Rotarian Melanie Cressman was honoured to introduce Brandi Hodge, Executive Director for the United Way.  Rotary's partnership in supporting United Way goes back 16 years, a partnership that makes sense since both organizations have mandates that make our community stronger in supporting people who may need a little extra help to reach their full potential.
Brandi's goal today was to make everyone aware of the work that the United Way does as an organization along with the impact that donors make on this community that we call home.  Brandi also wanted to bring to Rotary's attention the challenges that not-for-profit sector is facing and why the United Way campaign is more important than ever.  The social landscape has changed dramatically over the last few years.
United Way HPE is a community impact organization that means the community conditions are changed for the better through the work that is done, the partnerships that are formed and the funds that are raised.  United Way partners with hundreds of workplaces and thousands of individual donors each year to raise funds in an annual campaign and allocate those funds to not-for-profit charitable organizations in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties.  The United Way HPE is 100% local.  All of the money raised stays in the community and assists 52 agencies, 74 programs and almost 50,000 people that include over 7,000 seniors and 20,000 young people, children or youth.  27% of funding directly supports services to children and youth.  38% was allocated to agencies and programs that reduce poverty and move people from precariousness into possibility, including housing initiatives, food security programs and emergency funding.  35% goes to help build strong communities primarily serving local seniors, people with disabilities and women and children fleeing domestic violence.  The United Way is a significant part of the social safety net for families in our community who are hanging on, barely.  The United Way campaign is vital to the social infrastructure of our community.
In May 2022, the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) engaged nonprofit Community Researchers to conduct a survey of Ontario nonprofit organizations with a focus on the period between April 2021 and March 2022 with respect to financial health, staffing and volunteers and general operations.  Some alarming results:
  • demand for nonprofit services is higher than ever before and not expected to slow down anytime soon
  • inflation is rapidly increasing costs while revenues decrease
  • nonprofits are experiencing a relentless HR crisis in recruitment and retention, causing programs and services to be scaled back
  • volunteers are not returning and sustainability of nonprofits depends on rebuilding volunteer connections
  • nonprofits are less optimistic about their financial stability
The survey results are alarming and reveal that as more and more Ontarians look to nonprofits for support, organizations are doing everything they can to keep doors open amidst the growing complexity of challenges and shifting economic and social conditions.  More importantly, nonprofits cannot continue to do so indefinitely.  Locally, the United Way HPE has very difficult decisions ahead as more than $500,000 in requests were received than what was available to allocate last year.  The message -- it is so important that we stand united so we can build a community where everyone has access to the services they need, when they need them.  Through the Maurice and Marilyn Rollins Foundation and the Friends and Leaders Challenge, new donations at the leadership level of $1,200 or more will be matched dollar for dollar, new donations at the friend level of $500 or more will be matched at 50%.  United Way is committed and promises to put donated dollars to work in the most effective way possible.  When we stand united we are stronger and our collective voice is amplified and we have the power to change the world around us.  When we reach out a hand to one, we influence the condition of all.
Rotarian Carmela Ruberto thanked Brandi for sharing her compassion of others and to work alongside other organizations such as Hastings County to make a difference.