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BUDGET: How COVID-19 is affecting Central Michigan University's United Way campaign


FILE PHOTO: Annie Sanders, CEO and president of United Way of Gratiot and Isabella County, left, receives a check on behalf of the organization Nov. 8, 2019 at McGuirk Arena.

As 2020 continues to present many challenges to businesses, Isabella County’s non-profit organizations continue to be supported by United Way. 

United Way is a non-profit organization that helps different communities, including Mount Pleasant. Central Michigan University has its own employee campaign to promote charitable giving to United Way which helps the organization every year. 

United Way of Gratiot and Isabella Counties allocated $311,663 to support non-profit groups this year. Last year, United Way contributed $742,351 to community investment focusing on supporting financial stability, education and mentoring and access to health. Last year, the organization was able to give funding to 49 local organizations. 

“Many organizations rely on United Way to provide support,” said Annie Sanders, United Way of Gratiot and Isabella Counties President. “Last year, more than 50,000 individuals in our community benefited from a United Way funded program or initiative. We know that our community needs us, now maybe more than ever.”

For years, CMU employees have been one of the leaders when it comes to funds generated for United Way and for our community.

“Every year, CMU really does lead the way when it comes to supporting the community through United Way," Sanders said. "Year after year, (CMU) is within the top five, if not the top contributor to the community."

With everyday life changing in 2020 due to COVID-19, CMU's campaign for United Way is operating a little differently this year. 

Last year CMU’s campaign leaders set a goal to raise $500,000 over five years with President Bob Davies’s support.

Dance United is one type of in-person fundraising event for the campaign affected this year. The dancing competition will not be hosted this year due to COVID-19. 

A virtual opportunity was looked into, but no plans have been made to hold this event virtually. The campaign’s committee is hopeful that this event can be rescheduled for possibly the spring semester. 

Dance United raised close to $27,000 for the campaign last year, Sanders said. Despite the amount of money raised, these earnings make up a small portion for United Way. 

“In-person events make up about 10 percent of the overall United Way campaign revenue, but they do bring a lot of awareness to the work that United Way does,” Sanders said. “Not having that opportunity is unfortunate.”

Most of the campaign’s efforts are through donations made by faculty and staff who can designate which projects they donate to. 

Last year, CMU employees collectively gave $43,151. So far this year, the group has given $35,479. 

“At this point, we are not planning any events because they would have to be virtual,” Interim Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Stan Shingles said. “We are focusing on the Giving Campaign where we have very loyal individuals who give year in and year out.”

As the reliance on faculty and staff donations increases, Shingles notes the campaign is trying to deal with the retirements of faculty and staff. 

“Obviously, we had a very committed group of individuals who were long-time donors to United Way (and) then those individuals retired, so you’re trying to recruit the next generation of givers and that’s what we are doing," Shingles said.

Some other events that have contributed to the campaign in the past have been donations made by Greek Life, penny wars held by Residence Life and different classes raising money. 

With all of the obstacles this year to gain donations, Sanders believes the campaign needs to find alternative ways to support the community as it heads into the future. 

“It’s a different time, but I think it just urges the CMU committee, United Way and the community to think outside the box on what support looks like,” Sanders said.