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United Way Trims Expectations

The recession is forcing some United Ways to cut fundraising goals even as demand grows for food, shelter and other services they help provide.

The United Way of Dutchess County in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., set this year's goal at $1.7 million - down from $2 million in 2008, President Anne Beaulieu says. Last year's campaign fell short, raising about $1.8 million.

This year's goal was reduced "to be very realistic," she says. Layoffs mean there are fewer workers to sign up for payroll-deducted donations, while the number of people seeking help from 24 food programs supported by the United Way has doubled in a year, Beaulieu says.

Sal Fabens, spokeswoman for United Way Worldwide, says its emphasis has shifted from fundraising goals to "impact goals." In 2008, it announced a decade-long focus on cutting dropout rates and improving families' health and financial stability.

In communities such as Brainerd, Minn., that means no giant thermometers measuring the pace of fundraising. United Way of Crow Wing and Southern Cass Counties hasn't set goals for years, Executive Director Heidi Funk says. "We don't rally around a dollar goal and a thermometer," she says. "It's not about raising dollars, it's about changing lives." It hopes to collect $350,000 this year.

United Way Worldwide operates in 45 countries. There are almost 1,300 affiliates in the USA. How some are adjusting expectations:

In Oklah@oma,@ the Ada Regional United Way set a $250,000 goal this year after falling $28,000 short of its $300,000 target in 2008, Executive Director Latricia Bryant says. "It was the first time we hadn't made goal in forever," she says.

This year, Bryant is trying new fundraising tactics, including a garage sale that raised $600 and a Nov. 7 "stiletto sprint" with heels-wearing runners.

In Tennessee,@ the United Way of Greater Knoxville hopes to raise $11.8 million this year. It collected $12.2 million of 2008's $12.8 million target - "the first time in anybody's memory" the goal wasn't reached, President Ben Landers says.

"Virtually every need category is up" he says, including rental, utility and food aid.

The group held its first telethon this year and raised $260,000, he says. It is running its first online auction and is asking students to donate change.

In Michigan,@ the Greater Kalamazoo United Way has a $9.1 million goal, down from $11 million in 2008. It's using Facebook to reach a broader audience. "We're optimistic, but we know we face challenges," spokesman Christopher Riker says.

In West Virginia,@ the United Way of Randolph County set a $155,000 goal after exceeding its $170,000 goal last year by $3,000, Chairman Gary Clay says.

This year, less money went to libraries and more to agencies that provide food, clothing and housing. "If we raise more, we'll give more," he says. "Everybody knows what the economy is like."

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