Tackling the downturn: Part 4 – High Point upbeat – Focus on efficiency

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

By Todd Cohen

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Expecting a tough fund drive this fall because of the soft economy, United Way officials in High Point aim to be more aggressive and cost-effective in soliciting donors.

“Even when times are tough, people give generously in this community,” says Claudia Stowers, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater High Point. “But we know it will be a more difficult and more challenging year.”

While the board hasn’t yet set a goal for this year’s campaign – which kicks off Sept. 5 and will be chaired by Hoyt Almond, senior vice president and city executive for BB&T – Stowers says it probably will exceed the $4.6 million raised last year, but not by much.

Still, despite the weakening economy, she sees upbeat signs.

In its “pacesetter” workplace campaign earlier this summer, for example, High Point Regional Health System raised nearly $155,000, including 18 gifts of $1,000 or more, compared to nearly $139,000 raised last year, including 12 gifts of $1,000 or more.

To boost individual giving, the United Way will tell donors it can build on their gifts. Last year, for example, the United Way secured grants and big gifts totaling $2.3 million – aimed mainly at helping children — in addition to the $4.6 million raised in the campaign.

To reduce campaign costs, the United Way has formed a partnership with six United Ways in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio to streamline the processing of pledges.

Each United Way will create scannable pledge cards, customized for local employers and individual employees. After employees fill out the cards, the United Ways will ship them to a common vendor. It will download donor data into software shared by the six United Ways, which will use the data to create computer discs that employers can use to deduct pledges from employee paychecks.

 The United Way will offer the system to about 30 of its biggest companies, and will offer online pledging to a handful of employers.

It also will emphasize to donors that it aims to build partnerships that address community needs.

High Point, for example, is one of 11 United Ways in the United States in a partnership, known as Vital Connections, that works to improve child care for youngsters from birth through age 3.

And later this year, High Point will join the United Ways in Greensboro and Forsyth County to launch a 211 phone line offering consolidated information and referrals for health and human service needs in the Triad.

“Using technology and creating strategic partnerships and collaborations are essential to any business nowadays,” Stowers says. “We’re trying to operate this nonprofit like any well-managed business.”

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