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Tackling the downturn: Part 1 – In transition – Tough economy

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Editor’s note: This is the first in a series on fundraising strategies at local United Ways in the face of the economic downturn.

By Todd Cohen

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – As it prepares to kick off its annual fund drive, the Triangle United Way faces the twin challenges of raising money in the face of a slumping economy and finding a new chief executive.

George Coates, senior vice president of administration and chief operating officer, has been named interim president in the wake of the resignation of Tom Dugard, who has left after six years as president to head the Heart of America United Way in Kansas City, Mo.

Frank Daniels Jr., retired publisher and former owner of The News & Observer, has been named to head a search committee to find a new president.

Coates says he hopes the national search will have a president on the job in January.

The United Way board will meet Aug. 28 to set a goal for the annual campaign, which kicks off Sept. 9 in the wake of layoffs and mergers at local companies.

“The whole community is facing economic challenges,” Coates says.

Still, he says, he expects this year’s campaign goal to be higher than the record $26 million raised last year — which exceeded the amount raised in 1999 by $1 million.

A new fundraising tactic this year will be Web-based pledging that the United Way will test with four or five of Triangle’s larger companies that employ a total of 10,000 to 20,000 people.

The United Way also is recruiting about 30 loaned executives to help solicit funds through workplace visits.

The Triangle campaign will be chaired by Barry Eveland, senior state executive for IBM.

County chairs are Robert Hoak, general bank executive of the Carolinas for First Union, Wake; Randy Bridges, Orange County schools superintendent; and Mary Ann Black, a member of the Durham County Board of Commissioners.

The State Employees Combined Campaign, which is handled by the United Way on a contractual basis, also is gearing up for its kickoff.

Targeting roughly 50,000 state employees, the campaign in the nine-county Triangle region has set a goal of $2.2 million, up 2.2 percent from the total raised last year.

The campaign for state employees in Wake begins Sept. 28. Kickoff dates in Orange and Durham have not been set.

Local chairs are Carmen Hooker Buell, state secretary of health and human resources, Wake campaign; Ed Smallwood, professor of veterinary medicine, N.C. State University campaign; Wanda Henderson, Durham office manager for the state Department of Revenue, Durham campaign; Sgt. William Moore of the state Highway Patrol, Orange campaign; and Robert Shelton, executive vice chancellor and provost, UNC-Chapel Hill campaign.

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