United Way campaign picks up steam

Though just starting a month ago, the annual fund-raising campaign for the United Way of North Central Mississippi is starting to gain momentum.
The 2010-2011 fund-raising campaign kicked off Aug. 25 toward a $350,000 goal. Since then, much of the past month has been spent getting necessary materials to the various campaign divisions and to organizations in the community, with many businesses and organizations conducting their campaigns in October, said Nikki Rives, United Way executive director.
The largest campaign division — Mississippi State University — is already off and running. MSU United Way volunteers held a fund-raising lunch in the Junction on Thursday, and Student Association leaders conducted a mobile giving (text message donation) push during Friday night’s Bulldog Bash in the Cotton District.
Rives and United Way volunteers were present at Friday’s Bash to help encourage giving.
MSU campaign leaders have also organized an online auction for students, faculty and campus employees.
Registration is also under way for a “United is the MSU Way” 5K run/walk set for 8 a.m. Oct. 16. With multiple age divisions, the race will begin at McArthur Hall on campus.
The preregistration fee is $20 and the race day registration fee is $25, with all proceeds going to the United Way campaign. For more information about the 5K run, e-mail Brandy Akers at bakers@controller.msstate.edu or call her at 325-1929.
Though exact figures were still being tabulated, some businesses have already completed employee campaigns, including 4-County Electric Power Association and RRI Energy, Rives said.
“We’re really just starting to get pledges in. We’ve been working hard to get the campaign materials out, and now we’re starting to see a response,” Rives said.
As pledges come in, regular reports will be made through local media to update the community on the status of the campaign, Rives said.
Established in 1974 and serving Oktibbeha, Winston, Choctaw and Webster counties, the local United Way organization raises money to support 18 charitable agencies in Oktibbeha County and the greater Golden Triangle region.
In 2009, United Way dollars helped these agencies serve 3,176 people in health training, education, treatment and assistance; 2,176 people in meeting income-based needs such as food and emergency assistance; and 2,721 people through various education programs offered by United Way agencies, according to statistics compiled by the United Way staff.
“United Way exists to effect positive change in our community and to improve the lives of its citizens.  Your support creates change and change creates opportunities,” said Rives.
“Every gift matters. Even a modest gift per pay period or a one-time donation can help provide solutions to the most critical needs in our community.”

Multiple ways to give

Members of the public have multiple choices in deciding to give to the United Way campaign, including:
• Mobile giving — Using one’s cellular phone, a donor can send the text message “NCMISS” to UNITED (864833). This will add a $5 charge to a person’s cellular phone bill that will be donated directly to the United Way. A donor can make no more than one text message donation per day.
• Payroll deduction — If one’s employer has the capability of doing this option, the donor may elect to have a certain amount of money from each paycheck be donated to the United Way for a certain number of pay periods.
• Donation by cash or check — A donor may make a one-time cash or check donation.
• Credit card — A donor can choose to make a one-time or monthly donation via a specific credit card.
• Participation in special United Way events — In addition to Bulldog Bash, the upcoming Festival of Trees will allow the public an opportunity to make donations toward the United Way campaign. The Festival of Trees will be held Nov. 9, 10, 11 and 13.
• Pacesetters — Individuals may also want to contribute through a Pacesetter gift.
Pacesetters are donors or groups contributing $500 or more during a campaign, with multiple identified levels, including community donor ($500 to $749), community friend ($750 to $1,499) and community hero ($1,500 and above).
All United Way contributions — regardless of the giving method or level — are tax-deductible. The vast majority of money raised is used to benefit the United Way agencies , Rives said.
“Ninety-nine cents out of every dollar remains in our community. Less than 1 percent of the funds raised in our four-county area goes to the United Way of America,” Rives said. “In return, the dues provide us with resources and free NFL promotions during football season.”
United Way dollars are put to the most effective use possible, Rives said.
“Volunteers from throughout Oktibbeha County and all walks of life meet annually to tour each agency and review budgets, services and requests for funding to determine how dollars can make the greatest impact,” she said.
For more information about making contributions to United Way, call 323-3830 or stop by the offices at 1016G Louisville St. Pledge forms are also available at the Starkville Daily News offices at 304 E. Lampkin St., which are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday.