For the 25th year in a row, Catholic Family Services celebrated their charity night in the Tropical Inn's banquet room. With this year's theme as "Under the Stars," twinkle lights glinted and star decorations hung from the ceiling, while along the walls of the expansive room tables sat boasting items that could be bid on throughout the evening.
When Catholic Family Services first started operating in the Battlefords in 1992, the annual operating budget was less than $40,000. Now with an operating budget of approximately $2 million, Executive Director Karen Richard says fundraising events, like Charity Night, are crucial in helping them provide services to families in need. Richard notes that an increased operating budget doesn't necessarily translate into yearly financial stability. Rather, "When we do have extra funds, the first thing we look at is 'where can we increase services?'" says Richard.
Services provided by the organization include counselling, family support, parent education and wellness and professional development. Although Catholic is in their name, Richard states that anyone in need of their services, regardless of religion, are welcome.
"We provide service regardless of religious affiliation or economic situation," says Richard. "There are a number of programs we offer that don't have any fee attached because they are programs we offer through partnership with social services or the school division or those sorts of things."
Another function of the annual charity night, beyond fundraising, is providing the opportunity to thank supporters of the organization, throughout the year, through "cash donation, donation in kind, services, auction items, people who purchase tickets and attend," says Richard.
In recent years, the yearly silent auction/dinner/dance event has seen a decrease in total dollars raised, with $38,000 raised in 2015 and $34,000 in 2016. The final figure hasn't yet been tallied, but Richard expects to see the trend continue and anticipates a final figure around $30,000.
With fewer people attending the event – a sellout would be around 300 attendees and this year saw 220 seats filled – Richard says the future Charity Night is a topic the organization will have to address. Still, for now, Richard says she was pleasantly surprised by their showing, given that fundraising events are so common.
"Unfortunately," says Richard. "I think organizations are ending up in direct competition with each other."
The funds that are raised are "critical" to the organization, as they aren't tied up in contracts, they can put the money to where it's most needed.
"We would use these funds to supplement services for families who can't afford [them]," says Richard.
"Those are dollars that we can use for the services that are not funded, so that we can fill the gaps."