United Way faces fundraising shortfall

The Fraser Valley agency, based in Abbotsford, is about $80,000 under its campaign goal.

Lori Masse

Lori Masse

For the first time in recent years, the United Way of the Fraser Valley (UWFV) has not met the fundraising goal for its annual campaign.

Lori Masse, the charity’s director of resource development, said the agency has collected $796,000 toward its $875,000 goal.

Last year, UWFV raised $827,000, just surpassing its $825,000 target.

Masse said unless the additional funds are collected this year, the charities that the United Way supports will suffer.

The organization covers the area from Aldergrove and Mission east to Boston Bar. It provides social service grants to 25 charities in areas such as early childhood success, homelessness and affordable housing, and poverty reduction.

Groups supported by the United Way include Abbotsford Community Services, Abbotsford Peer Support, the Women’s Resource Society, and the Fraser Valley Child Development Centre.

Masse speculated that one of the reasons funds are down, not only for the United Way but other local charities, is the ongoing impact of the economic downturn.

“I think we’ve finally hit a wall where people are saying, ‘Things aren’t getting better,’ ” she said.

Masse said an influx of people retiring from their jobs is also affecting the United Way’s fundraising goals.

She said many of the agency’s largest donors have left their jobs and can no longer give as much, if any, money. People who are still working are tending to put aside more funds toward their retirement and less to charitable giving.

Meanwhile, the younger generation is racking up more debt than ever – from things such as education – and doesn’t have disposable income.

Masse said another trend is that more and more people want to volunteer their time with a charity, rather than contribute funds.

Masse said an ongoing challenge for UWFV is maintaining a profile in the community. Although many people are aware of the United Way, they don’t know it exists in the Fraser Valley.

As an example, Masse said the United Way of the Lower Mainland raised an average of $11.90 per person in 2011, while the Fraser Valley branch collected $2.85.

She said UWFV plans to launch a push to raise the remainder of the campaign goal.

The campaign runs annually from September to December, and 79 per cent of the funds come from employee payroll deductions. Another 19.6 per cent is from corporate donations, while the remaining 1.4 per cent is from individuals contributing outside of a workplace program.

UWFV is located in the Sweeney Neighbourhood Centre at Abbotsford Senior Secondary, 33355 Bevan Ave. To make a donation or for more information, call 604-852-1234 or visit the website uwfv.bc.ca.

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