SVUW to mark campaign end, director retirement
The generosity of the Minot community has made his job enjoyable, said Rich Berg, who retires at the end of the month after nearly six years at the administrative helm of Souris Valley United Way.
“There’s still a lot of work to do and a lot of advocating to do,” said Berg, who has been handing off duties and agency knowledge since October to SVUW’s new executive director, Christy Miller.
Miller originally came to SVUW in 2020 to serve as outreach coordinator. She had previously worked in the fitness industry for 10 years and also served on the YWCA board.
An open house will be held for Berg on Thursday from 3-6 p.m. at The Parker Center in downtown Minot.
Berg said that while he’s come to realize the extent of the needs in the community, he’s also been encouraged in seeing nonprofit organizations working to meet those needs.
“It’s a good thing that we have the groups that we do – that work together,” he said. “We try to come up with solutions together because if we didn’t, I’m not sure a lot of the programs would still be running.”
Berg’s retirement also marks the close of the latest SVUW campaign to raise funds to be distributed later this year toward 2024 programs of participating organizations. Any nonprofit agency that fits into health, education and financial stability can apply for funding, Miller said. A panel of community members makes those funding decisions.
SVUW set a $800,000 goal, up from $625,000 the previous year.
Goals are set high to give the community something to reach for. Berg and Miller are pleased with gifts and pledges that are expected to be just over $600,000. That exceeds the amount given or pledged in the previous year.
“In this economy, that’s great,” Miller said.
Despite inflation and recession scares, SVUW has seen supporters dig deep to continue giving at past levels, Berg said.
Miller said many organizations that receive assistance are feeling the pinch as federal COVID-19 relief dollars come to an end. Assistance organizations that took on extra clients during the pandemic now need new funds to fill the gap to continue serving those clients.
“That’s why we made the big push and increased the goal this year. So we will have a little bit extra to grant out. They will see the benefit of us raising more,” she said.
“We’re eager to get into the granting cycle and talk to our partners again and see what their needs are going to be, although we’ve done a lot of talking to them already. And their demands have gone way up,” Berg said.
In the next distribution round, 21 organizations will be recipients.
“We don’t do one-to-one service with people. That’s not what United Ways are about,” Berg said. “We advocate for everything else that’s going to the community and try to get money for those partner programs that we have.”
However, SVUW oversees Backpack Buddies and Dolly Parton Imagination Library and hosts and is fiscal manager for the Blessing Bank.
SVUW’s Backpack Buddies program, which provides food for hungry students, has gone from serving 280 elementary students last year to 358 students in mid-January in Minot, Berg said. By the end of the year, that number could be 400, which compares with about 180 when he started at SVUW, he said.
This is Berg’s fifth full fundraising campaign with United Way, having started in the middle of a previous campaign in 2017. However, he has spent his career with nonprofits.
“When I graduated from Minot State, I was already working part-time at the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, back in 1979,” he said. “When I graduated in ’81, with a criminal justice degree, they just offered me a job.”
He worked directly with youth there until enrolling again at Minot State in 2005 and also working for the North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities. He later returned to the Ranch, doing development work for the foundation from 2008-2017.
Since joining SVUW in 2017, he has seen the agency respond when needs have arisen, Berg said.
“During COVID, we started an emergency fund. Back in 2011 we had a flood recovery fund, and there was a little bit of money left over. They put that in the bank and they said if something comes up again, please take this money,” Berg said.
“So when COVID struck, we took that,” he said. “We let people know that we had match money up to $20,000, and we were able to raise about $40,000. Then we handed that off to our partner programs so they could fill that gap.”
More recently, through a United Way Worldwide partnership with DoorDash, the Minot office began providing deliveries from Blessing Bank and the Lord’s Cupboard to clients who need the service. SVUW also has funded diaper deliveries to families from Project BEE.
In addition to the fundraising at SVUW, there is the day-to-day operation managed by a staff that will consist of three people once Berg retires.
“You really depend on each other. You kind of function more like a family of people versus a corporate mentality. You might be the executive director, but it wasn’t two weeks ago, we were getting a food delivery from Marketplace and we had so much snow and ice out there. So I’m out shoveling,” Berg said. “You do what you need to do. And I think that’s what makes our office tick.”