“The United Way depends heavily on the support of hundreds of individual donors,” said Tom Blanchard, the United Way’s campaign chairman, against a backdrop of jockeys on horses.
Although the event presented some lighthearted fun such as best hat contest and an animated race of five top “pacesetter” companies and their respective horses, the reason behind it is more serious.
“Since 2007, it’s really been difficult raising dollars,” said LaVerne Gold, the organization’s president and chief executive officer. “The needs are still there, but there are different needs. Now, we are seeing previous donors on the receiving end. These are not the traditional people receiving assistance. They have no idea of how the system works or where to begin to find help.”
The United Way provides funding for 44 programs in 23 agencies. Through the United Way, organizations such as the Salvation Army provide 300 meals a day to those in need, and Safe Homes of Augusta helped more than 2,000 domestic violence victims in the area.
This year’s goal is slightly less than last year’s. In 2012, the organization set its target at $4.15 million and raised more than $4,153,000. Despite the challenges in the economy, Gold said she believes the goal is attainable.
“We know people want to give,” she said. “This has always been a giving community.”
Also at Monday’s meeting, Gold presented the United Way Worldwide “Spirit of America Summit Awards” to local representatives of Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Comcast.
To encourage a healthy competition among businesses, the United Way initiated a Triple Crown challenge. At its annual meeting in February when it announces its fundraising totals, the United Way will honor corporate campaigns with the best model campaign, highest percentage of increase in per capita giving and greatest percentage of increase in employee participation. If one company wins in all three areas, it will be named the Triple Crown winner.