United Way volunteers outside of Community Action Head Start
Volunteers from Alpha Media participating in United Way's Day of Caring. (Photo courtesy of United Way)

A bustling office, phones ringing, and continuous emails keep the offices of United Ways across Nebraska busy. Campaign season is happening in more than just politics this time of year as United Way have also begun their fundraising efforts.

This year, United Way is working on new fundraising approaches to reach communities seeking support. The organization assists community members with income, health and educational needs across Nebraska.

United Way has traditionally focused on hosting in-person fundraisers with community partners. This year, amidst Coronavirus, the non-profit has moved to online.

“It’s about providing information and resources during those presentations to help those who might be struggling and are afraid to ask for help or who don’t know of where to go for help … or to share with someone they know who is in need,” said Alisha Forbes, executive director of Mid-Plains United Way in North Platte

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United Way of Lincoln and Lancaster County Logo

The impact of United Way’s efforts widespread.

“Last year, 25,024 people were directly impacted by United Way of South Central Nebraska funding. That is roughly 54% of the total population of the area we serve,” said Jodi Graves, executive director of United Way of South Central Nebraska.

Many communities have had an uptake in the number of individuals seeking some form of support during COVID-19.

“Lancaster County has had 32,000 claims of unemployment since March. This is the same amount of unemployment claims that we normally would have in a three year period,” Meagan Liesveld, executive director of United Way of Lincoln and Lancaster County, said.

This campaign season, all locations have introduced more digital campaigning with their community partners. Many of the fundraisers were originally planned as “workplace giving campaigns” with community partners hosting in-person events.

“When a safe, physically distanced meeting isn’t an option, we’ve been using virtual meetings instead to energize our community about the collective impact that we can have for the common good of everyone right here in Lincoln and Lancaster County,” Liesveld said. 

The newly introduced digital campaigns in Nebraska have not been simple. Online efforts have increased due to limitations many businesses have in place for not allowing guests or events.

“We, unfortunately, had to cancel our fundraising events and switch a lot of our efforts to being online. We’ve had failures and success. We just continue to navigate and learn to adapt to this new environment,” Forbes said.

Other new campaign efforts include more press releases to local news networks and an occasional socially-distanced fundraiser. Compared to last year, the push for digital campaigning has increased for all locations.

“We have long term goals of moving to an even more digital campaign, including an expanded website and giving through an app,” Graves said.

Officials at United Way said the organization continues to appreciate the work of current community partners and seek out additional partnerships in Nebraska.

“It is critically important that the generous businesses, families and individuals in our community pitch in right now with a donation through their workplace giving campaign,” Liesveld said.

Senior Broadcasting major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from Lincoln, Nebraska. Passionate about education, singing, and watching sports.