Editorial | New United Way president has plans for 2015 campaign

Only six weeks in her new job running the United Way of Horry County, Genie Sherard has a plan for reaching the goal of the upcoming 2015 fundraising drive. The board of directors Tuesday set the same goal —$1.275 million — as for the past four campaigns.

The most recent campaign raised 93 percent of the goal, $1.2 million. Some recent fundraising drives have been closer and the board has used reserves to avoid cutting allocations. For the 2014-15 United Way year, allocations were reduced, according to marketing and communications coordinator Tracy Vreeland. “We hope next year to meet the goal” and maintain or increase allocations to the 40-plus community partners — all nonprofits that provide a variety of vital services to Horry County residents.

Sherard spoke last week at the Rotary Club of Little River and was asked about her approach for reaching the goal of the annual fundraising drive. “One of the first things is setting a deadline,’’ Sherard said, describing a “campaign blitz” from mid-September to mid-December — specifically, this year, Sept. 12 to Dec. 12. The past several campaigns have entered the New Year at approximately 90 percent of the goal. A telephone blitz has been held in February and the campaigns have limped into March.

A year ago, the extended campaign raised $1,228,158 or 96.33 of the $1.275 million goal. That seems not-so-bad, and it’s mighty close — but only seven years ago, the total was $1,491,000 — several thousand dollars over the $1.475 million goal. With the economy starting to turn sour, United Way of Horry County realistically lowered the goal.

The results of the last four campaigns, reaching totals close to the goal but not there, illustrate the depth of the Recession of 2008, as the downturn is officially termed. United Way campaigns are significant economic indicators and the reality is that in dollars raised, 2014 was $267,488 short of 2008. The shortfall is not due to lack of effort on the part of the many dedicated United Way volunteers. Indeed, some divisions of the campaign have reached their goals — and early in the campaign.

We imagine a deadline will be welcomed by most United Way volunteers; Sherard acknowledges that employers’ payroll deduction drives, a most important segment of the overall campaign, are done when the company wants to do them. In Georgetown County, for example, one of the major employers holds its drive in April.

Sherard is also looking at more emphasis on the residential segment of the campaign, an effort started a year ago. Horry County has many retirees who likely are long-time contributors to United Way but, having retired, are no longer in payroll deduction plans.

A native of Anderson, Sherard worked for 30 years in marketing for IBM Corporation. In 2011, she joined United Way for Southeastern Michigan (Detroit) as director of the Alexis de Tocqueville Society, the United Way organization for individuals who donate $10,000 or more to a campaign. In three years, metropolitan Detroit’s Tocqueville Society saw an 80 percent increase in members. A couple of additional donors in that category surely would be a boon to United Way of Horry County.