Elgin UWay reaches out to neighborhood group for funding
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News September 16, 2012 8:42PM
Updated: October 18, 2012 6:11AM
ELGIN — Residents here want to give, said Jeff Gill, president of the North East Neighborhood Association.
“Finances are tough, but people still find the ability to dig down” and give to charities they believe in that are doing good work in the community, Gill said.
Glenn Theriault, president of the United Way of Elgin and an Elgin police commander, asked NENA resident Glenn Murphy to co-chair the United Way’s 2012-13 fundraising campaign. Murphy said he didn’t know what to expect.
What he did find, Murphy said, is that the United Way needed a new way to reach out to the community and find residents willing to give to the organization.
What he came up with was reaching out to the NENA homeowners directly, in an appeal through the neighborhood group’s biyearly newsletter. That letter is set to go out this month, with Gill and the NENA board’s blessing.
“Glenn has a great idea,” Gill said. “Neighborhood associations are about neighbors working together to make the neighborhood better.”
When people receive information about not only how to give to the United Way but also how programs funded by the umbrella organization work directly in the neighborhood, serving its residents, they will give, all three men said.
Traditionally, much of the United Way’s fundraising comes through payroll deductions. With the employee’s blessing, companies take funds — even $1 or $5 — from each paycheck and send it directly to United Way.
But there are fewer large employers in Elgin, Theriault said. “People are working for small businesses, home-based businesses, or working at global corporations with a small operation here,” Theriault said.
Fundraising has fallen off, and the United Way ended its fundraising year with just under $1 million.
“What has changed is finding the people” who want to donate, Theriault said. “We are finding them in the neighborhoods, because they are the people we are helping.”
To connect their neighbors to the programs funded, Murphy and the United Way asked agencies to pinpoint which neighborhoods had residents receiving services.
They reported that 347 children in the NENA neighborhood are receiving books mailed to their homes each month through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library; 47 children are attending the Elgin Boys & Girls Club; 158 senior citizens are getting services through Senior Services Associates Inc.; 66 adults are taking English as a Second Language classes at the YWCA of Elgin; and seven residents with disabilities are receiving services through the Association for Individual Development.
Although those are just a small portion of the total services available, that kind of information is needed to show residents how programs funded by United Way serve the community, Gill said.
“Really, you are just one or two degrees of separation, at the most, from one of the programs we help provide,” Theriault said. “It really does have an effect in the neighborhood.”
That is important for the agency, Theriault said. A few years ago, the United Way moved to a funding model that sends money to programs serving an identified need in the community, rather than just to an agency
“That was part of his pitch to me,” Murphy said about when Theriault asked him to join the fundraising campaign. “Here is what we are doing in the community.”
NENA is not the only large neighborhood association in Elgin, Murphy noted — but it does have between 1,800 to 2,000 homes in its boundaries and regular communication among the residents.
The newsletter will include information on United Way’s 20 service providers and their programs, and information on how to donate — as a one-time gift, as a payroll deduction, or as an automated bank debit.
If other organized neighborhood groups want to get involved as well, they are invited to call Theriault at his Elgin Police Department number, 847-289-2746.
As the organization’s president, Theriault said he wants to see $1 million-plus raised for local nonprofit programs.
Whether reaching out directly to neighbors will help with that cause is still very unknown, Murphy said.
“It is a test case. We don’t know how it will move forward. But if we can make United Way and its programs relevant within our boundaries … people are good. They want to help, they want to do something, and they want to know the money isn’t being wasted. I am hoping this will happen, but I have no idea. So let’s do it, see if it works, and that will grow it through the whole community.”