Red Cross to step up fundraising

The Trumbull Red Cross has cut staff from 12 to eight since 2003.
WARREN -- The Trumbull County Chapter of the American Red Cross, which established a full-time fund-raising position within the agency at the start of this year, believes it will have to step up such efforts to offset continuing cuts from the United Way of Trumbull County.
Cheryl Oblinger, executive director of the Trumbull chapter, said the agency learned last month that its 2006-07 United Way funds were being cut to 212,000 from around 281,000 the previous year, and the amount could be reduced more in January depending on how the current United Way campaign does.
Oblinger said the chapter is used to making cuts in staffing and services in recent years. It received 581,000 from United Way in 1998, the year she became executive director. Since 2003, staffing has dropped from 12 full-time people to seven full-timers and a part-time worker, she said.
The chapter also eliminated its Niles office in 2004 and a program that provided transportation to doctor and dental appointments, much of it for the elderly.
The Red Cross was unique within the United Way of Trumbull County umbrella, Oblinger noted, in that it had a contract that specified that Red Cross would not conduct its own fundraising activities and would give its support to United Way's efforts. That contract ended in 2004.
Still, the Red Cross has continued to try to honor the spirit of the agreement since then by not conducting fundraising activities during the United Way campaign, but that is becoming difficult, she said.
Full-time fundraising
On Jan. 1, the chapter restructured its personnel to assign one employee to fundraising full-time. That effort cannot be put on hold during the United Way campaign from late August to early December, Oblinger said, because the chapter still has urgent needs to fill.
"I can't shut them off," she said of the 30,000 to 40,000 people the chapter assists every year. "I have people coming here relying on us. What am I supposed to say?"
Oblinger said the chapter tries to conduct its fundraising quietly during the United Way campaign, "but we're still going to do what we need to do."
Before this year, the chapter had not done its own fundraising since 1958, Oblinger said, so it is taking some time to get the program moving. So far, about seven companies are participating, resulting in contributions of about 25,000 this year.
Oblinger said her chapter and the United Way will rise to its funding challenges, but it will take some new thinking.
Tough all round
Thomas Krysiek, president of the Trumbull United Way, said all of the member agencies funded by United Way are having to learn to do more with limited dollars. Some are responding by conducting fundraisers such as dinners and charging membership fees for the first time.
"United Way dollars are not as plentiful as they were years ago when we were a booming industrial sector," Krysiek said.
Oblinger said she believes the job losses at Delphi Packard and General Motors are a big reason that United Way has cut funding.
United Way reported that in the fall 2004 campaign, Delphi Packard employees gave 475,000 to the United Way of Trumbull County, and Delphi's corporate gift was 40,000, for a combined total of 515,000. That combined gift totaled almost 25 percent of the 2,051,000 raised that year.

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