People are somewhat sheepish when they ask Dawn Miller, executive director of United Way of Southeast Alaska, if there is a minimum amount they have to give in the organization's payroll deduction fund-raising program.
"There's no minimum to what people can give," she said. "Whatever a person gives is just totally fantastic."
People at all income levels donate to the United Way, Miller said. And every dollar they give, whether it's to a specific charity or to the United Way's general fund, is appreciated.
"We do have corporate sponsors, but I would say for every one business person out there making a large donation there are probably three people doing payroll deduction and they're doing it very happily," Miller said.
The United Way, a nonprofit umbrella group that provides funds to 30 charities in Southeast Alaska, has reached the midpoint in its annual fund-raising drive.
About one-third of the $625,000 goal has been raised, said Miller.
"It's going OK, but we're hoping to pick it up a notch in November," she said.
A large part of the funds raised in the annual drive comes from a payroll deduction program for federal, state and private-sector employees. A monthly donation is automatically deducted from a participant's pre-tax salary.
Participants can donate to specific charities such as Helping Hands, the Southeast Alaska Council of Boy Scouts of America, and Hospice and Homecare of Haines, or they can designate the donation for the United Way general fund.
The past year was particularly difficult for fund-raising, so donations are needed even more than usual, said representatives of several United Way agencies.
Fund raising for nonprofit agencies in Southeast Alaska these days is "just in the pits," said Lane Stumme, scout executive for the Southeast Alaska Council of Boy Scouts of America. "It's just desperate."
The council raises most of its $300,000 budget from individual donations, said Stumme. About $8,000 comes from United Way.
"I would love for the United Way to play a bigger role in our annual budget," he said. "But it just doesn't seem like they can raise enough money for everybody."
The campaign among federal employees, which ended at the end of October, brought in about as much money this year as it did last year, Miller said.
The total amount raised hasn't been tallied for that campaign, so the United Way doesn't know how much of the federal-employee contributions will stay in Southeast Alaska, she said.
"We're hoping to see an increase in donations to Southeast folks," she said. Federal employees "can give to all over the world, so sometimes the donations don't stay here."
Historically, about 60 percent of the money collected from federal employees in Southeast goes to charities outside of the region, Miller said.
The fund-raising campaign for state employees will run through the end of November, Miller said. The private-sector campaign, which began in mid-October, will last to the beginning of December.
The agency is taking a slightly different approach to its fund-raising campaign this year, she said.
"With the whole move toward community-supported health and human services programs, we felt like we wanted to take the emphasis back to the community," said Miller.
So she asked Juneau legislators Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch and Rep. Beth Kerttula and Sen. Kim Elton to chair the campaign committee. They accepted the invitation.
"I think the United Way is an important umbrella organization to provide funds for the spectrum of programs here in the capital that benefit the entire community," Weyhrauch said.
Christine Schmid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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