The United Way of Brandon and District raised $706,092 in 2011, up $3,077 from the 2010 fundraising campaign.
"I was very happy with the result this year because 2011 was a unique year in Brandon," Kevin Martin, the two-time chairman of the annual United Way fundraising campaign, said Thursday at the Victoria Inn.
"It’s always a struggle and for the community to respond in the way it did, with this amount, we are very proud of this result, not disappointed."
The fundraising goal of $750,000 was not met, but the campaign committee had overcome a number of economic obstacles to post an increase from the previous year’s effort for the 13th straight year.
"It was based on good analysis of what we have done in the past, where our areas of growth were, what our community sectors, corporate world were telling us and we felt $750,000 was achievable," said Debbie Arsenault, the chief executive officer of the United Way of Brandon and District. "Then a couple of things happened. The economy hit. The community got busier with other fundraisers. People started worrying about their money more."
Arsenault said some corporations altered donation policies, in some cases putting an end to matching employee donations.
"In one case, a big employee account was cut in half over last year and at one point, we were hundreds of thousands down from last year’s pace," Arsenault said. "We had to find new money to make that up because if you have an account that gives you $50 one year and nothing the next, you have to find that $50 somewhere else. We had challenges that in all of my years with the United Way that I had not experienced very often."
The money raised goes to help a growing number of area residents. Arsenault said one in three Brandonites now receives assistance of some kind from the United Way and the projects that it sponsors.
"It can vary from year to year, and depending on how many programs are out there, but the United Way can support between 45 and 47 programs in a year," Martin said.
As was the case last year, CFB Shilo was a top contributor to the United Way fundraising drive, raising $74,015 through a combination of payroll deductions and other special projects.
"We have a lot of volunteers both in the military and civilian communities," said Maj. John Fortoloczky of CFB Shilo. "They worked extremely hard to make this program bigger than it has ever been, and their results reflect that.
"For example, Capt. Jana Gorveatt, our lead volunteer on the base, worked hard with number of other volunteers that continue to contribute, both civilian and military. Our communities are separate yet blended. We are all one, big community from Shilo to Brandon to Westman. It’s good to be part of that."
Payroll deductions were CFB Shilo’s top United Way fundraising activity and it is encouraged on base.
However, a barbecue held by one of the units stationed at CFB Shilo can have positive impacts as well, Fortoloczky said.
The next challenge for the United Way, aside from finding a new campaign chairperson to replace Martin, is fatigue.
"We are tired right now, but we are already working on the 2012 campaign because that’s what we do," Arsenault said. "It’s humbling to see that this community continues to support and get behind the United Way in good times and in bad."
Martin said serving as the campaign chairman for the past two years — a rarity as most only serve a one-year term — was a rewarding experience.
"There’s new people contributing to the United Way and there is more education about the programs and services and there are new people coming on board," Martin said. "That’s really made the difference. You know what? I am not doing this next year, but that’s part of the role that the United Way has. It’s an honour to be a part of it. This community is amazing and I did not know the true impact of what people do every single day in my community. I am proud of that."
A new chairperson is normally announced at the United Way’s annual meeting in March, and from there, the 2012 fundraising team will take shape, Arsenault said.