“Open for business” was how Ken Oldham, United Way of Frederick County’s executive director, described the Unity Campaign for Frederick in a video published July 10.
Though the bottom line remains well below the $475,000 goal for this year’s fundraising campaign, business was off to a strong start, with more than $55,000 raised as of Monday afternoon, according to the campaign website. And Oldham expected that number to only increase as the clock ticks down to the official “12 days of giving” campaign, which begins Sept. 13.
“Having that early boost is really helpful,” Oldham said in a phone interview Monday. “The rule in fundraising is, the earlier you can raise the money, the better.”
Oldham went on to say he was optimistic based on initial contributions, despite the ambitious fundraising total and record-high 31 Frederick County social services organizations and charities participating in the 2018 collaborative campaign.
The increase in nonprofit beneficiaries comes in part from changes to the eligibility criteria. United Way this year replaced the emphasis from prior fundraisers on services for at-risk youth and emergency human needs with a focus on programs that support health, education and financial stability. This year’s campaign also ties in findings from United Ways of Maryland’s ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) report, which highlighted the plight of families who earn above the federal poverty level but still cannot afford basic necessities.
About 32 percent of Frederick County residents faced this situation in 2014, according to the ALICE report. Local leaders believe the prevalence of ALICE families in Frederick has only increased in the intervening years, data for which will be available when a new report is published later this year.
The 2018 Unity Campaign also features a new crowdsourcing component in which individuals can create “teams” to raise money for specific charities. Forty-eight people had started fundraisers for their chosen nonprofit participants as of Monday. A majority of those who have created independent fundraisers so far are nonprofit employees or board members, although the option is intended to be available to anyone in the community, according to Amanda Holk, United Way’s advancement director.
“The idea is to encourage individuals to go out and find a nonprofit they care about and start a team, and share why they’re passionate about this organization,” Holk said. “We really want the community to feel like they’re involved.”
Donors can contribute to one or more nonprofits, or to the campaign in general. Individual donations will be combined with matching funds from community sponsors. Incentive match contributions account for $50,000 of the money raised so far, Oldham said.
As campaign organizer, United Way will serve as the conduit through which people and businesses can donate to the campaign, and also help solicit donations and sponsorships from community organizations. United Way will also offer a series of training courses and workshops on social media, videos and talking to the press to help participants better solicit donations.
The campaign began in 2014 and until 2017 was hosted through The Community Foundation of Frederick County. The Frederick News-Post is an in-kind sponsor of the campaign, according to the website.