Kankakee, IL – The recent economic climate has accelerated a 10-year decline in contributions to the United Way of Kankakee and Iroquois Counties and forced us – along with our partners – to find new ways to meet the essential needs of residents in Kankakee and Iroquois counties, even as those needs skyrocket.
United Way of Kankakee and Iroquois Counties is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, governed by a local board of directors who live and work in Kankakee and Iroquois counties. Contributions to our organization help fund 40 local programs focused on improving the health, education, and financial stability of our neighbors. This funding is made entirely possible by local community support and donations from individuals and local businesses, enabling our partners in Kankakee and Iroquois counties to assist 1 in 4 local residents last year.
The Current Situation: Rising Needs, Yet Declining Funds
Our society is fundamentally different than it was when I started my role as the new Executive Director for United Way of Kankakee and Iroquois Counties in late 2019. Our lives and communities have changed so quickly. The world of work has been forever changed, and philanthropy looks much different in 2022 than it did years ago.
The number of American households that give to charity has dropped below 50%. Nonprofits are now being sustained by wealthier donors, and organizations, like ours, that have traditionally relied on a larger pool of small- to mid-size gifts are struggling.
Historically, the largest source of our funding came through workplace giving campaigns in which companies invited their employees to contribute a portion of their paycheck to support local programs funded through United Way. In recent years, fewer companies across Kankakee and Iroquois counties have hosted workplace campaigns. This fall, United Way staff and volunteers contacted over 300 local businesses. Only a handful opened their doors for United Way to share information with their employees.
Communities are the cornerstone of society. But too often, local investment and charitable giving is seen as a nicety that is often overlooked – especially in times of increased economic challenge. There is a theory that helps explain this behavior called social loafing. This term describes instances in which individuals choose not to give because “someone else will…eventually.”
So where does this leave us now? 77% of the funding requests from Kankakee and Iroquois county programs went unfulfilled in 2022. An entire sector dedicated to improving the quality of life for families and individuals in Kankakee and Iroquois counties faces additional and disproportionate challenges that come in times of economic hardship – because our local community just is not showing up at the same levels as previously when our organization celebrated a milestone campaign raising just over a million dollars in 2013.
Last year, total campaign revenue was just over $469,000. Given current levels of support, we can anticipate that revenue will be even less next year.
Why Local Giving Is So Important
Now more than ever, we cannot afford to abandon the power of local community. It is up to all of us to create spaces where everyone can thrive. It is time for everyone to step up. Why?
Because the need is enormous. 51,000 households in Kankakee and Iroquois Counties cannot afford the most basic household budget.1Nearly 75% of students are not entering kindergarten ready to succeed.2 Mental health needs continue to grow including a rise in suicides, more youth experiencing depression, and a mental health provider shortage.3
Because your contribution helps your local community. Donations to United Way of Kankakee and Iroquois Counties support 40 programs administered by 19 local nonprofit organizations. The support you give through United Way helps our partners leverage other funding from foundation grants, business partnerships, State and Federal grants, and more.
Because we all benefit from the United Way. From programs that help neighbors cope in the face of unexpected crises to programs that help working families build financial stability – there are a wealth of community services that improve the quality of life in our region. It is up to each of us to protect and sustain it.
Because your gift will change people’s lives. Support through United Way has made it possible for people to access essential services, succeed in school, gain financial stability, and live healthier lives.
How Can You Help
As 2022 comes to a close, I encourage you to sit down with your loved ones and/or your financial advisors to consider how you can meaningfully share your gifts of treasure with your neighbors here in Kankakee and Iroquois counties.
If you choose to give through United Way of Kankakee and Iroquois Counties, you can make a year-end contribution via cash, check or credit card.
Cash and checks can be mailed to United Way of Kankakee and Iroquois Counties at P.O. Box 1286 Kankakee, IL 60901. Or dropped off at our office in the Executive Centre at 200 East Court Street Suite 500 Kankakee, IL 60901.
Credit card donations may be made online at myunitedway.org/givenow.
Interested in giving to another local organization? I encourage you to learn more about United Way of Kankakee and Iroquois Counties’ current partners and their wonderful programs at myunitedway.org/partners.
It is up to all of us to make a difference here at home, in our community. Give what you can. Every dollar counts. And remember there is power in community and collective action.
United Way of Kankakee & Iroquois Counties