The local community has a lot to celebrate: The UWBA has reached its 90th year of operating in the region, and many have come together to help raise 75 percent thus far of the $350,000 campaign goal.
“We are working diligently again this year to stress the importance of giving to the annual United Way campaign, and our message is well-received,” said Executive Director Mandi Wilton Davis.
Direct solicitations for the campaign end on December 15th, but the United Way will accept donations and pledges through January 5, 2016 for any end-of-the-year giving. The new campaign will start back up on August 15, 2016 for a four-month appeal which, according to Davis, has no expectations at this point.
“All of our energy is focused on raising $350,000 for 2015. A significant amount of requests have come in this year, substantially more than we have to allocate, even with the full $350,000, so we have to put every best effort into finalizing this year’s campaign.”
Davis was named Executive Director in December of 2012; officially starting the position in early 2013. Before re-joining the UWBA in her current role, Davis served the organization as assistant executive director from 2006-2010, and as executive assistant from 2004-2006. She most recently was the development and marketing coordinator at CARE for Children.
“We have a great campaign team this year,” Davis said. “We have eight wonderful ladies who were chosen specifically because of their involvement in the organization. In light of the 90th anniversary, we wanted to bring in the historical aspect, and their involvement goes back decades. They work diligently at what they do, and they’ve done a great job maintaining what this organization and this campaign have always been about – community.”
Nationally, the United Way movement was born in 1887 in Denver, Colo., with a premise that those who had extra would give to those in need. At the time, it was a physical storehouse, meaning that if people had extra food, clothing or other necessities, they would take it to that location and those in need would be able to go there and receive it. As a result, it was referred to as the Community Chest.
Locally, the organization that is now the United Way of the Bradford Area, Inc. didn’t become affiliated with the national movement until the 1970s. In Bradford, a Community Chest was established in 1925 by a group of like-minded individuals who felt there needed to be an effort to raise money once a year. As a result, they formed a committee from the Bradford Board of Commerce, which was put in charge of bringing together delegates and connecting with non-profits within the community.
All of the delegates came together on December 15, 1925, which is still the date used today to signify the unofficial end of the annual campaign. The remainder of the calendar year is used as follow-up time, Davis added.
Despite coming together as a cohesive organization in 1925, the local Community Chest’s first formal fundraising campaign was started in 1926.
During WWI and WWII, the Community Chest combined with the War Chest Campaign, whose efforts supported the community during those busy times in crucial political, military and financial age. There was no campaign in 1932 due to the Great Depression that hit the core of the nation, but saw effects that trickled down into every state, city and community.
The Community Chest continued to hold campaigns throughout the 1930s-40s. In 1943, a payroll deduction option began, which, according to Davis, remains “one of the biggest” advantages of giving to the Untied Way, currently.
“We are the only non-profit that is allowed to solicit for payroll deductions,” Davis explained.
In 1952, the Community Chest changed its name to United Community Services, and then again in 1962, to Bradford Area United Fund before its final name change in 1974 to United Way of the Bradford Area, Inc.
“Though we are an affiliate of United Way WorldWide, our focus is on the local community,” Davis said. “We use the logo and an adaptation of the name, but all money is raised in the local community and all money goes back to the local community.”
According to Davis, the UWBA provides several benefit, one of which stresses the importance of giving.
“It provides community members the opportunity to, with one financial contribution, have an impact over several aspect of the local community,” Davis continued. “They make one check or pledge and it gets distributed among all of the eligible non-profits.”
Additionally, Davis added that, without a successful United Way organization, the landscape of our local community would be “drastically different.”
“The funding efforts that we provide are necessary in keeping some aspects of the recipient agencies afloat,” Davis explained. “We not only provide people connections to the necessary programs and services for the betterment of their lives, but, in some cases, we are literally keeping doors open.”
Davis added that United Way’s services impact a broad range of community members, from infants to senior citizens and everyone in between – without which the community would see “a huge difference.”
“It take United Way leading those community efforts,” Davis said. “We don’t fund individuals, we fund organizations, but the positive effects are felt by all. Local non-profits must submit a request for funding, which is sent to a committee comprised of UWBA board members for review before being presented to the full Board of Directors for final approval.”
Davis said every annual campaign is different, so comparison between the years is difficult to accurately measure.
“You never know what external factors will be at play for any given time,” Davis explained. “For example, this year, the economic impact of the oil and gas industry affected our campaign, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not looking to other areas to compensate for the expectant potential loss in that one area. We have seen great response in our public service division, as well as our education division, which has lent tremendous amounts of support.”
Right now, Davis continued, the UWBA is in follow-up mode.
“We expect to raise 100 percent of our goal,” Davis insisted. “That is our intention. When we set that goal, we did so believing that it was attainable and that it was needed. However, if we fall short, I would like to still think that the campaign would be deemed a success, but obviously our focus is hitting that $350,000 mark and going beyond, if possible. Every contribution help.”