PEORIA — The annual United Way campaign once again raised more than $11 million in donations to fund a variety of health and human services programs throughout the region.
Individuals and businesses donated $11,108,500 — with some contributions doubled through programs such as the one offered by the Caterpillar Foundation's dollar-for-dollar match to employee's donations.
The total for the six-county Heart of Illinois United Way chapter exceeds that of several neighboring chapters combined and puts the Peoria-based chapter in the top 1 percent of United Way chapters across the country.
President Michael Stephan said the Heart of Illinois chapter ranked 15th of the 1,800 chapters in the nation in terms of donations per capita and revenue growth, among other factors.
"I'm not aware of any community this size raising $11 million," Stephan said. "We're way above our weight class, and that speaks volumes about the community's generosity and compassion."
The donations will continue funding for programs offered by United Way's partner agencies and directly subsidized projects, such as the 2-1-1 information and referral service, which connects people in need with appropriate service providers around the clock.
More than 300 companies and organizations participate in the annual campaigns, with 14 new corporate gifts and 20 new employee campaigns in 2017. Almost 60 organizations increased their contributions by 10 percent or more for the year.
Donations from Caterpillar employees with matching contributions from the company's philanthropic foundation accounted for more than half of the annual total.
Campaign Chairman Bill Pape said some uncertainty enveloped the 2017 campaign, with Caterpillar headquarters moving to the Chicago area — a development that was announced on the same day last year as the United Way's campaign wrap-up celebration.
"We weren't sure what to expect, but Caterpillar really came through with support," Pape said. "It ended up being a good campaign this year, and I'm happy that we had the results that we had."
Due to major changes to the U.S. tax code recently signed into law, fewer Americans are expected to itemize charitable contributions on their federal income tax returns, with a possible implication of fewer donations.
Pape, however, said he did not expect an impact on the 2018 Heart of Illinois campaign.
"I don't think the main reason people give is to claim a tax deduction," Pape said. "I've never looked at it that way, and it seems to be the same for most other people."
Matt Buedel can be reached at 686-3154 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JournoBuedel.