Donations from local residents boosted United Way of Sumner County’s annual fundraising campaign to a third consecutive record-setting total in 2016, a feat last accomplished in 1995.
According to United Way of Sumner County (UWSC) officials, the 2016 Campaign, which began in April 2016 and ended on March 31, raised $945,224. The new record amount is an increase of $14,825 (1.59%) over the $930,399 raised the previous year. The fundraising total was announced at the organization’s annual Awards Breakfast on April 13.
The organization had set an ambitious $1 million goal for its 2016 campaign, but UWSC President & CEO Dana M. Given said exceeding the previous year’s total was in doubt until the final days of the campaign.
“At one point, we were $81,000 down,” Given said. “A company we work with closed, some changed the structure of their corporate donations, and others decided not to do a campaign this year. Things happened that were totally outside our control, challenging things, and we had no idea how we were going to overcome them or how this campaign was going to end.”
Given said the final months of the campaign presented many questions.
“How do you make up $81,000 when the average donor to our United Way gives $157 a year? All I can say is that you all did it,” Given said. “We have about 4,000 people who give to our United Way, and we put the word out, dug under every rock, and rattled every tree. We have incredible leadership on our Board, and we told them, ‘we need your help, we need people to step up, and we need you to connect with people that maybe you’d never thought of connecting with before.’ It was through an incredible number of people working together that made this happen, and I can’t thank every one of you enough.”
According to UWSC Board Chair Leisa Byars, the work accomplished with donated dollars is the true measure of the organization’s importance.
“We celebrate with grateful hearts,” Byars said. “I think we all know this doesn’t just happen. We could never do this without the support of our community. Thank you to all the organizations and businesses that have opened their doors to United Way, whether for a campaign, as sponsors for our events, or for providing volunteers. Thank you to all the individuals who gave, and everyone who volunteered to help us achieve great things.
“The beauty of United Way is that it truly reflects the best of our community. It’s the community coming together to LIVE UNITED and help those in need. Every one of these dollars will help change lives. It’s more than just a number and stats that we talk about. It really is about the stories of families and how through this number, $945,224, and our collective efforts, that families will be fed, children will be able to attend a quality preschool, shelter will be available to those in need, the working uninsured will have healthcare, and a host of other needs will be met.”
Even after a third straight fundraising record, Byars said there is more work to be done.
“Our county is growing, and the need continues to grow,” Byars said. “Thank you for this year, which is truly cause for celebration, but get ready. There is much more work to be done, and we will need your continuing help and support.”
Over the past seven years, United Way of Sumner County has increased its fundraising by 51 percent, but reaching the goal of raising $1 million has remained elusive. UWSC 2016 Campaign Chair and Gallatin Economic Development Agency Director James Fenton told the audience that not reaching the $1 million goal is not a sign of failure.
“When I was asked to chair this campaign, it was with the understanding that, for the third year in a row, the board had set a goal of raising $1 million,” Fenton said. “I wholeheartedly signed on with every intention of helping us get to that. We didn’t get there, but I can tell you that everyone involved can hold their head high. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, it wasn’t for a lack of effort, or a lack of giving. Stuff happens, and sometimes life gets in the way, and there is certainly no shame in not reaching that goal. If we reach our goals all the time, then we probably didn’t set them high enough. I am excited and extremely proud of what we have accomplished here.”
Fenton, who has agreed to return as Campaign Chair for the 2017 Campaign, presented those gathered with a fresh perspective on raising even more money in the coming year.
“At a recent meeting I attended, we were given a quote by Paul Stumb, the president of Cumberland University,” Fenton said. “He told us that, as leaders, it’s not our job to lead a horse to water, nor to make him drink. It is instead our job to make him thirsty. As we head into the 2017 campaign, I would ask all of you, as leaders, to join us as we move forward. Let it not be our pursuit to let people know where to give and how to give, but let it be instead our goal to let people know why to give. Let’s make them thirsty to help our community. If we do that, we will reach any goal we set for our campaign.”
With the 2016 fundraising campaign in the record books, UWSC Board Chair-Elect and Sumner County Director of Schools Dr. Del Phillips said there is extra motivation to raise $1 million in 2017.
“This year, 2017, is the 40th anniversary of United Way of Sumner County, and there is no better time to reach our goal of raising $1 million,” Phillips said. “It was only a couple of years ago that we were trying to raise $800,000 for the first time, so we can do this. In the school system, we get to see families and children every day who receive a helping hand, not a hand out, from their fellow citizens because of the work done by United Way and its partner agencies. This is a wonderful county we live in, and we are all blessed to be a part of it. Being a part of United Way is a great way to give back to our community.”
Phillips challenged everyone to begin thinking about how to energize and grow their fundraising efforts in the coming year.
“We have steadily been marching toward $1 million, and after three consecutive years of gains, we’re not that far off,” Phillips said. “If you’re like me, I’m sitting here trying to figure out what percentage of growth we’re going to need, both by growing existing campaigns and adding new ones, to close that $55,000 gap. It’s a target we can make next year for sure, and we will have a big celebration when we wrap up our 40th anniversary year with an extra digit on our total.”
In addition to announcing 2016 fundraising results, the event honored fundraisers and volunteers who helped make the past year a successful one for UWSC. Award winners announced at the breakfast were:
- Hugh Carpenter Award for Best Fundraising Campaign – Sumner County Schools.
- Terry Colwell Volunteer of the Year – Pat Gizelar for leading UWSC’s transition to a paperless grant application and allocations process.
- Regina Bartlett Fundraiser of the Year - The Boots & Bling Organizing Committee for raising $40,000 at UWSC’s signature fundraising event in March.
- Leadership Givers Award (Most funds raised through donations larger than $500)– Publix Super Markets in Gallatin, Goodlettsville, and Hendersonville.
- Torchbearer Award (Highest total of employee giving) – Sumner County Schools.
- Newcomers Award for best New Campaign – Windham Professionals in Hendersonville.
- Learning to Give Award (Largest school campaign) – Hendersonville High School for raising $8,816.
- Most Improved Campaign – Indian Lake Elementary School for boosting its United Way contributions by $3,800 (176%).
- Best Campaign Event – TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center for its parade and pep rally.
- Most Innovative Campaign Activity – Sumner County Schools Central Office for its United Way dress-up days.
- David Brown Parrish Award (Best Partner Agency Campaign) – Senior Citizens of Hendersonville.
Photos and additional award details can be found in the 2016 Campaign Celebration Photo Blog.
United Way of Sumner County is a non-profit charity that works to improve the daily lives and future opportunities of Sumner County residents through its financial support of 31 local health and human service agencies that meet needs in the areas of education, income/financial stability, health, and rebuilding lives. In addition to its fundraising efforts, the organization works to address needs in the community through its Days of Action events: Days of Caring community projects, Stuff the Bus school supply drive, and Kids Coat Drive. For more information on United Way of Sumner County and to find out how you can get involved in making a difference in the community, visit www.unitedwaysumner.org.