United Way breaks fundraising record

Published 9:25 am Thursday, February 13, 2014

There was much cause for celebration today as United Way of Southwest Michigan announced surpassing its 2013 campaign goal and raising $3,466,528 — the highest amount raised in the organization’s 71-year history.

“This was a great year for United Way and the community,” said United Way President Anna Murphy. “Not only did we meet our goal of $3.3 million, but for the fourth year in a row, we have exceeded it. Because of every single person in this room, and tens of thousands of others in our community, United Way will be able to continue doing its very important work.”

Following its annual meeting, United Way celebrated the campaign success at an awards celebration Wednesday at Shadowland on Silver Beach. The event was attended by many volunteers, donors and company representatives from all over Berrien and Cass counties who received awards for their outstanding contributions to this year’s campaign.

“This campaign was a success for the entire community,” said Ric Pawloski, 2013 United Way Campaign Chair and President of Flaktwoods Fan Group in Niles. “United Way was supported by 189 companies in Berrien and Cass counties through either a campaign or a corporate gift.

“The full campaign includes about 7,000 individuals who give to United Way and approximately 1,500 new donors partially as a result of a community challenge that matched new donor dollars.”

The challenge grant was made by a group of eight community partners to companies where less than half of their employees participated in the United Way campaign. Each new donor from those companies who gave at least $2 each week triggered a match from the challenge grant.

Another successful campaign strategy was to increase participation in the Leadership Circle and the Tocqueville Society. Members of the Tocqueville Society contribute individual gifts of $10,000 or more, and Leadership Circle givers make annual gifts of at least $500. United Way currently has 22 Tocqueville Society members, up from just 12 members two years ago. And in 2013, they gained 203 new Leadership Circle members, for a current total of 885 members.

Pawloski also credited the many campaign volunteers and United Way staff for this year’s success.

“People volunteered within corporations to encourage giving through special events,” he said. “It was a lot of time and energy from the staff and so many people who gave their time. From agency tours to penny wars, from canoe races to sliming the boss, the creativity and excitement of the campaigns this year are what made the phenomenal success possible.”