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More work to be done

United Way of Denton County last week approved the distribution of more than $2 million in campaign funds, and officials said an increase in contributions meant the agency was able to increase its overall support to partner agencies by about 7 percent.

That’s great news and a tribute to the generosity of campaign supporters, but we can’t afford to rest on our laurels — there’s too much work to be done.

In spite of an approximate 13 percent increase in donations from 2011 to 2012, the United Way and its partner agencies continue to struggle with an old enemy — the economy.

Gary Henderson, president and CEO of United Way of Denton County, said the agency raised $2,068,026 during its 2012 fundraising campaign. It was the first time since 2009 that the organization has raised at least $2 million.

That’s significant, but even though things are better now than they have been, nonprofits haven’t recovered from the setbacks suffered since the economy started its slide a few years ago. In fact, the most recent grant awards to United Way of Denton County partner agencies are only about 51 percent of the grant awards four or five years ago, Henderson said.

The economy has taken its toll over the past four years, Henderson said, but this year’s donations offered enough growth to increase the support and address other community needs.

“We know where we came from three to four years ago, so we are pleased and grateful,” Henderson said. “But we are quick to point out to our partner agencies that we know we’re not there yet.”

Those partner agencies, Henderson said, were forced to make cuts in services because of the sagging economy and the resulting drop in charitable donations. At the same time, demand for services provided by nonprofits continued to increase.

The resulting pinch on nonprofits may ease somewhat as a result of the successful 2012 United Way campaign, but there’s still a lot of ground to make up.

“I’m not sure if people fully comprehend yet how amazing a 12 percent increase is, to see donors step up that way,” Henderson said. “That’s a lot of generosity.”

Henderson said the United Way worked to better communicate the needs of the county during last year’s campaign, and he believes the strategy paid off — donors respond when they know their community and they know who needs help.

“We’re more precisely pinpointing needs,” he said.

We agree with Henderson’s assessment — improved communication is the best way to strengthen the teamwork that makes it possible for the United Way of Denton County to do its important work.

Thanks to all who helped make the 2012 campaign one of the most successful in years and are working toward an even more productive year in 2013.

Your efforts are appreciated.