Editorial | Myrtle Beach area United Way leaders seek way for individuals to play larger giving role

06/04/2013 5:12 PM

06/04/2013 5:14 PM

Mike Poston is well aware that he faces challenges as the leader of the next fundraising campaign of the United Way of Horry County and he’s looking at a two-pronged approach for meeting the goal for 2013-14. Poston sees updating the residential prospect list and then following up as a key to increased giving by individuals; secondly, he wants to expand the number of employee drives.

The past two fundraising campaigns have fallen short of the $1,275,000 goals. The latest drive finished at 96.33 percent, United Way president Olivia Garren says. The $1,228,158.16 raised is more than a quarter of a million dollars -- $262,842 -- under the best campaign total.

The numbers illustrate how terribly tough fundraising has become for all nonprofits. Finishing the United Way campaign a bit short certainly does not reflect negatively on the hundreds of volunteers who have worked hard. As Garren puts it, “a lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into those campaigns.’’

The new campaign goal is expected to be set June 12 by the United Way board of directors. At that meeting, the board will decide on the allocations for 40-plus community partners ranging from basic safety net charities organizations such as the Salvation Army, three Helping Hands organizations and CAP in Conway to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and a variety of other youth and family nonprofits. As hurricane season begins, it is well to remember that the Coastal S.C. Chapter of the American Red Cross is among the important agencies of the United Way.

Poston moves into the general campaign chairperson’s role after serving as a United Way volunteer for a decade. He’s chaired the industry segment of the campaign and worked in the allocations review process and been involved in the annual Day of Caring which traditionally kicks off the fundraising drive in September. Poston is a native of Florence County, an electrical engineering graduate of Clemson University and has been with Santee Cooper for 27 years.

Cathe Singleton, a prior general campaign chairperson, is the new chairperson of the board, the United Way has announced. New members of the board include Horry County Schools superintendent Cindy Elsberry and Marc Jordan, CEO of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce.

United Way fundraising segments for industry and employee drives are major producers of contributions. However, the population of Horry County includes many retired folks who are not approached in employee drives. Moreover, Garren notes, many of these residents were “formerly accustomed to United Way giving.’’ She estimates individual contributions may account for 15 percent of overall giving. “We need to expand the opportunity for individuals who are not approached by an employee drive to participate in the United Way campaign.’’ She and Poston are exploring options for expanding the residential campaign.

A small percentage growth in individual giving would have helped recent United Way drives finish at 100 percent or better. Prior to the recessionary economy of recent years, the United Way raised $1,491,000 in the 2007-08 campaign -- over the $1.475 million goal. Contributions fell by $50,000 the following year and the board lowered its sights accordingly, but a $1.4 million campaign was short by $155,000 and the goal was reduced to $1.275 million. It’s been a rough four or five years in many regards, but the economy is looking better and more attention to the residential portion of the campaign is a sound approach.

“I have very high hopes that we’re going to turn fund-raising around,’’ Garren says.

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