BLOOMINGTON - United Way of McLean County's annual fundraising campaign has slowed, but the campaign chairman said Wednesday that he remains optimistic that United Way will reach its $4.4 million goal by Dec. 31.
"We're behind last year," Patrick Dienslake admitted. Dienslake, National City's community bank president for the Bloomington-Normal market, said he feels "a sense of urgency" at the half-way point of the four-month campaign.
United Way reported Wednesday that it has raised $1,966,800, or 44.7 percent of its $4.4 million goal since the campaign began Aug. 30.
United Way generally is reluctant to compare midterm campaigns from different years because some employers run employee fundraising campaigns at different times each year. But Dienslake admitted this year's campaign is behind.
Last year at this time, the United Way campaign was at 69 percent of goal, with nearly $2.9 million raised. Two years ago, United Way volunteers had raised 61 percent of goal.
Dienslake and Sarah Coffer of United Way noted that several of McLean County's larger employers have yet to complete their United Way campaigns.
"There's still a lot on the table," Coffer said. "A lot of accounts started late this year."
Coffer also noted that the campaign began with employers pledging double-digit increases over last year and that has dropped to single-digit increases. She and Dienslake wondered whether ongoing concern over gasoline prices and the upcoming electric rate increases are a factor for some United Way donors.
Dienslake said there are many worthwhile organizations raising money this fall.
"United Way is the organization that has the credibility and resources to bring multiple organizations together to solve the most important issues facing our community," he said.
United Way funds programs that combat homelessness, child and elder abuse and neglect, family dysfunction, lack of training for people with disabilities, and health-care disparities. Money raised this fall will support programs for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2007. This year, United Way money is supporting 47 programs run by 29 local social service agencies.
Despite his concern, Dienslake remained optimistic that the goal will be met.
"It'll be a stretch and it will take the entire community," Coffer said. "But we still feel we can reach our goal."