Working to Adapt

In unprecedented times, Monadnock United Way tackles fundraising challenges
Adult Team Leaders With Group Of Children At Outdoor Activity Ca

Despite unforeseen challenges, Monadnock United Way is still showing up to serve our communities. Courtesy photo

A year ago, the Monadnock United Way and its partner agencies were working to help vulnerable individuals and families through hardships and challenges. Then a global pandemic introduced a host of unforeseen complexities — affecting every aspect of work from relief efforts to fundraising.

The challenge for the Monadnock United Way (MUW) then: Adapt, get creative and continue to offer assistance.

“Certainly, I cannot, and neither can our partner agencies, make a 100% causal link in the ramp-up of homelessness and domestic violence to COVID-19, but anecdotally, because of people losing their jobs, additional unemployment funds have ceased, because COVID-19 interrupted pretty much everything, we’re seeing it,” says Monadnock United Way resource development director Katie Gardella. “What we’ve been hearing from our partner agencies is that homelessness is spiking, and domestic violence is spiking. Those are just a few of the issues that have been exacerbated due to COVID-19.”

Fundraising, a key component in the MUW’s relief efforts, has also been affected. Workplace campaigns, typically an important element in fundraising, have been interrupted or put on hold by virus-related workplace shutdowns and remote-working arrangements.

“Our workplace campaigns — we depend on them to be dynamic, for there to be speakers, for there to be a lot of buy-in and enthusiasm,” Gardella says. “And in many places this year, in many instances, there isn’t anybody. No one is at the office. People are working from home or have staggered shifts. Some of our corporate partners have a no-visitors policy. We’re working as hard as we can to adapt.”

Many corporate partners say they aren’t in the position to put more stresses on workers. Some have declined fundraising campaigns or are reluctant to ask more of a workforce already stretched thin, while some have agreed to honor pledges made last year, though those commitments are contingent on workers being currently employed. “There are a range of issues we’re dealing with.” Gardella says.

The overarching message, Gardella says, is that the agency has objectives that need to be met. The MUW’s annual Better Together campaign has a goal of $1.277 million — a number that Gardella says is “crucial” to achieve this year. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Monadnock Region had the third-highest rate of child abuse and neglect in the state, according to United Way statistics. Additionally, the region’s children scored lower than the rest of the state in English and math, and one-quarter of its residents were low-income — compared to one in five throughout the rest of New Hampshire.

Now, those challenges have intensified.

“Post-COVID, what we’re hearing from our partner agencies is that these statistics are likely to get worse,” Gardella says. “Things got much worse for people in our community who were vulnerable anyway.”

The MUW was able to create virtual materials, including online pledges, but the results of those efforts haven’t been measured yet.

“We don’t know how it’s going to affect us,” Gardella says. “That is a worry.”

The MUW is also in need of volunteers with diverse areas of expertise, such as marketing, fundraising, grant writing, finance and IT.

“If there are people with those skill sets — retirees or anyone looking for a way to give back to the community — get in touch with us and we’ll plug you in with our agencies,” Gardella says.

Despite forecasted shortfalls, unexpected obstacles and virus-related challenges, there have been bright moments in recent months. MUW partner agencies were forced to be creative:

• The Cheshire Country Emergency Housing Collaborative ensured that 65 households were provided with direct client assistance to avoid a housing crisis.

• Monadnock Home Visiting Alliance received 255 referrals for home visits, a 28% increase from the same period in 2019. A total of 421 families were served during this time frame.

• With help from the Monadnock Region Afterschool Collective, 335 youth per week were provided supplies for virtual summer activities. One hundred children per week were involved in face-to-face camp activities.

“The good news is that we were able to launch a COVID-19 relief fund effort that raised over $200,000 — and that money went directly into the hands of our partner agencies,” Gardella says. “Those agencies took a very bad situation and rose to the occasion. They’re adaptable, they’re strong, they’ve got their ear to the ground, and they were able to work together for the people who needed it.

“There were people stepping up and giving to our COVID-19 relief fund two to three times. We live in a generous community.”

Note: New Hampshire Magazine is a media sponsor of the Better Together campaign.

How to Help

• Text MUW to 41444.

• Visit and click on the “donate now” button.

• Send a check to: Monadnock United Way, 23 Center St., Keene, NH, 03431.

• Email to learn about volunteer opportunities.

Categories: Cause of the Month, People