [email protected]

It’s been a rough start for United Way of Fulton County’s 2020 fundraising campaign, and Executive Director Gina Rossman is trying to remain positive the projected goal can be met.

With the kick-off delayed until August this year due to the coronavirus, the campaign and its targeted $320,000 total began in the red due to a significant drop in payroll deduction pledges. They typically provide 66% of United Way’s annual donations but were waylaid this year due to the struggle COVID-19 has placed on businesses.

“Because we rely on payroll deduction pledges, if the employees were not working their pledges were not fulfilled,” Rossman said. “So we’re looking at the largest collectible loss in the history of the organization.”

And due to the pandemic, the traditional fundraising campaigns 38 county businesses normally hold for United Way now create health concerns. Rossman said this year’s late start and the subsequent lack of business campaigns has led to significantly lower company contributions.

“They, definitely in their hearts, want to be supportive. It’s an unusual year. We’re facing a lot of new obstacles,” she said.

Private donations solicited through a residential mailing campaign appear to be on track, Rossman added. But the struggle this year to collect anticipated business donations is placing the United Way’s fundraising goal out of reach.

“I try to always be positive but it’s not a real positive situation,” Rossman said. “And, obviously, the need has been different and larger than normal, so we’re just trying to figure out how we can get the word out there that we’re still here and we’ve been helping people through this very, very difficult year. It’s the core of why United Way exists.”

She said the non-profit needs individuals and businesses that can to step up and help overcome 2020’s campaign hurdles, “so that programs and services can go on uninterrupted and we can continue to provide help for those that need it. We’re just trying to get the appeal out there that we need their help.”

Significantly lower donations will mean the United Way board of directors will have to decide how to distribute the funds collected. “Come January, we’ll see what we have to work with, then we’ll have to go from there and decide where the greatest need lies,” Rossman said.

Thirty-two non-profit county programs benefit from the organization’s funding, including the American Red Cross and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts chapters. Funding also goes to internal United Way of Fulton County programs.

A veteran of 22 United Way campaigns in the county, Rossman said its uncertain this year’s goal will be met.

“Right now, it’s not looking like it, but I’m hoping still,” she said. “The recession was rough, but we rose above, and I feel confident, with the strength of our organization, that we will do that again. I know we can weather the storm.”

The deadline to contribute is Dec. 31. Contributions can be made by calling 419-337-9606 or sending them to United Way of Fulton County, 604 S. Shoop Ave., Suite 122, Wauseon, Ohio 43567.

By David J. Coehrs

[email protected]

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.