When the United Way of Trumbull County began its annual fundraising campaign a couple weeks ago something was missing.
A fundraising goal.
The local United Way actually stopped setting a fundraising goal several years ago, after falling short in preceding campaigns. But as the 2012 campaign launches, the agency seems to be further de-emphasizing its fundraising responsibility.
''Raising dollars is not our primary objective, it is a means to an end,'' campaign chairman and former Warren Mayor Michael O'Brien said.
O'Brien explained that the United Way has several goals:
Expanding its volunteer and contributor base.
Expanding community impact.
Increasing participation from employees of companies.
Increasing corporate giving.
Growing the community's awareness of United Way's value.
When all's said and done, United Way's value is in providing the funds for many community service organizations that do all of the above. Raising funds is not only the United Way's primary function, it's almost its exclusive function, along with vetting the recipients of its money.
United Way board chairman John A. Guarnieri said the 2012 campaign is more difficult because the local economy and work force continue to recover and the demands for care are at record levels. In other words, raising money now is more important than ever.
But to hear O'Brien talk about the United Way goals, giving provider agencies pats on the back and moral support is enough.
It is not.
United Way of Trumbull County has been dull for years, which is why fundraising has dropped from more than $3 million annually to about $1 million, whereas Mahoning County's United Way saw a fundraising drop from about $3 million to $2.5 million. Setting a specific fundraising goal is part of the buzz that Mahoning's United Way creates to maintain community-wide interest in donating.
Trumbull's United Way rejected a merger with its Mahoning County counterpart. That will be a good decision only if it finds a way to re-invigorate, to become a visible and valued part of the community, to raise money first and foremost.