United Way Kicks Off
Annual Campaign Goes Online to Reach Supporters
For the first time, United Way kicked off our annual campaign on Oct. 1 without the aid of a large fundraising event. In past years, we would host the Annual Campaign Kickoff event as a rally to start the fundraising season. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a health and economic crisis in Northwest Louisiana, and United Way is not immune to its effects. Fundraising and corporate giving for us are down significantly, but our work has never been more necessary.
COVID-19 has also significantly impacted our campaign model. LaToria W. Thomas, vice president of resource development, and her team made the decision to update the United Way website and create online resources in an effort to overcome our inability to hold face-to-face campaign events at workplaces. Unfortunately, we find that it’s the personal connection with our donors that helps us fundraise for our internal programs and the dozens of community programs we support.
Current public health restrictions will hinder us from making those connections. We worry that our donors will perceive us as “out of sight, out of mind.”
Though this year has brought many challenges, we are very optimistic that the community will come together to provide the resources that are important to so many throughout Northwest Louisiana. Several of our corporate partners, such as AEP SWEPCO, CenterPoint, IP Mansfield, Atmos Energy and many more, have already launched their annual fundraising activities. While this is exciting, other corporate partners will be unable to participate in the 2020 United Way Campaign due to layoffs, furloughed employees, economic instability and more, making it difficult for us to reach this year’s $1.3 million fundraising goal.
We have one primary message that we want to convey: COVID-19 may be front and center on everyone’s mind, but all of the issues we had before the pandemic are still here. ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) families continue to struggle to make ends meet. COVID-19 and, more recently, the hurricanes are only making these financial issues worse.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we did not close programs; we increased them. In March, Louisiana 211, health and human services hotline, expanded its calls and texting capabilities to respond to requests for assistance related to COVID-19. In April, we launched the United for NWLA Fund, an emergency assistance fund that has provided over $50,000 to individuals and families affected financially by the pandemic. In May, the Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) began welcoming new clients to offer one-to-one financial counseling services. To date, the FEC has helped clients reduce over $50,000 in debt. Over the past six months, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has increased the number of children enrolled in the program.
United Way has a motto: Give. Advocate.Volunteer. We hope to count on you to help us reach our ambitious campaign goal this year and provide much-needed programs and services to the community.
Donations to the 2020 campaign can be made online at www.unitedwaynwla. org/donate. If your company wants to become a corporate partner, contact LaToria Thomas at tori@unitedwaynwla. org or (318)606-6589.
Dr. Bruce Willson Jr., president and CEO, United Way of Northwest Louisiana