United Way of Cascade County announced Thursday that it raised $1,216,168, exceeding last year’s record-breaking campaign.

 “The Great Falls community is very generous in investing in our work,” United Way President Gary Owen said. “Donors want and deserve to know that their gifts are making a difference. We have demonstrated dramatic impact to individuals through the great programs we help fund as well as at the community level with our education, health and financial stability initiatives.”

With the money raised in last year’s campaign, United Way helped 31,133 people through its grants to local nonprofit programs.

The community need will continue into the coming year, as many of the 30 nonprofit programs that United Way invests continue to see more demand and increased costs to deliver services.

Knowing the need in the community, campaign volunteers set the ambitious goal of raising $1.3 million, 10 percent higher than last year’s record-breaking campaign total. This year’s campaign grew by 3 percent.

During its annual campaign, United Way volunteers reach out to area employers both to invite individuals to give and donate money on behalf of their companies.

United Way Campaign Chair and Bravera Bank Montana Regional President Shannon Hoiland noted that Cascade County has had the largest United Way fundraising campaign in the state – a sign of the generosity of local donors and the many volunteers who help.

“I want to thank our campaign cabinet volunteers and the volunteers at individual businesses who coordinated employee giving efforts and organized fundraisers,” Hoiland said. “We had a great group of people who came together to help make sure we did the best job of raising funds for our community.”

This year, more than 3,000 people gave to United Way, most donating less than $100 by taking a few dollars out of each paycheck to help their neighbors.

Of the total, 55 percent was donated by 30 Pacesetters, employers who have committed their support to building the community through United Way of Cascade County.

The 30 pacesetters are: Alluvion Health, Anderson ZurMuehlen, Benefis Health System, Bison Motors, Bravera Bank, Calumet Montana Refining, Cascade County, Centene Corporation, City Motor Company, City of Great Falls, D.A. Davidson, Douglas Wilson & Company, Energy West, FedEx, First Interstate Bank, General Mills, Great Falls College - MSU, Great Falls Public Schools, Horizon Credit Union, Hoven Equipment, HUB International Great Falls, Montana Credit Union, NorthWestern Energy, Pacific Steel & Recycling, Scheels, Target, UPS, US Bank, Walmart and Wells Fargo.

D.A. Davidson Companies, General Mills, Scheels, Great Falls Public Schools, Bison Motor Company and Calumet ran the largest United Way campaigns.

Beyond working with area employers, United Way also reaches out to every individual in Cascade County. This year, 306 people responding to our campaign letter gave a total of $150,500, which is 12 percent of the campaign total.

“Every year I am involved with United Way I learn more about the needs of our community, and more ways to get involved,” said United Way Board Chair Curtis Finnicum, who also serves on the campaign cabinet and on the grant committee.

A team of United Way volunteers decides funding by looking both at the community’s needs and the programs’ effectiveness. United Way will open its grant application in February.

People still can send contributions directly to United Way at PO Box 1343, Great Falls, MT 59403 or click here to donate online.