By Katie Demeria
In 2011, the United Way of Front Royal met its campaign goal of $100,000. The next year the goal increased by $5,000, and organization met it again. Now, with a 2013 goal of $135,000, the organization has, for the fourth year in a row, reached its goal.
And according to executive director Lee Smith-Osina, this is only the beginning.
"This community could be raising a quarter of a million dollars," she said. "There's no reason why we can't raise $250,000 at this point. That's a long haul, but we have excellent people."
Both Smith-Osina and campaign chair Beth Waller said this year's achievement was a coordinated effort that reflects years of working to create a presence within the community.
"When I was a kid, you didn't walk two blocks in my community without seeing some sign for the United Way," Smith-Osina said. "It was prominent in daily life."
In 2006 and 2007, she added, the organization was not very well known. Before the past four years, the United Way rarely reached their yearly goals. According to Smith-Osina, this was due to a lack of structure.
In previous years, the organization worked with the United Way of the Northern Shenandoah Valley, meaning donations given to the United Way of Front Royal could go anywhere throughout the valley.
Now, whenever a donation is made to the Warren County United Way, the money stays in Warren County. Smith-Osina said she believes this is one important reason for their success.
"It really is like reawakening people about the cause and how they can help," she said. "It works so well in this county because these are special people, they really do care about their county, and in this case they care about their services."
As soon as the money started staying in Warren County, Smith-Osina added, donations increased and the organization received more attention from local individuals.
Since taking over as campaign chair, Waller has worked to convince the local community that giving a meaningful donation to the United Way is achievable for many.
"I really think that our focus on asking if our fellow community members can spare a dollar a week has been a great campaign plea that most people can accept," she said.
"I believe a lot of people are intimidated by being asked to donate to nonprofits," she continued. "But people are realizing that they can make a big difference, and it doesn't take a lot."
Trust, Smith-Osina said, is another aspect of fundraising that the organization has worked to increase over the past four years.
Only 8 percent of the donations received are designated to certain areas within the county, according to Smith-Osina.
"To me, I think that low percentage means they trust us," she said. "It doesn't get directed by you, it gets directed by your community."
Waller said the United Way is a great tool for individuals who want to help those in their area in need, as the organization is aware of which services are in the most need of funds.
"We're very proud in Warren County to be able to support our own neighbors in need, and that's what the United Way enables us to do," she said.
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org