United Way Raises Bar Following Record Fundraising Year

United Way of Door County has raised the bar on its current fundraising campaign to accommodate a record year of giving in 2020.

The nonprofit organization has set a 2021 campaign goal of $775,000 and kicked off the campaign Aug. 18 at MAX in Baileys Harbor, with about 75 people in attendance. 

“Knowing it’s a huge stretch, we’re counting on all those first-time donors [from 2020] to continue to gift to us,” said Amy Kohnle, executive director of United Way of Door County. “We know the need is there.”

Donors came through for the organization in 2020 by giving $752,540.60 – an amount that significantly exceeded the campaign goal of $650,000. It was the most raised in the organization’s 60-year history by almost $200,000. The fundraising total in 2019, for example, was $557,000.

United Way of Door County seeks to move the needle on community problems by supporting programs that focus on healthy lifestyles, educational opportunities and financial stability. Grantees fill out applications to request United Way dollars, and a year later, they report what they spent, how they spent it, who was served and success stories that the funds generated.

Last year, the organization put 87 cents of every donated dollar directly into some 25 nonprofit human-services programs that delivered 9,387 units of service to people in need. 

“We don’t know if somebody got help from each of the agencies [that receive grant dollars],” Kohnle said. “They each report how many people they’ve helped, but we can’t say if all of those are different individuals.”

About 9% of Door County residents lived at or below the federal poverty level in 2018, the latest year for data used by United Way of Door County. This translates to an annual salary that’s at or below $12,140 for a single adult and $25,100 for a family of four (two adults, two children).

An even greater percentage of Door County’s population – 22% – live above the official poverty level but do not make enough to be considered stable. This demographic is referred to as ALICE, or those considered to be Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. 

ALICE people go to work every day but live paycheck to paycheck on survival budgets. They struggle to afford basic needs, have no savings and are one unexpected car repair or medical expense away from a financial disaster.

A single adult living on an ALICE survival budget makes $11.04 an hour, or $22,080 annually. An ALICE family of four (two adults, two children) in the same category makes $28.57 an hour, or $57,132 annually. 

An individual or family moves into the stable ALICE demographic when it’s able to put away a little rainy-day money.

“They have a savings account, so when a crisis happens, they’re able to manage that crisis,” Kohnle said. 

A single adult in Door County reaches ALICE stability on an hourly wage of $22.34, or $44,676 annually. The family of four requires hourly wages closer to $56.87, or $113,748 annually. Above these stable pay scales, the individual or family moves out of the ALICE population.

There is a Catch-22 in that making more money can also mean less benefit assistance. That, too, keeps some households perpetually behind. 

“For some, they’re just stuck,” Kohnle said.

That 22% of Door County residents who are considered ALICE is “sad and sobering,” Kohnle said. United Way of Door County is anticipating that COVID-19 will have made those numbers worse, but the need for the services that United Way invests in existed before then. Kohnle said the organization has been tracking ALICE data since 2010, and the number of people living in that category hasn’t changed in any meaningful way.

“We’re failing our friends and neighbors, she said.

The majority of the programs United Way supports helps the ALICE population already, Kohnle said. These include child care scholarships, financial-stability dollars that help secure housing or basic needs, job-skills training, money-management programs and others. 

But the organization wants and needs to do more, Kohnle said.

“The United Way board is aware of the fact that something does need to be done about this to make sure that even more donor dollars are invested in moving people out of ALICE and into stability,” she said.

The United Way of Door County’s 2021 campaign will run through Jan. 8, 2022. To contribute or learn more about United Way, visit or call 920.746.9645.

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