Greater Mankato Area United Way

MANKATO — After missing its campaign goal a second consecutive year, Greater Mankato Area United Way is “reinventing” its marketing and fundraising approaches.

The organization has started building a social media presence, launching Twitter and Instagram accounts within the past six months, chapter leaders said at a press conference Wednesday.

It's also planning to host more events to raise awareness, such as its first-ever men's event last month, which raised about $19,000.

The push comes as United Way missed its campaign target for a second straight year, finishing about $122,000 short of its $2.04 million goal. The number of donors decreased by more than 700 from 2014, though the average donation size increased 5.3 percent, or by $14.53.

The organization made up the difference through grants and its reserve funds, and no agencies lost funding, President Barb Kaus said. The 2016 campaign goal will be less than $2 million, leaders said, though they won't know the exact amount for a few weeks.

The local numbers for 2015 mirror trends at United Ways across the U.S., local United Way leaders said. People are giving more to individual organizations, and crowd-funded causes, such as the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, are becoming more popular, said Jon Pratt, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

“The organized aspect of a strong campaign that is strengthening sort of the foundation of the community, for whatever reason, the previous generation really got that,” Pratt said. “Part of the challenge is helping people understand how did we get to this place of having strong institutions and how do we maintain them.”

In greater Mankato, that means educating people on the reach of United Way in the health and human services sector. The organization says 50,000 people benefited from programs and services provided by United Way and its partner agencies last year.

This year the organization is providing funding to 52 programs within 34 nonprofits. The money it raises stays local, and nearly 90 percent of the funds go to programming, the organization says.

The need for funding appears to be growing, too. Kaus cited research saying United Way's partner agencies would have needed $250,000 beyond the 2015 campaign goal to meet all their needs.

Todd Snell, 2016 campaign chair, said that as Mankato Metropolitan Statistical Area continues to grow, “the nonprofits aren't necessarily coming along for that ride.”

“I think it's important that we clarify that point,” he said, “because most people want to continue to prosper.”

Snell appears to fully support the United Way model of giving. His business, Snell Motors, has 100 percent participation among its couple of hundred employees. Snell matches his employees' contribution, too.

“I feel more comfortable giving to Barb and the crew at the United Way because they have already done their due diligence,” he said. “If you're going to work hard for that money, you want to stretch it and see many people in need get help.”

To keep up, United Way will have to stay current with communications and the ways money gets to good causes and keep active volunteers and board members, Pratt said.

"It's a more crowded field,” he said, “but organizations still have to get out there and make their case (that) they are important to the quality of life."

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