Master of ceremonies and honorary campaign chairman Mike Roberts officially kicked off the 2013 United Way campaign by driving a large red ball with a small golf club into the arms of Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan, seated in the front row of The Delta Grand hotel ballroom.
When asked what is new and
different this year, executive
director Marla O'Brien responded: "The main thing that we're not doing is announcing a dollar goal. We have one in our heads, of course, but we want to put the focus back on the work that the agencies do and the community impact."
The United Way of the Central and South Okanagan has found "that people just get this number stuck in their head and then, it just becomes about that. They feel disappointment if that doesn't get reached. Then you're forgetting about all the good that happens. We are encouraging everybody to participate."
If one per cent more of the community participated in donations, the total raised during the annual campaign could potentially increase by as much as 50 per cent, she explained.
"When we announce the results next spring, I'm hoping we can say how many new donors participated.
"We will announce a dollar total, but it will be more about the participation this year."
In 2012, the campaign raised
$1.27 million for 27 agencies in the Central Okanagan and 12 in the South Okanagan.
Her comments were echoed by campaign co-chairs Jim Paterson, the city's executive director of business development, and Jennifer Robins with the CIBC.
"We're looking at increased participation so it's not just about the dollar amount," said Robins.
"It's about getting more people involved, whether that's through donating, volunteering or just learning more about the United Way. We know if we get more people participating, then we will have a more successful campaign."
"We really recruited strongly on our campaign committee," added Paterson. "Of course, we have a fabulous, strong board. We're trying to really raise the profile in the community by getting the community leaders involved."
"I do think a lot of people recognize the United Way brand, but they don't really know what the United Way does and who we support," added Robins.
"For Jim and I, that's our biggest focus: helping people understand the impact in the community. When you spend a bit of time with some of these non-profits and realize what they do with very little funds, it's beyond impressive."If the United Way can raise more money in the community and people become aware of what the partner agencies are able to do with those funds, they would want to give more, she said.
"We're just really building the United Way campaign to where it should be," said Paterson. "Jennifer and I are both from other places - she from Newfoundland originally and me from Winnipeg - places that really feel passionately about communities."
The kickoff breakfast, again hosted by master of ceremonies and honourary campaign chair Mike Roberts, emphasized participation and community impact.
A series of guest speakers from the partner agencies spoke of how many people benefit from their services, whether it is child care through the Kelowna Child Care Society or family resource programs for young families in Westbank First Nation or a safe overnight shelter for youth through the Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs.