United Way of Bartholomew County’s string of five consecutive record fund-raising campaigns has come to an end.

The local agency’s 2016 resulted in $4.11 million, slightly less than its $4.24 million raised for the 2015 drive.

But United Way President Mark Stewart said the latest figure falls short of telling the full financial story. United Way’s overall revenue for 2016 was up over 2015 because of program grant money that came in separately from the fund drive, he said.

That includes a $100,000 grant from the Cummins Foundation to launch a new program to fight generational poverty and a $212,000 grant from Columbus Regional Health Foundation for a program called Premium Link. It helps low-income families pay monthly health insurance premiums.

Some of those details surfaced after the nonprofit agency’s annual meeting and 50th anniversary celebration at Factory 12 Event Loft.

The annual campaign allows United Way to fund 22 nonprofit agencies operating 33 programs, ranging from mentoring youth to helping victims of domestic violence to assisting the jobless to find work.

“We’ve seen this (possibility) coming for some time,” Stewart said of the year-over-year decline in campaign funds. “That’s one of the additional reasons we want to be careful to diversify our funding.

“Because we’re always going to have some years where the campaign dips.

“So, it’s important for us to work to have strong grant opportunities.”

United Way agencies should be funded in a healthy fashion without the need for trimming allocations, as the overall amount of money that United Way will distribute into the community increased over last year, he said.

“Our agencies really will not be impacted (negatively),” Stewart said.

A total of 88 percent of the local United Way’s funds go directly for programs, according to charitynavigator.com, a leading national measurement for nonprofits’ trustworthiness and effectiveness. The national agency in December gave the local United Way a four-star rating — its highest.

Whittney Loyd, United Way’s director of resource development, saluted campaign leaders from local businesses.

“No one balances the necessity of fundraising with the passion for community better than that of our campaign champions,” said Loyd, who moved into her post seven months ago.

She had campaign champions step to the front and saluted them for their work, which included taking pies in the face, kissing wild animals “and embarrassing yourself 800 other ways to make money for United Way.”

Outgoing United Way chairman Tom Brosey mentioned that a tweaked agency mission statement now refers to being “united to mobilize people and strengthen lives in our community.”

“And we certainly have seen evidence of that this evening,” he said.

New chairwoman Jenny Manns, a six-year board member, said a continued emphasis on agency collaboration will mark the work of 2017.

“And inclusion will be at the forefront of everything we do,” Manns said.

She said the emphasis on increasing residents’ financial stability, which began three years ago, will continue to be a key to United Way’s work this year.

The awards

United Way of Bartholomew County presented the following awards:

  • Give Award – Bob and Elizabeth Crider for their generosity over the years.
  • Advocate Award – Bill Mahoney for his work on Centra Credit Union campaigns that have seen a big boost in giving and overall participation.
  • Volunteer award – Mark Mathis and Mike Brinker for their work to repair local houses with United Way agencies’ help and to Cassie Kuczmanski for her work with volunteer tax return preparation for local residents.
  • Agency Leadership Award – Julie Miller, executive director at Family Service Inc. She was lauded for everything from fundraising support to listening skills.
  • Live United Award – Enkei America for its work over the years with United Way campaigns. United Way President Mark Stewart called the honor “a lifetime achievement award.”

By the numbers

25,000: Number of Bartholomew County residents reached by United Way agencies

20,000: Number of calls handled by United Way 2-1-1 of South Central Indiana

8,300: Number of volunteers who helped United Way agencies in 2016

22: Number of United Way agencies

33: Number of United Way programs

Stewart picked for leadership program

Mark Stewart, president of the United Way of Bartholomew County, has been chosen among 10 United Way leaders internationally for a prestigious executive leadership program that is a collaboration between United Way Worldwide, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Harvard School of Government, the Center for Creative Leadership, and Deloitte, a national consulting firm.

United Way emerged from chamber study

The United Fund of Bartholomew County began Jan. 20, 1967, after a Columbus Chamber of Commerce study committee recommended establishing a combined social service funds drive.

It also was triggered in part by an editorial the previous year in the Evening Republican, forerunner to The Republic, calling for such a local agency. By 1973, it would become United Way of Bartholomew County.

Its first fund drive in 1967 generated a goal-topping $344,689, including donations from 285 firms or businesses, to support 18 social service agencies. Two more agencies were added the following year.

By 1969, the annual fund drives were reaching half a million dollars and beyond.

Those community leaders “understood that raising money, volunteering, and supporting not-for-profit organizations was a critical part of creating a prosperous community,” said Mark Stewart, current United Way president.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.