When the books on the 1997-98 Orange County United Way Community Campaign are closed at a celebratory breakfast this morning, the charity will have collected about $1 million more than last year--the largest increase in donations in a decade.
The $19.5 million raised this year also puts the charity about $400,000 over the $19.1 million fund-raising benchmark set at the Sept. 19 campaign kickoff. Donations were up 6%, or about $1.1 million, from last year's total of $18.4 million.
"This as very, very exciting," said Jeff Urbaniec, a senior United Way marketing manager.
The United Way has been on a decade-long financial rollercoaster, with donations jumping 10% in 1988, then plummeting 9%--nearly $2 million--four years later. Some small gains were lost in 1995 when donations plummeted an additional 10%.
Recent years have brought gains, although the county fund-raising record remains $20.3 million in 1989.
Orange County United Way President Maria Chavez Wilcox said the money this year will benefit everyone from mudslide victims to senior shut-ins.
She said the county's improving financial state and an aggressive drive to recruit donors helped make this year's campaign successful. Irvine-based Fluor Corp. will receive the agency's top honor for leading that recruiting effort.
Also among the county's top three donors were employees of Orange County, who donated $641,248 to the campaign--$34,000 more than last year.
"Think about that," Urbaniec said. "Think of all the turmoil they've been through and they're still the third-largest giving group. Talk about giving in the face of adversity. These guys just keep giving and giving."
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For the second year in a row, United Way recorded an increase in funds raised in Orange County, to $19.5 million in 1997. That's a 6% jump from 1996. Here's the trend in United Way amounts raised based on pledges, with amounts in millions:
Source: United Way of Orange County