United Way (copy)

The coronavirus pandemic has upended so much of our everyday activities and none more so than the many nonprofits that exist to help the very people who need them now more than ever.

Many of them have relied on annual dinners, galas, charity races and other major events to help finance what they do every year to support their missions, whether it's caring for disabled kids, providing health care for the needy, dealing with racial or social justice issues or lifting people out of poverty.

So much of what has normally provided the financial support has one poof, just like that.

That's why, smack dab in the middle of this awful pandemic, the United Way's 2020 campaign is more vital than ever.

I sat down with this year's campaign chair, the UW Credit Union's Paul Kundert, and United Way President Renee Moe — via Zoom, of course — to find out how they hope to reach their $17.8 million goal during these difficult times.

Obviously, the challenges are significant, but Kundert and Moe feel they have designed a website that will overcome not being able to hold face-to-face campaign events at workplaces and the personal touches that can drum up excitement for the annual fund drive that generates revenue for 53 nonprofits and 118 programs.

The virtual campaign actually kicked off last month, but instead of the annual days of caring that jump started campaigns in recent years, United Way is focusing on separate topics that highlight how United Way supports a variety of problem-solving initiatives by its member agencies and offers opportunities for citizens to volunteer to help out.

This month, for instance, the focus is education — how to help students succeed in school, how to feeds kids who are hungry, how to improve graduation rates and attack the stubborn achievement gap.

The website includes regular webinars so contributors can deep digger into issues — the effects of racial disparities, for instance, or how schools can better handle the pandemic.

Future topics include community health and community well-being. And in each case, suggestions on how to volunteer are included.

Contributors to the 2020 campaign can do so in an easy to use form that's on the website.

So go visit the website at unitedwaydanecounty.org and take a look at how this important cog in the county's philanthropic community is dealing with this difficult campaign.

It's a different and difficult time, obviously, but the United Way is optimistic that the community will come together to provide the resources that are so important to so many throughout Dane County — especially now.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  

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