Changes in how people donate to nonprofits has resulted in Crook County United Fund dissolving after 62 years

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - The Crook County United Fund (then known as Crook County United Way) collected a $30,789 donation from Clear Pine Moulding in November 1992. In recent years, donations to the United Fund have declined as making donations to specific nonprofits has gotten easier.

Years ago, when people wanted to donate to a community organization or multiple local charities, many of them turned to Crook County United Fund.

According to United Fund president Donna Mohan, when the local organization was formed 62 years ago, the opportunities to donate to local nonprofit organizations were somewhat limited. The United Way's traditional "Community Chest" allowed people to donate to multiple nonprofit organizations at one time.

Since that time, donating to local nonprofits has gotten much easier.

"Now, everybody runs their own fundraising campaigns," Mohan said. "It's so easy to just go online and donate to whoever you want to."

As a result, the United Fund has seen a steady decline in its donations. Prior to the latest recession, the organization raised about $40,000 per year, and during the past few years, despite an economic rebound locally, campaigns have only managed to bring in about $20,000 annually.

"When we have been 13 and 15 organizations that are applying for funding through us, that pipe isn't very big," Mohan said.

Further compounding the problem, the financial needs of some of the organizations have increased. Requests from individual nonprofits have reached as high as $60,000.

Because of this trend, Crook County United Fund recently announced that its board of directors will be dissolving the organization at the end of the 2017-18 campaign. The campaign is expected to end sometime in January, once donations from personnel at state and federal agencies is collected.

The United Fund was initially founded under the name Crook County United Way, but the local group separated from the larger organization in 2002 and changed its name.

"We separated from the United Way umbrella so that we could keep more of the money we raise here in our community," Mohan explained.

She acknowledged that the separation included some negatives, namely that they don't benefit from the widely recognized United Way brand or its advertising, but the ability to operate with a small four-person board and avoid paid staff expenses outweighed those losses.

For years, donations had come primarily from businesses, but in more recent years, the United Fund began reaching out to more individual donors and relying on just a few larger businesses for support.

Though the amount of money generated by United Fund has steadily declined in recent years, the organization managed to disburse more than a $1 million to nonprofit organizations during the past 34 years.

"This has only been possible through the generosity of local businesses and individuals here in Crook County," Mohan said. "The Crook County United Fund Board of Directors would like to express their sincere thanks to all who have supported our mission to provide help to our local nonprofit organizations over the years."

In addition, Mohan expressed gratitude to the many community members who have served on the United Fund board throughout its history.

"They have been very valuable to the organization," she said. "We thank all of those who put their time and effort into making United Fund a success."

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