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Nonprofits: United Way challenge – $60K in 100 days

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Black River United Way CEO Lucy Woodhouse says she’s looking for visionaries.

The organization formerly called Georgetown County United Way changed its name to make partner Williamsburg County feel more welcome, and it’s in the middle of a reorganization that suggests this is not going to be your father’s United Way when Woodhouse and the directors are finished.

Even the United Way building on Front Street is for sale. Woodhouse said she’s had offers for free office space on the Waccamaw Neck and in Georgetown and Kingstree. She sees more value in being visible in the communities than having a conference room and office.

The United Way’s campaign cabinet will meet Monday to review progress on a drive to match a $100,000 grant from the Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation that will allow the organization to break the mold for addressing needs in the area. With fewer than 100 days left until the June 30 deadline, the drive stands at $40,000. There is a catch: all the matching funds must be new dollars. “The idea behind that,” Woodhouse said, “is we want to break that $500,000 goal that has been United Way’s goal for the past 10 years. The only way we are going to do it is to get new people involved with the organization. Bunnelle is helping us entice new donors to start giving and help us build that funding base.”

Woodhouse has told agencies the United Way will keep its commitments but change the way it handles money next year. Instead of making allocations off pledges, it will make them off cash in hand. The organization will continue

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raising money for a year in order to have what it needs. The United Way will require more accountability from groups that get money, Woodhouse said.

“We believe that there is a great deal of potential in the community that has been untapped,” said Geales Sands, executive director of the Bunnelle Foundation. “We think the United Way is poised and ready to tap that potential. Their willingness to foster collaboration and work together as a team for moving the whole community forward is tantamount to their success.”

Acceptance of change has been slow, Woodhouse admits. “We have some issues: rebuilding to do, rebranding ourselves, going from the Georgetown United Way to Black River United Way with a completely different funding mentality and different focus. It’s taking a lot of new conversations.”

Woodhouse said the United Way will begin addressing the root causes of issues that plague the community: literacy, health, hunger, poverty and equality.

“One of the hard parts is that this is new,” she said. “I think a lot of people want to wait and see how we deliver and where we can take this organization. I completely understand that, but we are looking for some visionaries. We cannot do it by ourselves. To be quite honest, no one agency can take that on. What we are hoping to do is bring all those resources together and solve some of those root issues.”

To learn more about Black River United Way go to blackriveruw.org.

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