Technically, United Way of the CSRA chairman Mark Maund set no goal for this year's campaign. It was an intriguing, out-of-the-box challenge.
But in truth, the benchmark will undoubtedly be last year's catch of just over $4 million. If that amount isn't at least met, United Way agencies will do with less money this year. Needs will go unmet.
And if the economy continues to slow, the Catch-22 of need will rear its ugly head: There will be less money available to help at a time when our neighbors' needs are greatest.
At this writing, the campaign was at about $3.2 million -- and normally, the campaign is wrapped up by this point, in advance of the annual meeting in February.
But the campaign without a specific goal will now have an equally ambiguous end: There's still time to give.
If your company has been meaning to run a campaign, please do so. It's not too late at all.
If your company wasn't planning on it, but is amenable to jumping in and doing even a modest campaign, please do so. Maund and the staff at the United Way of the CSRA, headed up by LaVerne Gold, make it as easy as can be. Call them at (706) 724-5544. They'll be with you all the way.
If you're thinking your employees may be sheepish about giving due to the economy, don't assume that: It's times like these that actually bring out the generosity in people. They understand that human needs increase during tough times.
And no gift is too small. It all adds up. We all just do what we can.
There are 19 area human service agencies that depend on United Way money to make it through the year. United Way makes it easy to help all or any of them you'd like.
We are intimately familiar with the United Way process -- and we can tell you that you'd honestly by astounded at the level of accountability and efficiency in it. United Way staff and volunteers monitor the recipient agencies' policies and procedures and efficiencies constantly.
In addition, the United Way requires strict accountability for outcomes: The funded programs must demonstrate, tangibly, that they are making a difference in people's lives.
The United Way itself also runs the 211 dispatch system. Similar to 911, 211 is a number to call to inquire about either receiving or providing human services of all kinds in the CSRA. The 211 system makes referrals not just to the 19 United Way agencies, but to more than 70 agencies in the business of helping people down on their luck.
And those who give just $12 a month -- $144 a year -- can be members of the United Way Caring Club, a group of 40-some area vendors offering discounts on merchandise, services, food and beverages to Caring Club members. It's not long before that contribution to United Way is paid for through Caring Club discounts, either.
There may be no technical dollar amount or deadline for the United Way campaign. But the need is there now, and we're falling behind in meeting it.
There's still time. But the time is now.