SHREVEPORT, La. --The United Way was once the only organization that raised money for other local non-profits, but times are changing. From the start, the United Way of Northwest Louisiana has served as a major artery that once funded other non-profits and community organizations.
"We began to see that that was not going to work because the very people we were raising money for were also aggressively fundraising themselves,” said Bruce Willson, president and CEO of UWNWLA.
On top of that, a new generation of millennials began giving much differently than baby boomers.
"They like to be more in charge,” Willson said. “We have had to develop strategies that helped them fulfill their philanthropic desires in the way they want to do it instead of us telling them how to do it.”
Willson had to work closely with his team to create a whole new strategy.
"We shrunk the number of non-profits we are giving to,” Willson said.
Ten years ago, the local United Way would have raised $2.5 million to more than $3 million to give to roughly 50 non-profits organizations. In 2018, the UWNWLA raised $2.1 million dropping the number of organizations they could support to 17.
Among the organizations to lose their support was Catholic Charities, taking a hit of $15,000 to $17,000 in 2018. In 2018, Project Celebration, which helps families impacted by domestic violence, took a loss of $12,000. That mainly hurt food supplies for women and children in their shelters on a daily basis.
"Every year we serve nearly 400 families who come through our door,” Angela Henderson, Project Celebration assistant director, said. “It is very important to have that funding and resources for them."
Organizations have had to do their own internal restructuring to make up for the loss, but the united way is working on raising the number of organizations they help once again. Their 2019 campaign is projected to raise more than $2.4 million.
"We are seeing grants that we used to not apply for that we are now applying for and we are getting," said Willson.
To also combat declining donations, the UWNWLA did something unprecedented, they created their own programs. By conducting a statewide report known as ALICE, UWNWLA was able to hone in on which groups of had the greatest needs in Louisiana parish by parish.
"We are looking at what the community needs in the area of health, what the community needs in education, and what the community needs in financial stability,” said Jennifer Horton, community impact director.
From providing books and even eye glasses for kids and teens to cutting costs of medications, their programs cover a wide range and it gives them a better idea of who they should just send money to.
"An example of that is if we have an internal program that is focused on early childhood education, then we are going to go look for programs in areas that we are not doing in-house so that we can make sure all the bases are covered," Horton said.
The UWNWLA is currently in its annual fundraising mode.