Donations down as United Way braces for 'challenging year'

United Way raised $55.2 million in its annual campaign, down from last year's total of $59.7 million, which was a record.

Agency raised $55.2 million in annual campaign

United Way CEO Lucy Miller (centre), smiles for a photo with the agency's 2016 fundraising campaign co-chairs Deborah Yedlin and Mick Dilger. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

In yet another sign of the economic slump, fundraising for the United Way's 2015 campaign was down from the previous year.

Last year, the annual campaign raised $55.2 million. In 2014, United Way, which supports and invests in agencies that assist vulnerable Calgarians, raised a record $59.7 million. 

Still, CEO Lucy Miller called the campaign a success. Some of United Way's corporate donors were struggling last year with the economic realities brought about because of the low price of oil, but still opened their chequebooks to help out.

"What we saw were individuals and corporations who were so committed to the people around them that they found a way to make us have a successful campaign," Miller said Wednesday. 

Miller said 2016 will be a challenging year for the agency.

"People who need us now are not necessarily the same people who needed us last year," she said. "People who never thought they'd need the support of United Way funded agencies have been calling on us to provide support."

Miller said the 2016 campaign is in good hands with its co-chairs — business columnist Deborah Yedlin, and Mick Dilger, the CEO of Pembina. 

"Two months into 2016, it's becoming increasingly apparent to all of us that this is not going to be an easy year for Calgarians, which is why the United Way is even more important to the city than it is in times of prosperity," said Yedlin.

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