It’s been an unusual year in many respects, and this year’s United Way Campaign is stepping up to the challenge. As in any other year, the need for funding for the dozens of programs supported by the United Way continues. This year, though, the organization has had to make some changes to the way it fundraises.
In July, the 17th Annual Golf a Day for United Way was held at Maple Leaf Golf Course in Linwood.For Mallory Rivard, the 2020 campaign chair, the campaign is unique for more than just the role the virus will play. Rivard was crowned Miss Michigan 2019. Earlier this year, the organization canceled the 2020 pageant and asked her to keep the crown a second year. Typically, her reign as Miss Michigan would have ended in June when a new state representative would have been named. “This is the first time in history that they’ve had anyone be Miss Michigan for more than one year.”
For Rivard, it means she gets to continue her platform of promoting literacy without having to compete in a pageant. For the most part, she won’t be making public appearances for either role.
“I never imagined being the campaign chair but I am really grateful for the opportunity to advocate for something so close to the community, which is near and dear to my heart.”
United Way Director Marybeth Laisure says rather than hosting in-person events, the organization will use virtual platforms such as Zoom and conference calling to reach donors. And that means Rivard will reach out virtually to boost participation.
“The root of 2020 is adaptability, whether it’s in teaching or my volunteer activities with the United Way - we do what we have to do to get the job done,” says Rivard, who also teaches first grade at MacGregor Elementary in Bay City.
“I was so excited to be campaign chair for United Way this year when they asked, because things have been a little different for me, but it’s also a blessing,” says Rivard, adding part of the challenge will be reaching donors through virtual platforms. “I’ve really tested my social media skills, as well as my communication skills.”
In early September, United Way volunteers staffed the Dry Dock Beer Garden.Though a bit different, this year’s kickoff was held on Aug. 31 at the James Clements Municipal Airport. The State Theatre and local impact partner Hidden Harvest showed the movie “Planes” as a drive-in offering to start the campaign.
“2020 has been quite unpredictable,” says Rivard, who is also raising awareness to literacy by providing virtual reading time with kids on her lunch hour.
Goals for this year’s campaign are different as well. Laisure says rather than having a monetary goal, the United Way is looking at reaching more donors. With many people working remotely, or having been laid off because of the virus, Laisure says fundraising within the community looks entirely different.
“We have a monetary goal internally, but what we really want to do is increase our donor base,” she says.
This year’s goal is to increase number of donors by 250.
“When they do a dollar a week, or $50 a year, it’s $50 we didn’t have. It makes a difference, and people don’t understand that – it makes a huge difference.” Laisure says.
Those dollars go toward supporting programs that provide lunches for kids, mental health treatment, and services for abuse survivors.
Rivard says most people have heard of the United Way, but don’t know what the funds do within the community. She hopes to increase awareness of the need here.
“So many people know of United Way in Bay County, but oftentimes when we ask everyday citizens what United Way does for our community, they don’t really know. So, my role as chair for the United Way is to let people know that United Way does a plethora of things for the community and let them know exactly how we will fundraise for those causes.”
Programs supported by the United Way of Bay County include Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, The Legacy Center for Literacy, Literacy Council, and The Women’s Center where survivors of domestic violence can get help, and children get access to the Safe Touch program. Throughout the county, the United Way provides hundreds of thousands of dollars toward programs impacting children and families as well as seniors.
“The ultimate goal is to raise as much money as possible to help people right here in Bay County,” says Rivard.
Even though fundraising will look different this year, the United Way is asking local businesses and individual community members for donations. Information on this year’s campaign can be found on the Bay County United Way Facebook page.
This year’s campaign runs through Nov.15.