United Way of Bay County aims to raise $1 million

Rob Clark has a million reasons to believe in the generosity of Bay County.

Clark, who is chairing the United Way of Bay County 2019 campaign, believes in the community’s ability to raise $1 million to fund programs addressing self-sufficiency, literacy, and substance abuse issues in the area.

The Campaign Cabinet recommended a fundraising goal of $823,000. But Clark knows the community can do better. He raised the campaign goal to $1 million.

“I believe in challenging not only ourselves, but challenging this community to rise up and help raise money that is absolutely vital,” Clark says.

The campaign kicked off Sept. 5. The end date is difficult to pinpoint. Many United Way donations come through payroll deductions. While the official campaign lasts 9 weeks, businesses ask their employees to commit to payroll deductions at different times of the year. Some in the fall, but many businesses won’t ask employees to commit until spring 2020, says Marybeth Laisure, United Way of Bay County executive director.

Clark hopes to hit the $1 million mark within a year.

While funds keep coming in, the United Way keeps helping local agencies meet the community’s needs. Laisure said the agency changed its fundraising cycle and model in 2018. See the Route story about the new funding model.

The United Way of Bay County, located at 909 Washington Ave. in Bay City, has always allocated the fund received toward the goal of bettering Bay County. In 2018, it began requiring agencies asking for funding to target one of three specific priority areas. The goal was to create significant, long-term improvement. The funding model also changed to 2-year cycles.

“The United Way switched from funnel dollars directly to the agencies,” Clark says. “Now they funnel them to the programs hosted by the agencies. We have three focus or impact areas – helping people become self-sufficient, literacy, and programs that deal with mental health as it applies to drug and alcohol abuse.”

The 2019 campaign priority areas are described in more detail in the 2019 campaign video, available on You Tube.

United Way calls the agencies receiving the funding “impact partners.” “We call them impact partners because they’re the ones having the impact, they’re doing the work,” Clark says.

The 18 Impact Partners who could receive allocations from the 2019 campaign include:

  • 211
  • American Red Cross
  • Bay Area Women’s Center
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Great Lakes Bay Region
  • Boy Scouts of America
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of the Great Lakes Bay Region
  • CAN Council of the Great Lakes Bay Region
  • Catholic Family Services
  • Do-All Inc.
  • The Dow Bay Area Family Y
  • Girl Scouts
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Hidden Harvest
  • Literacy Council of Bay County
  • Mid-Michigan Community Action Agency
  • New Dimensions
  • Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Center
  • YWCA of the Great Lakes Bay Region

Each of the agencies has the ability to improve the community through the three priority areas. “All three of those things are critical pieces to having a successful community and they are things we need to address in Bay County,” Clark says. “There’s a huge need in all three areas in this county.”

Another key to raising the money, and awareness of issues in the community, is the United Way Pillars Club. The Pillars Club consists of people who donate at least $1,000 to the United Way. Traditionally, about 160 people have been in the club. This year, Clark wants to raise the number to 200.

“To do that, obviously we’re going to be thanking our existing PIllar Club members for their past gifts and asking them to re-up,” Clark says. He’ll also look for donors giving slightly less than $1,000 and ask them to consider increasing their donations.

Clark also hopes to post large poster board thermometers around town so people can see how much has been raised. “We haven’t done that in recent years,” Clark says. “I really believe that for a community to come together to raise that kind of money, you have to show them progress.”

He expects the thermometers to build pride in the community too as people have visual evidence of the generosity of their neighbors and colleagues. “If we don’t make it to a million, or we don’t make it to $823,000, the world is going to continue to spin and we’re going to continue to fund our partner programs. But we can do this in Bay County. We can raise a million dollars. I know we can.”

Clark doesn’t just believe in the community’s generosity and the ability of the Impact Partners to transform lives, he also believes in the United Way itself.

“The great thing about the United Way campaign is when you’re sitting down to talk about giving back to a community, nobody has the time to sift through 18 organizations and check out their missions and write checks and have those connections,” Clark says.

“That’s what the United Way does for you. Your money flows through the United Way and you’re impacting 18 organizations that are doing vital work for this community. The United Way makes it so simple.”


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