United Way of the Midlands raised $22.7 million in its 2013 campaign, agency leaders said Wednesday.
That's short of the $24 million goal, and it's the first time United Way has fallen short of the goal since 2010.
The federal government's partial shutdown didn't help fundraising, said Shawna Forsberg, senior vice president of marketing and communications for the local group. It came right in the middle of the campaign among local U.S. government workers.
Forsberg also attributed the shortfall to uncertainty surrounding the new health care law that prompted individuals and companies to be more cautious about giving.
Those two factors are affecting fundraising at United Ways across the country, but both the shutdown and health care should be “pass-through” issues that don't affect future revenue, she said.
Locally, the Salvation Army's Tree of Lights campaign also hasn't reached its $3 million goal and it has been extended until Jan. 15, a spokeswoman said this week.
Forsberg said leaders at United Way of the Midlands remain excited about the future as the agency enters its 90th year in Omaha.
The 2013 United Way campaign raised more than $21 million for the seventh straight year, ranking United Way of the Midlands at 40th in revenue among some 1,200 United Ways worldwide. The Omaha affiliate serves an area with the 75th-largest population among affiliates.
And though the campaign officially ended on Jan. 1, the total is likely to rise, said Kathy O'Hara, United Way spokeswoman.
A few companies still need to report totals. Last year, for instance, the amount raised was about $150,000 higher at the group's annual meeting in April than it was when the campaign ended, she said. The 2012 drive brought in more than $23 million, a 1.9 percent increase over 2011.
Forsberg praised the “valiant effort” of this year's 6,000 volunteers, led by Chairmen Kirk and Teresa Kellner, who she said devoted hundreds of hours to the effort.
“There was huge engagement and buy-in for the campaign,” she said.
In fact, that community volunteering spirit is among bright spots as United Way continues to change and grow, said both Forsberg and O'Hara. Last year's Day of Caring drew 800 people who helped with 41 communitywide projects and numerous groups and individuals participated in the agency's “Holiday Helpers” project.
United Way officials also are excited about the next phase in the community needs assessment they began last year to ensure that funds go toward solutions that will have the greatest impact.
Local residents got the chance to tell the agency about the community's most pressing problems through surveys and town hall meetings. In January and February, United Way will have a series of focus groups to share results of that process and give people who live daily with those problems a chance to offer feedback.
“We are incredibly optimistic about what's ahead,” Forsberg said.