Senior Center of West Seattle launching fundraising campaign to compensate for what it’s not getting from United Way

The Senior Center of West Seattle‘s end-of-year pitch for donations isn’t your everyday end-of-year pitch.

This year, the center is trying to make up for $60,000 it’s not getting from United Way of King County.

That was the West Seattle center’s share of $700,000 that UWKC gave Senior Services last year.

Next year, SS isn’t getting that at all, because UWKC has decided not to fund general-purpose organizations – instead, a spokesperson told us, they’re focusing on a new strategic plan with missions such as helping end homelessness and raise graduation rates.

General funding of services for senior citizens, for example, just doesn’t fit, explained United Way of King County spokesperson Jared Erlandson when we called to ask the reason for the cuts. He said the organization is focusing on spending that can have a direct effect on problems and challenges, rather than spreading the dollars thinly. But Senior Services points out that the elder population is swelling, and, SS spokesperson Karen Bystrom points out, seniors are also a vulnerable population. (SS is not the only organization affected – in all, $1.7 million in funding that goes to 30 organizations is being redirected by UWKC, and they’re not all senior-focused organizations.)

In the meantime, the West Seattle center is trying to raise $25,000 for starters by year’s end. The theme is “keeping the Senior Center thriving.” Center executive director Lyle Evans says WSSC is “responsible for raising 75 percent of the nearly $800,000 annual budget. This loss hits hard since we have counted on this stable income.”

The center is a 501(c)3 organization, so contributions are tax-deductible. Its programs include feeding dozens of local seniors every day in the center’s “Junction Diner.” The center also offers programs that help seniors deal with challenges such as finding affordable housing. And they offer fun, too, from dances to bingo to movies. Right now, they’re just hoping to rustle up the funds to keep all that going.

12 Replies to "Senior Center of West Seattle launching fundraising campaign to compensate for what it's not getting from United Way"

  • Raye December 10, 2015 (12:28 am)

    I have never, and would never, give a penny to the United Way. I give generously to other organizations. United Way undoubtedly does good things, but there’s something unpleasantly corporate about them – and the way they pressure people to give. Now, with this development, and a “new strategic plan” (which sounds like corporate-speak), my feelings about them are underscored.

  • JanS December 10, 2015 (1:18 am)

    They are taking funds away from the most vulnerable among us. I, too, have never given to United Way. As a senior, that has used Senior services, I guess we’re even now. Yes, too corporate for me. Shame on them. The
    management” could damn well take a pay cut, as far as I’m concerned, so they don’t have to cut anyone :(

  • WSEA December 10, 2015 (7:39 am)

    I would like to point out that the king county united way does have a good rating and low expenses. Yes, people may not agree with their new stance but others may still want to give.

    I would also recommend using the charity search tool to find place which has the lowest admin expenses so you know that most of your money is going to the cause.

  • daPuffin December 10, 2015 (7:41 am)

    I give where the money and effort can do the most good. Therefore, United Way gets none of my money. I haven’t participated in United Way campaigns on the job for many, many years.
    To cut funding from services for seniors is so wrongheaded I can’t begin to fathom it.

  • newnative December 10, 2015 (8:16 am)

    I understand the sentiment of not spreading the $ thin, but I don’t agree that cutting funding to the Senior Center is the place to cut. This place directly helps keep our seniors afloat, thriving and healthy.

  • Lindsey December 10, 2015 (9:41 am)

    JanS, I’d argue that homeless people, including homeless seniors, are more vulnerable than seniors with homes. But you know, that’s an argument that sucks no matter what conclusion you come to – help is needed in a lot of places. Nobody is going to like having money taken away from their organization, but I can’t abide all the UW bashing in these comments. As WSEA points out, the organization has very low overhead and a very specific vision for funding organizations with specific missions. Homelessness and poverty are also swelling in King County. I can’t imagine these decisions are made lightly. If you are upset, then show it with your wallet and donate to the senior center.

  • Kimmy December 10, 2015 (9:58 am)

    +1 Lindsey

  • Rick Sanchez December 10, 2015 (10:11 am)

    I’m puzzled by the united way hate as well. They do a good job of identifying the most pressing problems in the community and trying to address them. The senior center does good work, but go walk through the homeless jungles under every major overpass and tell me that providing bingo to seniors is the highest priority for vulnerable populations. (Yes, yes, they do many other things. But look at the home page: it’s 70% bingo night related).

  • Homedk December 10, 2015 (8:59 pm)

    I can speak to why I (and others I know) do not have a good impression of United Way. I worked for a large local tech corporation in the ’90s. During that time, we were pressured to donate to the United Way campaign each year via payroll deductions. Participation was “voluntary”, but each group and division was tallying their percentage of participation. There was lots of visibility to which groups had people holding out (including graphs on PowerPoint slides at meetings). They even had an employee in our division who was on temporary assignment to drive participation in the United Way campaign, so this meant awkward personal conversations and written email reminders about why we should donate to United Way – and this was happening because the various divisions in the company were competing with each other for most participation. The effect was that employees either had to defy our management or cave to the pressure.
    My initial plan was to participate and choose orgs that I donated to already – although I resented the idea of adding any overhead to my charitable giving.
    I don’t recall exactly when this occurred, but United Way made some political moves one year that I felt were not in keeping with my values. Specifically, they removed organizations from their list of donation recipients…even although these were non-profits. The most visible of these orgs was Planned Parenthood (yes, still controversial), but United Way also removed some others from the list that they felt weren’t worthy of donations.
    I recall that there was some outcry at the time, but United Way did not reverse its stance. I wrote them off then and have never looked back. Low overhead is great, but to me the most important thing to look at is what sort of an organization your donations are funding. At the time, it seemed to me that they were making decisions based on their seemingly non-progressive political views.

  • newnative December 11, 2015 (12:16 pm)

    I also worked at a nursing home where we were pressured to donate to them out of our paychecks at a time when we were making barely over minimum wage.

  • Lisann Leyva December 12, 2015 (5:50 am)

    Rick, I would like to point out the 70% are the fundraising Bingos not frivolous expenditure s. If you read the original article it specifically describes what services the money will be used for…helping our amazing seniors thrive!

  • Simon December 12, 2015 (5:06 pm)

    “But look at the home page: it’s 70% bingo night related)”

    Rainbow Bingo is monthly fundraiser for the Senior Center. It is attended predominately by non-seniors. The Senior Center’s social work and outreach program does an excellent job of helping seniors access medical care, those who need assistance in their homes, and those who are facing homelessness, low vision issue or other impairments. They also have a food bank and serve as an outlet for Meals on Wheels, in addition to serving hot, nutritious meals on site Monday through Friday so that seniors who can’t cook for themselves or who have no one to eat with have a community-oriented place to go. They loan out medical equipment such as walkers, wheelchairs, and canes. That’s not even a complete list.

    Your Bingo comments show ignorance, stereotypes, and naivete. Seniors ARE one of the biggest vulnerable populations. Senior Centers can help prevent horrible things from happening to them.

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