By Todd Cohen
GREENSBORO, N.C. — To help build stronger ties with individual donors, the United Way of Greater Greensboro is forming a partnership with the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro to generate gifts for a new endowment.
The endowment, to be housed in a new United Way Foundation being created at the Community Foundation, has a tentative goal of raising $25 million in seven years through bequests and other planned and deferred gifts, says Neil Belenky, United Way president.
Over the past 30 years, occasional gifts to the United Way have provided an endowment of about $2 million.
With a donor’s special grant, the United Way this June will hire a second major-gifts officer to boost donor research, Belenky says, and the Community Foundation’s staff will provide support on issues ranging from marketing to working with prospective donors and structuring complex gifts.
“They will provide a level of technical assistance that would be very expensive for us to purchase,” he says. “It’s something they do very well.”
Walker Sanders, the Community Foundation’s president, says the foundation – particularly Patrick Weiner, vice president for donor services and development – will help the United Way develop a planned giving strategy.
“We are an organization that’s set up to manage a number of different types of very complex gifts,” Sanders says. “We can use that expertise to help benefit the United Way.”
The United Way is embracing planned giving as part of a larger effort to focus on individual donors, Belenky says.
That shift comes in the face continually changing ownership of local companies, a more diverse and independent workforce and an increase in the share of giving to the United Way from individuals contributing $1,000 or more, he says.
“People are moving from company to company, and senior management changes, and we need greater continuity with companies,” he says. “Continuity has to come through having a personal relationship with every donor, which is what universities do.”
Rooted in workplace campaigns focusing on efficiency, he says, the United Way traditionally communicated with donors once a year.
“Now, we’re shifting to developing the capacity to communicate with our donors on a year-round basis, not just through the company, but directly, using the Internet,” he says.
When he joined the Greensboro United Way in 1990, he says, several hundred individuals giving $1,000 or more accounted for 16 percent of the annual campaign, which raised $8.5 million.
In 2000 – the most recent year for which details are available — 2,300 people gave $1,000 or more, accounting for 40 percent of the campaign, which raised $14.9 million. The 2001 campaign had roughly the same number of $1,000 donors.
Year-round communication with donors, coupled with a planned-giving program, will help revive the long-term fundraising stability that has eroded in the face of a changing workplace, Belenky says.