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Agency Fund Drive Misses Mark

United Way's Ventura County campaign falls short of the 2002-03 target, but the $5.21 million raised tops previous year's total.

May 16, 2003|Lynne Barnes | Times Staff Writer

United Way of Ventura County fell short of its annual fund-raising campaign but still managed to surpass last year's total by $10,000, officials said Thursday.

The agency, which funds 50 charitable programs in Ventura County, raised $5.21 million in its 2002-03 campaign, said David M. Smith, president of the agency's local chapter. The goal was $5.5 million.

The successful campaign came despite a nationwide decline in giving, an uncertain economy and a controversy over the United Way's decision to stop supporting the Boy Scouts because of the scouting organization's policy against homosexuals.

"It was a very challenging year for nonprofits all over the country, including Ventura County," Smith said.

Nationwide, he said, United Way contributions are running about 3% behind the previous year's totals, and some cities have recorded double-digit decreases -- 11% in Atlanta and Dallas and 18% in Chicago.

"We're very pleased that we were able to achieve the same level of fund-raising as a year ago," Smith said.

The controversy over the Boy Scout funding, during which several community members vowed to shift their donations elsewhere, "really has worked both ways," Smith said.

In 2001, the local United Way broadened its antidiscrimination policy, denying funding to any organization that discriminates based on sexual preference.

The action followed a Supreme Court decision that upheld a Boy Scouts of America policy excluding openly gay men and boys from their ranks.

"There's no direct evidence that [the controversy] had any noticeable impact," Smith said.

"Certainly we know that there were some people who chose not to give because of the Boy Scout situation. We also know there were some who gave this year who haven't given before."

The biggest donors this year were WellPoint Health Networks of Thousand Oaks, whose employees pledged $524,641. The company matched that with $262,321, for a total of $786,962.

Next were the county of Ventura, $221,498; Haas Automation in Oxnard, $189,316, and Procter & Gamble in Oxnard, $157,162.

Smith praised Haas and Procter & Gamble for keeping up their level of donations, since both companies have downsized in the past year.

United Way grants vary, ranging from slightly more than $175,000 for Interface Children and Family Services and $157,000 for the local Red Cross, down to less than $10,000 for some smaller agencies.

In the next few weeks, Smith said, a volunteer committee will review funding applications and make its recommendations to the board of directors.

Agencies should be notified by the end of June or the first week of July.

"I would expect the agencies will receive funding quite similar to what they're receiving this year," Smith said.

United Way's next drive will begin Sept. 13.

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