Online chat with Dale Bannon

November 19, 2006

On Tuesday, Nov. 14, The Herald-Mail held an online chat with Dale Bannon, executive director of the United Way of Washington County and the 2006 campaign co-chairs, Cynthia Perini and John Roney.

What follows is an edited transcript. At this time, there are no additional chats scheduled. If you have a proposed guest that you would like The Herald-Mail to invite for an online chat, e-mail your suggestion to

Virginia: What is new with United Way this year? When is the last time the United Way added a new agency?

Dale Bannon: We're extremely excited this year to welcome three new partner agencies: REACH, Walnut Street Community Health Center and the Star Community Center. These are the first to be added in the last 10 years. REACH Caregivers offers a transportation program for senior citizens. The Walnut Street Community Health Center offers a preventative dental health program for uninsured children and adults and the Star Community Center offers an equestrian therapy program for children and adults with disabilities. Each of these agencies have other functions, but these are the programs United Way funds.


Carol: What process does United Way use to allocate general gift donations to the member agencies?

Bannon: United Way's program allocation process ensures that each donation is invested in agency services that would be most effective at improving lives in our community. Volunteer donors serve on our agency relations and allocations committee. Each agency submits program funding requests, which are reviewed by this committee. Program results guide their work on a quarterly basis. We are continually looking for volunteers to serve in this capacity. Please call the United Way office at 301-739-8200, ext. 4, to inquire.

Danny: Why give to United Way instead of giving directly to an agency?

Bannon: Giving to United Way allows donors to reach a multitude of people in need of health and human service programs. The United Way concentrates in four categories of need: Nurturing youth, sustaining health, promoting self-sufficiency and strengthening the family. All four areas holistically improve the quality of life in Washington County, impacting more than 50,000 lives annually. Rather than limit your donation to one agency, a donation to the United Way invests in the entire community, supporting 22 agencies.

Linda: What does United Way do besides support the partner agencies?

Bannon: United Way is actively engaged in helping bring solutions to our community's most pressing needs. Our motto is, "Together we can get results that none of us can accomplish alone." In this past year, United Way helped to facilitate the Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Task Force and the Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness. Additionally, United Way was a driving force behind the new Maryland 211 information and referral line. Any resident in need of accessing a health and human services provider can dial 211 and receive the appropriate information and referral for help.

Alisa: What is your administrative/fundraising overhead cost?

Bannon: Last year, our admin/fundraising overhead expense was 11 percent of the $1.65 million in the total campaign dollars that was raised. Many United Ways around the country are closer to 15 percent, and the Better Business Bureau sets the threshold at 25 percent or below. We are very pleased to keep our overhead costs at an all-time low. We're able to do this because the heart and strength of the United Way is in our volunteer force - more than 500 strong.

Kathy: What is your relationship to the United Way of America?

Bannon: United Way of Washington County is a local incorporated, nonprofit organization. We are an affiliate member of United Way of America, and receive annual program and administrative support. Our membership dues are only 1 percent of the annual campaign.

Margaret: How does a company get involved if it wants to run a United Way campaign?

Bannon: When employees are given the opportunity to contribute, they will. Any interested company should contact the United Way office and speak to our campaign director, Leah Gayman, at 301-739-8200, ext. 1. The only way the campaign will grow to meet the community's ever-increasing needs is for more companies, large and small, to become supporters and partners.

Moderator: As of Nov. 6, the campaign was at 55 percent of goal, or $959,955. Where is the campaign today?

Bannon: As of Nov. 14, the campaign has grown to 65 percent of goal, or $1,137,500. Compared to this time last year, we are behind percentage-wise. Therefore, we are asking every individual and company to help us reach this important community goal.

Moderator: What happens if the campaign doesn't make goal? Who decides which programs get less?

Bannon: United Way funding is a significant part of our partner agencies' operating budgets. If we do not make goal, all of our agencies will be impacted financially. When you consider the broad range of service delivery from our agencies, it is very difficult to determine where the cuts should fall. The United Way campaign impacts everything from a child receiving quality and affordable day care all the way to a senior citizen receiving help with prescription drugs or a warm, nutritious meal.

Bannon: We would like to thank The Herald-Mail and its readers for their time. We believe the goal of $1.75 million is achievable when the entire community generously responds. In this season of Thanksgiving, we are reminded of our many blessings and are challenged with the opportunity to share those blessings.

For more information or to send your donation directly, contact our United Way office at 18706 Crestwood Drive, Hagerstown, MD 21742 or call 301-739-8200. Our Web site is .

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