Whitehorse Daily Star

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President David Whiteside

United Way grapples with fundraising shortfall

United Way Yukon is pointing to a number of factors to explain a 2017 fundraising total considerably lower than what the organization normally receives.

By Taylor Blewett on January 22, 2018

United Way Yukon is pointing to a number of factors to explain a 2017 fundraising total considerably lower than what the organization normally receives.

On average, the local charity brings in close to $150,000 through its annual fundraising campaign, president David Whiteside told the Star Friday.

In 2017, United Way Yukon only raised about $122,000.

According to Whiteside, the decrease is “a concern.”

It’s the lowest annual total United Way Yukon has seen in the past nine years. (Whiteside provided the Star with annual totals dating back to 2009.)

In 2014, 2015 and 2016, the totals were $150,000, $140,000 and $150,000, respectively.

Vishnu Vijay, United Way Yukon’s executive director, noted the Yukon government remains the charity’s leading donor.

However, its annual United Way fundraising breakfast and employee payroll donations both brought in less money last year than they previously have.

In 2017, Yukon government fundraising comprised approximately $83,000 of United Way Yukon’s annual total, according to Vijay.

In 2016, its contribution totalled nearly$90,000.

A less lucrative fundraising breakfast last fall accounts for much of that shortfall – it fell on a professional development day, affecting turnout, Vijay explained.

The rest of the gap is found in decreased donations that employees can volunteer to make through payroll deductions.

Whiteside stressed that the territorial government remains United Way Yukon’s fundraising lifeblood, and its employees continue to give generously.

But demographic changes in the government’s workplace could explain why these donations have seen a slight downturn.

Young civil servants are joining the ranks, he explained, while longtime YG employee donors are retiring. And this isn’t unique to the government workplace.

“Donation patterns change between young people and old people, and a lot of young people have moved into all positions in the Yukon.”

While millennials are charitable, they tend to make donations online rather than through a workplace payroll deduction, Whiteside observed. United Way Yukon accepts both methods of donation.

“It’s just a characteristic, it may or may not change with age; my assumption is it will.

“Their finances are steadier, they’re not paying off student loans, so they’re more comfortable giving $10 off every pay.”

Furthermore, Yukon government retirees whose payroll donations were automatically renewed every year now have to make the effort to fill out a donation form on an annual basis and send it to the national United Way organization, according to Whiteside.

These retirees make up one of many groups that the United Way Yukon president said his organization is looking to increase outreach with, going forward.

Of last year’s fundraising shortfall, Whiteside said, “if you wanted to point a finger of blame, you could point at us.”

The organization hasn’t had the staffing power nor time to reach out to potential donors as it needs to, according to Whiteside.

“Yukoners are good donors, I think we’re just not asking ... we know that when people don’t get asked, they don’t donate.”

United Way Yukon hired its first executive director last fall.

One of Vijay’s responsibilities is looking to improve outreach. He’ll start in the territory’s mining sector, an untapped resource for the annual fundraising campaign.

Small business is another major player in the territory with which Whiteside said United Way Yukon hasn’t established a donor base.

With these targets on the horizon, 2018 could prove a more profitable year for the organization that funds many local projects and charities.

According to its website, United Way Yukon provides annual grants of up to $10,000 to Yukon non-profits and First Nations for projects and programming.

Last year’s funding went to the Youth of Today Society’s hot meal program, walkers and wheelchairs for the Canadian Red Cross in the Yukon, and the Freedom Trails Therapeutic Riding Association, among others.

Most of these were Whitehorse-based, and one of United Way Yukon’s goals is to provide more funding to the communities, according to Vijay.

But that requires money, and the current shortfall leaves the organization more restricted than it would like to be.

Bringing this and future years’ fundraising totals closer to the $150,000 annual fundraising average would be a positive step, Whiteside acknowledged.

“To be honest, we hope to exceed that, but getting back there would make us much more comfortable.”

Comments (8)

Up 4 Down 1

Juniper Jackson on Jan 23, 2018 at 6:41 pm

Actually.. United Way is not bad.. 16 cents on the dollar average goes to administrative costs, Worldwide, with each local United Way branch determining its % and how much of that will go to head office. I'm sure local United Way would be happy to open its books. That being said.. On top of what the Salvation Army garnered, $122,000. for United Way is HUGE.. there are what? 18,000 tops? taxpayers in the Territory? That is a lot of money for a small population to raise, plus what goes to Mae Baucher? Yukoner's.. they love their critters.. they fight for their little helpless things..weather it's a pet or a baby.. Remember the wee one for whom a BBQ was held at Robert Service?
So many places to put extra cash.. but then.. Donation Fatigue, Grouch, ProScience, Nile.. they are right.. everyone is tapped out.. tax time is here, no one has extra cash.. Take a look at 'go fund me'.. That Yukoner's have raised this kind of money is.. astounding.. Government workers? yeah, they make a decent wage.. and don't have much left after forking out 2,000. for rent, 4 or 5k for mortgages.. that doesn't apply to every single one of them of course.. the Government has done nothing about escalating rents..or escalating cost of living.. Some 12 year old right out of school is saying.. wow...18,000 a year..man..you're rich..so if you make 30k, pay for your own drugs, pay for your own cancer bills, pay 57.00 a lb if you want steak.. oh..yeah..and then with all that left over money.. make a donation!!!!

The best move ever pulled was getting employee's to let a charity take money out of their paycheck..I remember when hmm.. what's his name? Tried to make grabs from paychecks mandatory..

Just an aside..I dislike profiling.. to say young employee's don't contribute is not true.. they are just looking at other charitable venues.. and the old ones? if they have anything, they left the territory. Damn few with any money are staying here through the harsh winter.. Knock on every local business door, betcha the revenue is going down, and will stay down until more positive economic climes prevail.

Up 3 Down 1

Dave on Jan 22, 2018 at 10:59 pm

So how much does the new position of executive director make? Likely more than the $28,000 shortfall

Up 4 Down 0

Dean LaRue on Jan 22, 2018 at 9:49 pm

PFFFFT - WAY too many charities these days

I was directly asked 307 times for money by strangers in Whitehorse in 2017
(YES - I kept count)

Up 7 Down 1

ProScience Greenie on Jan 22, 2018 at 5:09 pm

Not to knock the good government workers out there but this article shows that it is like winning a lottery to get one of those jobs. If there was less nepotism / funky hiring and a reduction in the tendency to hire overqualified people maybe more Yukoners would get those jobs. Then more would be able to contribute to local charities and perhaps we'd see less people in need of help. Running a more efficient government with less waste and bloat would also see more money in regular folks pockets and better delivery of existing social programs.

Up 5 Down 0

ProScience Greenie on Jan 22, 2018 at 5:04 pm

For sure times are tough for many and taxes are always rising more than the cost of living and new taxes are on the way so there is less to go around. It also seems like everyone and their dog has started up some kind of charity for this or that cause so less and less is going to real charities that focus on helping those in need.

Up 11 Down 0

Donation Fatigue on Jan 22, 2018 at 3:41 pm

I think some of it could be caused by donation fatigue among residents. There is a never ending stream of well intentioned canvassers coming to my door asking for donations for everything from the Red Cross to Heart and Stroke foundation and World Vision Canada as well as many local causes. There are endless requests for donations in the mail from organizations who somehow find the money to print and mail out flyers, then my coworkers who are constantly looking for financial support for their particular fundraisers or charity, also we have food drives and people at stores asking for donations or selling tickets to support some charity or cause, followed by large organizations such as United Way, Food Bank, and Salvation Army asking for more as they need tens or hundreds of thousands to get by on top of all the government funding they receive. I hated to do it but I've started to say, sorry no to some people and organizations with their hands out and frankly the United Way is pretty far down my list of donation priorities.

Up 7 Down 0

Nile Nukon on Jan 22, 2018 at 3:06 pm

Yukoners are generous but times are going to get tough. It's become far more expensive to live here and that mean less expendable income. With the upcoming carbon tax that is only going to increase. People will still donate but it will a donation of time rather than a donation of dollars.

Up 8 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Jan 22, 2018 at 2:58 pm

The rising cost of living and ever increasing taxes has a negative influence on donation levels to many service organisations. It seems everybody has to tighten their belts except the government.

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