United Way reaching out more to smaller companies
The chairmen of the annual campaigns of United Way of Greater Milwaukee have traditionally come from the ranks of the area’s big corporations.
But the campaign’s goals would never be met without the support of the community’s small and medium-size businesses – a point the local United Way has been focusing on for three years now.
It’s become a more important focal point as the larger corporations have changed their stature or become leaner in their operations in tight economic times.
"We’re finding more businesses with fewer people," said Bill Kitson, campaign vice president of United Way of Greater Milwaukee. "But we’re also finding that more of the small businesses here have added people, with many of those businesses started by people who formerly worked in big business. We’re certainly paying more attention to small and medium-size businesses."
Internally, the campaign has increased its staff from one person to four people working on the small and medium-size business segment, and hundreds of volunteers round out the effort.
They have a fair amount of work to do; the goal for the current campaign is just over $35 million – a 3% increase over last year’s successful campaign that raised $34 million.
"If we don’t get a handle on this small and medium-size market, we won’t be able to achieve our goal," Kitson said. "And ironically, small businesses benefit the most from United Way. If the campaign weren’t successful and United Way for some reason drifted away, it would be harder for small businesses to succeed," he added.
That’s because of the support that the many funded organizations provide to employees of those businesses – support that lets those employees lead more stable lives, says Robyn McGill. media and communications manager for United Way of Greater Milwaukee.
Last year, programs funded by United Way here served 300,000 people, with more than half of those people having household incomes of less than $15,000 per year.
The campaign leaders hope to engage an additional 100 businesses in fundraising this year, Kitson said.
To help make that happen, Cobalt Corp. has offered a Small and Medium Business Challenge. The corporation will match increased or new contributions from small and medium-size businesses. Other match and challenge programs have also been arranged by area corporations. More information is available at www.unitedwaymilwaukee.org.
Oct. 3, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee