United Way of Champaign County Is Switching Up Its Fundraising Strategy

CHAMPAIGN—Hundreds of people in Champaign County await mental health care, while more than 300 children went homeless last year. Plus, up to 50 percent of students were not ready for kindergarten. And this year, the United Way is focused on “closing these gaps.”

The United Way of Champaign County raised $3.8 million last year, but the demand for help exceeded those donations.

“We received over this last funding cycle over $4 million in requests,” said Mary Noel, associated director of community engagement. “And so we obviously weren't able to grant all of those.”

This year, the non-profit is switching up its strategy.

“We're kicking off our fundraising campaign, not by focusing on a dollar amount goal, but by focusing on a goal of creating community change in three areas,” said Noel.

Areas that are considered pertinent problems throughout the community, specifically, preparing kids for kindergarten, increasing access to mental health care, and decreasing the number of homeless children.

“We're pretty ready with these areas to make a big difference in the next couple years,” said Noel. “But it just takes a little bit more funding.”

Because United Way funds around 60 programs aimed at addressing these issues. One of them is courage connection, a shelter for homeless women and children that depends on the $75,000 grant it receives to give kids a head start.

“Without that funding through the United Way, we would not be able to provide the developmental programs that we provide for the children here,” said Mary Wallace, director of development at the shelter.

So cash is key.

“We do have long-term goals of reaching four million dollars in a few years,” said Noel. “But it's not about the dollars raised, it's about being able to raise enough money to fund the services that would really help people in our community.”

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