The Herald Bulletin

January 21, 2012

Nancy Vaughan: Warm up to the idea of giving heat

By Nancy Vaughan
For The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Whether we reach, exceed or fall short of the annual campaign goal, we know we have challenges across the community. Early each year, a couple of special drives help to fill gaps for those most in need: Friend to Friend and We CAN Care.

The city of Anderson plays a significant role in both of these drives, and I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the longtime leadership of Greg Graham, who resurrected Friend to Friend years ago and has also worked closely with Second Harvest Food Bank on We CAN Care food drive.

Friend to Friend is a campaign for utility assistance. Anderson City Utilities has generously supported the drive by printing and enclosing fliers in customer statements. This year we hope to increase the opportunity to give by offering an additional option: Text GIVEHEAT to 50555 to make a $10 donation to the fund. (To give more, simply repeat the process.)

Friend to Friend funds are applied directly to the utility bills for those who qualify for assistance. United Way collects the funds and works with direct service providers through a voucher system. Friend to Friend typically raises $8,000-$10,000 for direct assistance to municipal customers, with an average gift in the range of $25 although they have been as small as $2 and as large as $500.

We hope that by expanding our reach through the text program and by creating partnerships with other utility providers in the county, we can increase the impact of the program. We have also noticed that as Friend to Friend has established an identity, we receive unsolicited contributions to the fund year-round. By making the brand more visible, we want to create more opportunity for those gifts, which can be mailed to United Way at P. O. Box 1200, Anderson, 46015-1200 anytime.

Friend to Friend complements two other funds that we provide to the Community Access Network, a group of nonprofits that assist households in need of utility, food, rent and other financial assistance. Included is $60,000 to a shared utility fund and $5,000 to an additional flexible funding pool. By the time winter really hit hard last week, nearly half of the 2011-12 utility pool had been depleted, so help over the next two months is especially welcome. The concept is simple: Give heat to a friend. You’ll both be warmed.

It’s also never too late to contribute to the overall work of United Way in our community. The 2011 Fall Campaign officially wrapped up Thursday with a last-minute push to reach the 2010 giving levels. Although we launched with an ambitious $1 million goal, reaching $850,000 (and as I write this we are still working to reach that number) is a tremendous effort in our current economy.

Within that context we attempt to make funding commitments to local organizations and initiatives that we can keep, so estimates of uncollected pledges and tracking of donor directed gifts are under way between now and March when funding awards are made. Until then, stay warm.

Nancy Vaughan is president of United Way of Madison County Inc. Her column appears the fourth Sunday of each month. She can be reached at n.vaughan@unitedwaymadisonco.org or 643-7493.