As the first round of agency applications for United Way funding came to a close, predictions of greater needs in the community have come true with the largest cumulative ask in the organization’s 37-year history.
“We saw a significant increase of over a million dollars, or 15-percent, in total requests for funding compared to last year,” said Muna Yussuf, Community Investment Coordinator. “We also had applications from an additional six agencies who are currently not receiving funding.”
The United Way of Fort McMurray Board of Directors identified the likelihood of increased need when they did their strategic planning in the summer set the campaign target at $8 million. While the scope and scale of the need is only coming into focus now, there was a sense that reduced government and sponsorship support was going to impact the demands on the United Way’s community fund.
As an aggregate total, funding requests in 2014 were almost $6.5 million. The total of the application requests in 2015 has eclipsed $7.5 million.
“With every funding cycle, our volunteers on the Community Investment Committee carefully review each application, assess eligibility, and make recommendations to the board regarding allocations based on priority areas of need, agency capacity, and available dollars,” said John Evans, Chair of the Community Investment Committee.
“The dramatic increase that we’ve seen in requests in this funding cycle reflects the realities of a community weathering an economic downturn.”
The reasons to give are more compelling than ever as 32 agencies are looking to the United Way for support. The United Way also invests funds raised during the community campaign in programs, partnerships and initiatives that strengthen the community and respond to emerging needs.
“We strive to keep our administrative costs as low as possible” said Diane Shannon, Executive Director. “Keeping the costs to operate in the 10-percent range increases our ability to meet community needs.”
As the lower oil price environment took hold in the early part of the year, impacts in the community began appearing.
“We have been seeing indicators of increasing needs through the spring and summer of 2015,” said Shannon. “The initial requests from the agencies are symptomatic of a community that is feeling the effects of uncertainty, instability and retrenchment across all sectors.”
The Community Campaign continues until November 13th with donations expected to roll in until the New Year. A progress report and a thermometer update are expected within a couple of days. Recommendations for allocations for 2016 will come from the Community Investment Committee to the Board of Directors in February and funding announcements at the end of March.