After a rocky stretch of fundraising during its 2014 Red Kettle Christmas Campaign, the Salvation Army of Milwaukee County surpassed $4 million in campaign donations for the first time in its history.
As of Tuesday, the nonprofit’s 2014 campaign total hovered around $4,021,000, according to Major Dan Jennings, Salvation Army divisional commander for Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.
The Salvation Army of Milwaukee County originally sought to collect $3.8 million and never expected such unprecedented success, according to Jennings.
“We anticipated it being a real stretch just to get to the goal,” Jennings said. “We did not anticipate that we would surpass it.”
Throughout much of the 2014 holiday campaign, which started Nov. 1 and ends on Jan. 31, the organization has expressed concern as its donation totals have lagged significantly.
A combination of generous private donations and corporate donations, along with a day of fundraising during a Milwaukee Bucks game, revived collection efforts.
“Folks heard our cry and stepped up to the bat and not only made our goal but surpassed it by nearly $200,000,” Jennings said. “And that number will perhaps even increase as we go the next week and a half toward the end of the month.”
While the organization has consistently hit its campaign goals in the last five years, Jennings said it is usually a nerve-racking plight and a matter of faith, particularly when donations do not pick up until late in the season as was the case with the current campaign.
“When you don’t get them early, it’s a nail biter…You’re a little nervous if they’re going to come in or not,” Jennings said.
The challenge to fundraise is compounded by escalating needs for the organization’s services, which include providing emergency shelter, food and clothing, disaster relief, utility and rent assistance and more to area individuals and families in need.
During the holiday season, the Salvation Army’s toy shop distributed toys to more than 10,000 local youth. About 40 percent of the families who benefitted from the toy shop were newcomers to the organization’s client base, according to Jennings.
The Red Kettle campaign is the organization’s single largest fundraising campaign each year, fueling more than half of its annual budget and backing 85 year-round programs and services, according to Jennings.
“So you can imagine how important it is that we make those funds,” he said.
In years the Salvation Army has fallen short of its campaign goal, it has had to lay off staff or trim the scope of its services, sometimes making cuts to both staff and services. But this year, the nonprofit will be able to pour some of its funds into reserves to ensure its sustainability.
Red Kettle campaign donations will continue to be accepted through the end of the month. Donations can be made at www.usc.salvationarmy.org/milwaukee.