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Funding cut jeopardizes Volunteer Center PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 28 September 2016 16:41

Loss of $30,000 has agency officials wondering how they can continue serving 74 community organizations

The Volunteer Center of Ozaukee County is facing a financial crisis, one that could force it to close — a move that would affect not just the agency but the 74 other nonprofits it works with, Executive Director Brenda Peterson said Tuesday.

United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha is ending its funding of the agency next year — an amount equal to a quarter of the center’s annual budget, she said.

The United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha, which has helped fund the Volunteer Center since its inception in 1989, contributed $30,000 of the center’s $120,000 budget, Peterson said.

The group notified the Volunteer Center of its decision in January 2015, Peterson said, and has been cutting its allocation ever since.

This year, she said, the Volunteer Center’s allocation from the United Way of Greater Milwaukee was cut to $3,000.

“We’re struggling to make up $15,000 to $20,000 now,” she said. “We’ve been able to keep up with it until now.

“We’re just not getting the local support we need to survive and thrive.”

Peterson noted that the center still receives funding from the United Way of Northern Ozaukee, which this year allocated $14,000 to the Volunteer Center.

Knowing that the Milwaukee and Waukesha United Way’s cut was coming, Peterson said, the Volunteer Center instituted two new fundraising events — the Rhythm Road Rally and the “I Heart Volunteers” campaign.

The goal of the campaign, she said, is to seek individual donations of at least $10.

“There are enough people here to support us,” Peterson said. “If everyone does $10, we’re golden.”

But, she said, it will take time to build these fundraisers into something that can make up a $30,000 shortfall in the agency’s budget.

“It’s going to take a while to get everything going at that level,” Peterson said.

Those events supplement funds raised at the center’s “Let’s Dance and Lip Synch”  fundraiser, which will be held on Nov. 11.

The budget cut couldn’t come at a worse time, Peterson said, noting that needs in Ozaukee County are continuing to increase even as budgets get tighter for all nonprofits.

“All of us in the nonprofit world, we’re talking about more needs with less resources,” she said. “We’re all scrambling for local funds.”

The Volunteer Center provides several important services for 74 area agencies, Peterson said. It matches volunteers in the community with volunteer positions — a service research has shown is valued at $358,000, she said.

“That’s three times our budget,” Peterson said. “We’re the best financial stewards around.”

The center places about 4,000 volunteers each year, she said — placing 50,000 volunteers in jobs over the last 10 years.

In the process, she said, the center helps raise awareness of these services and agencies.

The Volunteer Center also provides training for the staff and boards of directors of the agencies, she said — training that helps them remain efficient and effective.

Peterson said that if the center can’t raise the needed funds, it will have to reimagine its mission and see whether it can continue, and in what form.

“I know for sure our community needs us,” she said. “They need our services. And we know the big hearts we have in this community.”

She’s hoping people will contribute to the Volunteer Center while still supporting the other agencies they help fund.

“We don’t want to take anything from the others,” she said.

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