April 8 2009 12:00 AM

The local United Way chapter cuts grant funding to local community organizations, citing a drop in donations.

The Capital Area United Way, like many of its sister organizations across the country, is making funding cuts this year because of reduced donations.

Theresa Kmetz, the organization’s executive director, said that the United Way had raised $4.5 million as of March compared to $5.8 million last year, which necessitated cutting grants to local organizations to around $1 million, down from $1.8 million last year.

“There were a variety of organizations that we’ve been unable to fund,” Kmetz said. “We made a decision take a look at crucial unmet needs. It’s really, for us, about targeting our funding and making sure we’re doing the most good with the dollars.”

The United Way has cut funding to 10 organizations, from 31 to 21, since last year, according to the charity’s documents. Groups like the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the YMCA of Metropolitan Lansing, Legal Aid of South Central Michigan and the Big Brothers Big Sisters Michigan Capital Council have lost grant funding for this year.

Kmetz said that the United Way would focus its grant funding on three core areas: homeless shelters, health care and child protection. For example, the Haven House, an East Lansing family homeless shelter, will receive funding this year, where it did not last year.

‘It’s really, for us, about targeting our funding and making sure we’re doing the most good with the dollars,” Kmetz said.

Cheri Schimmel, the financial development director with the YMCA of Metropolitan Lansing, said that her organization is still trying to process what the United Way cuts will mean. However, she said that the United Way grants account for only about 3 percent of the YMCA’s funding.

“There’s a lot of people receiving reduced funding,” she said. “We’re trying to figure out what will happen based on what we’re getting and not getting.”

The United Way works as a sort of charitable clearinghouse. The idea is to get large groups of people together who might or might not donate to smaller charities; the United Way conducts large fundraisers and then doles out the contributions.

When donors give to the United Way, they can specify which charity gets their money. Kmetz said that all donors’ requests would be honored, despite the grant cuts.

The United Way has around $2.1 million in designated gifts. On top of that, the United Way, which serves Ingham, Clinton and Eaton counties, spends money to fund its 211 line, its staff, membership dues to the United Way of America and provide staff for other community initiatives. Kmetz said that at least one position is being held vacant and cuts are being made within the organization, including cutting back on travel and printing costs.