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N.D. leads nation in United Way fundraising

North Dakota is a national leader when it comes to raising money for the United Way.

The state leads the nation in percent increase of total dollars raised in 2009. It's also one of only six states to increase giving over 2008. The others are South Dakota, Oklahoma, Washington D.C., New Mexico and Oregon.

The nine United Ways in North Dakota collectively raised $8,959,554 in 2009. That's a 4.5 percent in-crease over 2008.

United Way of Cass-Clay donors contributed to more than half, 54 percent, of the statewide giving.

"It certainly reflects the stable economy in our area," said Melinda Haun, United Way of Cass-Clay president. "It reinforces the spirit of giving in the state."

United Way of Cass-Clay had a 2009 campaign goal of $4,875,000 million and raised $4,876,983, marking a 3.72 percent increase over the dollars raised in 2008. The group's 2010 campaign goal is $5 million.

So far, the outlook for the 2010 campaign is cautiously optimistic, Haun said.

"We're feeling like the business climate is pretty positive," she said. "The very early returns are that it's going to be a good campaign."

United Way of Cass-Clay 2009 fundraising campaign chairman Michael Solberg, who is president of State Bank & Trust, said is was excited, but not surprised to hear North Dakota leads the nation in percent increase of funds raised.

"It really shows that our community just gets things done when they need to," he said.

Solberg said that before the goal was made public, there was discussion about backing down, but organizers were confident the community would respond.

"It wasn't an easy campaign by any means, but it's not unlike when things like the flood happen," he said. "Our community just pitches in and bands together."

To make sure the organization made its goal, shortly before Christmas, Sanford Health, Scheels, Swanson Health Products, and State Bank & Trust each stepped forward with a $50,000 gift above what they had already donated.

Tracy Frank is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.