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Spreading the word that giving is good

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When Joseph Ranseth learned United Way Winnipeg was going to be $300,000 short on its budget this year, he put out a call to action.

Ranseth, who splits his time residing in downtown Winnipeg and West Kildonan, created a quick video of himself encouraging Winnipeggers to give to the organization, uploading it to the website givingkicksass.com.

"Winnipeg is recognized as one of the most generous cities in Canada. I said ‘We need to do better than that,’ " Ranseth said.

"I didn’t have $300,000 to give, I didn’t know how to raise $300,000, but I knew other people would know how."

Ranseth, a marketing specialist, was surprised by what happened next. Hundreds of people shared the video on Facebook, and it spread like wildfire on both Facebook and Twitter.

United Way’s shortfall hit home for Ranseth when he realized that Big Brothers and Sisters, an organization he volunteers with, receives roughly the same amount of funding from United Way —  $300,000 — as was still needed.

"What if Big Brothers didn’t get that $300,000 to keep their doors open and to employ the case workers so we can be matched to these kids?" Ranseth said.

"That’s when I said we need to raise this money to keep these things going."

The move ended up being successful in getting first-time donors to support the organization. Ranseth has heard tales of people stopping into United Way’s office on Main Street to write out cheques for as much as $15,000. It also succeeded in getting regular donors to give a bit more this year.

"We started seeing people step up," he said.

In addition to regular cash donations, Winnipeggers began hosting special fundraising events too. Just before New Year’s Eve, a karaoke party was held at Tavern United in Transcona which brought in nearly $300. Businesses also chipped in. Gourmet Coffee, for example, donated proceeds from its sales for a period in the fall.

It’s all great news to Doug Finkbeiner, chair of the 2012 United Way campaign. Finkbeiner said one of the organization’s goals is to encourage an every-little-bit-counts mentality, a strategy which fits with Ranseth’s video.

"We’ve got thousands of people pledging... and our retention rate is good, but in order to make a greater impact we need more Winnipeggers involved," Finkbeiner said.

"No gift is too small... It all adds up. I think this is a tremendous initiative."

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