Saturday April 19, 2014

Charities hit a few fundraising bumps

Salvation Army needs volunteers; Christmas Amalgamated welcomes food donations
Hugo Yuen

Sally Whitson: 'We're actually just starting to pick up'

Cold weather put a crimp on the Salvation Army kettle campaign, but a few more weather-resistant volunteers could help make up the difference.

The charity depends on volunteers to tend a dozen kettles at storefronts and street corners around town, so a shortage means they could also come up short on donations.

"A lack of volunteers affects how we are financially," said Heather McQueen, one of two co-ordinators working on the kettle campaign.

"We really count on people who can stand outside with the kettles, so we've been trying to round up hardy people."

The most recent tally indicated the Salvation Army was about $5,000 behind the amount usually raised at this point, having launched its kettle campaign in mid-November.

About 120 volunteers, many of them with supporting organizations such as Kamloops Fire and Rescue, Rotary clubs, Kiwanis and Crime Stoppers, are already on kettle duty. McQueen hopes a few more come forward, noting that husband-and-wife teams work well with partners taking turns.

Volunteers can reach McQueen or Audrey Phillips at 250-819-0017.

The time commitment can be as little as an hour a week, depending on volunteer flexibility.

"Whatever they can spare, we can try to find something," Phillips said. Sometimes volunteers must cancel, so it helps to have substitutes.

"Even if they only have an hour, that's super."

Other charities report some minor challenges at this point in the season.

"We're actually just starting to pick up," said Sally Whitson. "People are just starting to realize where we're at."

That's one of the drawbacks of having to rely on donated space for the seasonal operation — they can't be picky or expect to be in the same location from year to year. This year, the charity is located at Unit 15, 1800 Tranquille Rd., in the Brock Shopping Centre.

Volunteers are almost at the stage when they turn their attention to preparing Christmas food hampers. That's where the need for donations is greatest to provide traditional Christmas dinners to those who would not be able to afford it otherwise. Whitson listed as examples turkey, potatoes, apples, oranges, candies — "whatever you put on the Christmas table."

New Life Mission had a serious setback with a fire that forced temporary closure of its fundraising thrift store. Now that the store is back in operation, the publicity of the setback appears to have motivated more charity.

Normally, the store brings in $1,000 to $1,200 a day. In its first six days back in business, it raised between $10,000 and $11,000, said executive director Stan Dueck. That's helping to make up for the shortfall.

"It appears to be on par with normal," he said of seasonal donations.

The thrift store has taken a new approach, a redesigned appeal that puts a human face on the mission's work with testimonials about former clients who have benefited from support.

United Way is counting down to its big day on Thursday, when the results of its fall annual fundraising campaign will be announced.

This year, for first time in memory, the charity umbrella organization was concerned that it might not achieve its goal. An eleventh-hour public notice was issued to that effect over the weekend.

"It was looking like we might not hit our goal of $2 million," said Amber Harding, manager of communication. "Since that went out, it's looking better now."

The charity saw some slippage on the corporate side of giving while employee donations continued at pace. Some corporate programs change from year to year with a couple of fundraising events, such as the RCMP Charity Ball, left out of the fold this season, Harding said.

"The lack of such things can really impact the campaign."

Some have asked United Way why it didn't raise its goal this year, since $2.2 million was raised on a goal of $2 million last year. They want to be reasonably confident it's a goal that doesn't wind up a disappointment.

"We always set a real conservative goal for that reason," said Harding.

Kamloops Food Bank, meanwhile, can always count on a surge of donations through the CP Holiday Train, which arrives in Kamloops on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. Hundreds of people attend the free show, bringing food donations with them, while organizations and companies use the occasion to announce major contributions.

* * *


The challenge of charity isn’t only gathering donations, it’s determining how those donations will be distributed.

This is not an enviable position to be in, deciding who or who should not receive the fruits of charitable giving, but it’s a role that charities must play.

And invariably there are hands extended that won’t be filled since charities have an obligation to apply standards for the sake of their organizations, out of regard for donors and in fairness to those with legitimate needs.

“There’s a qualification they go through and we do want them to provide paperwork,” said Sally Whitson, executive director of Christmas Amalgamated.

“And a lot of people feel that it should be structured so that they can knock on the door and we give them a hamper. As a charity, we can’t do that.”

Some applicants do not qualify and do not receive a food or gift hamper, but that’s not a common occurrence, Whitson said. In some of those rejected cases, there is an unwillingness to provide background information and Whitson suspects there might be a reason.

“They don’t want to show where their money comes from. And if it’s not a legitimate source, how do you verify it? The majority of people can provide information on where their income comes from and how much they’re getting.”

Whitson wasn’t surprised to hear of complaints about how Christmas Amalgamated manages its charity and determines who should benefit. In fact, one complainant came to her mind, a man who threatened staff at the charity when he couldn’t get his way. They took the threats seriously and police were called.

“We do get people — a small amount of people — who are in difficulty because of drug use or other negative activities,” she said. “We’re going to get that from them.”

They do, however, want people with complaints to come in and talk them over, she said. Sometimes circumstances are misunderstood.

“It can happen, but it’s rare,” she said. “It is good to get these questions answered.”

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