Kickoff attendees hold their social media campaign signs after the announcement of the $47.5 million United Way campaign goal.
Supporters at United Way's annual campaign kickoff hold their social media campaign signs after the announcement of the $47.5 million fundraising goal in August. Credit: Jeffrey Sullivan / San Antonio Report

United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County on Friday announced a 2017 community campaign goal of $47.5 million, $8 million less than last year’s goal.

The funds collected from United Way campaigns are used to fund 137 health and human services and other charitable organizations across San Antonio and Bexar County. United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County President and CEO Lyndon Herridge said the smaller goal was due in part to a regulatory change for contributions from federal employees. The change could result in fewer contributions coming from workers in the federal government sector.

“The main thing [the reduced goal amount] is attributable to is the Combined Federal Campaign, which is a campaign on the federal installations from the [military] bases to the post office,” Herridge said.

Herridge said he believes that many of the regulations were meant to make the combined federal campaign (CFC) more efficient in its collection and distribution efforts. For instance, the regulations now forbid cash contributions in order to lower the expenses from processing cash.

With a large military population in San Antonio, United Way has previously received sizable donations from federal entities. What the size of those contributions will be for this year’s campaign, which ends Dec. 13, is uncertain.

“The military is a very strong supporter of the community,” Herridge said. “… We won’t know what the total campaign size will be, but I suspect they will still be a strong supporter in this region.”

Herridge said he hopes to find out the total contribution amount from CFC contributions in the spring of 2018.

The change in CFC regulations isn’t the only factor impacting expectations for this year’s campaign. Companies such as USAA also have changed the way they collect charitable contributions.

“Part of the difference is the CFC change,” Herridge said. “Number two … is the endowments. We had a good size number of endowments and [soliciting donations] starts all over again. We don’t know what that will be. Three is some [corporate] consolidations and mergers, which is resulting in some individuals’ gifts which are not going to be repeated.”

One recipient of United Way funds is Haven for Hope, which provides shelter, meals, and support services for homeless people.

“We’re one of 69 agencies that United Way funds,” said Haven for Hope President and CEO Kenny Wilson. “The funding from United Way helps us to operate, which helps us to have individuals and families here to get help to get onto a better place in their life.”

Herridge is hopeful that new business and development in San Antonio may help offset some of the potential decreases in United Way’s campaign collections.

“We’re trying to [recoup the losses] with endowment money. We’re continuing our endowment campaign,” Herridge said. “We’re continuing to develop new accounts, new corporations that are moving into town, which is significant for us.

“We can’t make up for all the decreases that are going to be happening, but we’ll be working on it.”

United Way also is identifying new donors through its Emerging Leaders Council, which is made up of working professionals ages 45 and younger who want to get involved in their community. The group has grown from 26 members to over 3,000, Herridge said, and last year raised about $750,000.

“We’re continuing to grow that group significantly to offset some of the things that are happening in the community,” he said.

Despite the dip in projected collections, Herridge believes that the campaign will successfully reach its target, if not surpass it. Last year, the campaign exceeded its goal by $800,000.

“Every year I’m inspired by the many local businesses and other groups that put so much time and effort into the United Way workplace campaigns,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at the kickoff event. “It’s neighbors helping neighbors.”

Mayor Ron Nirenberg (left) and Valero CEO Joe Gorder hold up their social media campaign signs at the United Way campaign kickoff.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg (left) and Valero CEO Joe Gorder hold up their social media campaign signs at the United Way campaign kickoff. Credit: Jeffrey Sullivan / San Antonio Report

“Neighbors helping neighbors” was Nirenberg’s slogan for United Way’s social media campaign. Donors and community members are encouraged to take to social media to state “Why I Love United Way” with the hashtag #HeartoftheCommunity.

Valero CEO Joe Gorder, who will lead the United Way San Antonio fundraising effort this year, was optimistic about the success of the year-long drive.

“I’m confident that we’re going to achieve this year’s campaign target of $47.5 million, because I know the heart of the people of San Antonio and Bexar County,” Gorder said. “We will get it done.”

Jeffrey Sullivan is a Rivard Report reporter. He graduated from Trinity University with a degree in Political Science.