Fundraising can be a trying business. It’s enough of a challenge to work in sales, offering a product or service in exchange for cash. But asking for money on nothing more than the promise of feeling that one has done something good can’t be easy.
That’s just what Carol Townsend has been doing for 18 years as chief executive of the local United Way. Before that, she was a member of its board of directors for eight years. Next month she will step down, passing the reins of this venerable 35-year-old organization to the next generation.
It has been a long and successful tenure.
When it was first established in 1978, the fledgling organization had to borrow $3,000 to get through the first year. In the most recent fiscal year, the organization took in $1.4 million in revenue. Only 15 percent of that went to management and fundraising with the remainder distributed to the many worthwhile programs the Greater Gallatin United Way supports.
And Townsend deserves a lot of credit for that dramatic growth.
United Way is a pillar of charitable giving throughout the region. Among the many nonprofit agencies it helps fund are the Bozeman Senior Center, Community Health Partners, Family Promise, the Gallatin Mental Health Center, the Greater Gallatin Homeless Action Coalition, the Haven shelter for domestic violence victims, and food banks throughout the region, and many others.
The annual United Way drive is the most painless way for community members to give to these many organizations and participate in all the good that they do. Participating business provide an opportunity for employees to have donations deducted from each paycheck.
And Townsend deserves much of the credit for raising the organization’s profile.
Filling Townsend’s shoes will be a tall order for United Way chief executives that follow her. She will be remembered for a long time as the person that took community giving in Southwest Montana to a new level.