Meeting with key business leaders and donors in Boone, Cooper and Howard counties is a high priority for the American Red Cross Heart of Missouri Chapter’s United Way Recovery Committee as they work to make up a $90,000 loss in funding from the Columbia area United Way.
“There are a number of ways corporations, and individuals can help us,” said Dave Griffith, the chapter’s executive director. “One of the ways, obviously, is with a direct donation from that corporation or that donor. Another way, and it’s something the Red Cross has never done in Missouri –ever – is a workplace giving campaign.”
The chapter implemented the United Way Recovery Plan in fall of 2012. Earlier in the year, the Columbia area United Way adopted the “Community Impact” funding model, which focuses on at-risk youth. The model eliminated funding for the Red Cross.
“The reason we haven’t used a workplace giving campaign in the past is because that is the United Way’s primary vehicle for them to collect their donations,” Griffith said. “It’s a lot easier for somebody to have $5 a week taken out of their paycheck than to write a check for $250.”
The chapter’s recovery plan will be carried out in Boone, Cooper and Howard counties.
“Those are the three counties that were impacted,” Griffith said of the funding loss. “We’ll be reaching out to businesses, corporations and individuals in those three counties to get our message out that we need help to replace that $90,000.”
The committee is made up of chapter board members, Mid-Missouri Leadership Council members, concerned citizens and chapter staff.
Members include: Heart of Missouri board member Todd Hoien, the committee chairman; Mid-Missouri Leadership Council members Beth Steele, Randy Gay and Jack Harvey; Steve Houser, of Hawthorn Bank in Columbia; Adam Kinser, of ServiceMASTER in Columbia; and staff members Clayton Kennedy, the community market manager, Nancy Sell, the community development manager and Griffith.
Committee members, who continue to recruit new members, began the campaign Nov. 16 with letters sent to businesses and companies in the area. They are following up with phone calls to set up face-to-face meetings with business and company leaders where they can discuss ways those businesses can help the chapter.
“It’s a two-fold message,” Griffith said. “We will talk about the importance of the United Way money we lost in Columbia. I think anytime you lose $90,000 from your budget it’s a significant blow. We’ve also been able to discover from this is that we not only need to have that United Way money, but we need to have community support.”
Two recent additions to the staff in the Columbia office – Sell, who started in April, and Kennedy, on the job since October - have given the chapter a greater active presence in the area.
“We’ve really started a new campaign in the Columbia area to get the Red Cross name out there,” Griffith said. “For a number of years it wasn’t. We didn’t have a presence there. We got United Way funding. We had volunteers there, but as far as somebody getting out in the community, being involved with Service to Armed Forces, going to the VA hospital and doing a lot of those face of the Red Cross things, it just wasn’t done.
“People drove by our office and if they thought anybody was in that building, it was beyond me. That’s really what we’re trying to do is not only to recover that money from the United Way, but to establish ourselves in the community as a viable partner.”
Griffith emphasized that the loss of area United Way funding in no way diminishes the services the Red Cross provides in the three counties.
“It’s incumbent on us to get the word out and make sure people know what we are doing,” Griffith said. “Responding to fires is not the only thing the Red Cross does. There are numbers we don’t see every day. Like the number of Service to Armed Forces responses we have - the messages and contacts that are made. There are the number of blood drives in a community and the number of CPR and first aid trainings we do. Those are all part of one Red Cross. It’s not just the fires. It’s a total picture.”
Griffith said the committee wants to identify a strategy to replace the United Way funding loss by the end of April. The committee would like to have solid pledges or commitments to make up at least half of the loss, but the timing of the recovery campaign is a factor.
Committee requests are coming during the second half of the fiscal year for many companies.
“When people are planning their budget years, our timing and their timing is not going to be the same,” Griffith said. “If their fiscal year ends in June, then they’ve already made plans for this fiscal year. It may be something we need to look to the future and have them put that in their budget and allocate so much money to us.”
The task may be daunting, but the committee is confident in the response from the area.
“One of things I’ve said before is that in the part of the country we live in, in Central Missouri, is that when the public sees there is a need, when the community sees a need, they rally around and help us,” he said. “I’m hopeful we’re going to recover all $90,000 in the first year. But, we will need the support of the community as a whole, and I’m speaking of all three counties – Boone, Cooper and Howard.
“In other cities where this has happened, it has taken about three years to recover, but after that three-year period some of them have actually received more money that they received from the United Way.”