April 5, 2010; Fond du Lac Reporter | In Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, the ARC and the Red Cross have pulled out of the United Way. The ARC, which provides services and advocacy to people with developmental disabilities has been a United Way agency since the 70’s but this year suffered an 80 percent cut in funding from the United Way, its allocation declining from $36,000 to $4,600. David Boelter, the ARC’s executive director cited his disappointment in the United Way’s decision making. On balance, the reduction in the ARC’s award makes the traditional fundraising “blackout period” a bad deal. Withdrawing will allow his agency to compete freely with United Way for the attention of donors.

From the United Way’s perspective, the notion that these cuts were a surprise is difficult to fathom. The United Way only brought in $700,000 last year compared to a goal of $1 million and partner agency requests of $1.2 million. Moreover, the structure for making funding shifts is part of the United Way’s “Community Impact Model,” which we wrote about in the Quarterly when it was first promoted by the United Way of America. The Fon Du Lac United Way just adopted the model this year.

Nonetheless, in an era of economic difficulties, especially in Midwestern states such as Wisconsin, local United Ways are frequently falling short of their fundraising goals, and the pain is being passed on down the line to the partner agencies.—Rick Cohen