United Way comes up short after 25-year run of success

Troy Shantz

After a remarkable 25-year run the United Way Sarnia-Lambton has failed to reach its campaign goal, and that could impact the agencies and programs it supports.

“It was just a difficult year. In fact we knew going into this year it would be a tough campaign to even reach last year’s level,” said executive director Dave Brown, noting corporate donors were down in 2018.

“We’re really very grateful to have just missed it.”

The umbrella fundraising agency took in $1,969,000, just $31,000 shy of the $2 million target set last summer.

The money raised supports 19 agencies and 35 programs, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, North Lambton Community Health Centre, the Red Cross and Lambton Elderly Outreach, Brown said.

United Way allocation officials will meet soon to discuss how the money should be distributed.

Despite the campaign shortfall, Brown noted, $103,000 was raised for non-funded agencies such as St. Joseph’s Hospice and the Inn of the Good Shepherd.

“We never count those. Most United Way (chapters) count that money as part of their campaign goal. We don’t because we want to focus, and focus the donors’ attention, on the amount of money that our funded agencies need.”

The last time the local United Way didn’t meet or exceed its financial target was in 1993.

“Back in those days we had a lot of downsizing in the community,” Brown noted.

After that experience, the United Way revised how its targets are set, and evaluated whether the intended outcomes were being met. That approach has resulted in the long string of successful campaigns.

Brown said the strategy for next year would be reassessed. The target is usually set in June and the campaign unofficially kicked off with a volunteer Day of Caring in September.

“We’re also looking at our own costs,” Brown said, “to see where else we can save.”