United Way aims for impact

By Todd Cohen

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Facing stiffer fundraising competition and diverse donors who expect greater accountability from causes they support, the Triangle United Way is retooling itself.

“People don’t see us as any different from any of our competitors,” said Craig Chancellor, the United Way’s new president and former head of the United Way in Dayton, Ohio.

To set itself apart, he told the Triangle chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals on March 21, the United Way is overhauling its “brand” to focus less on fundraising and more on its impact on the community and the people its agencies serve.

The United Way will invest in research and technology so it can better map community needs, track the impact of programs it funds and build stronger ties with individual donors by delivering directly to them customized information geared to their interests, Chancellor said in an interview.

The United Way still will operate its 2-1-1 phone service that provides human-services information, referrals and volunteer connections, but will drop several direct services it provides — its Network2000 leadership-development program for minorities and all gift-in-kind donations except for IBM products.

And it will contract out its Success by 6 early-childhood program backed by Bank of America.

The United Way is eliminating the position of senior vice president for direct services, held by Elizabeth Mitchell, and creating the job of director of management information services.

Conceding that local United Ways had enjoyed a “captive” audience for workplace fundraising, shown “arrogance” about fundraising competition and been slow to respond to it, Chancellor said the Triangle United Way would work harder.

He said he aimed to court more wealthy donors, particularly women, minorities and entrepreneurs, by connecting them with causes they care about, and designing specific programs they can fund.

The United Way also will team with other groups that provide and fund human services, he said, and will spend more time working with donors to develop gifts through estate planning, charitable trusts and bequests.

The United Way wants be known for making a difference in the community, said Chancellor, who emphasized that while the 2001 annual campaign did not exceed that of 2000, the $26 million raised both years was “a lot of money.”

“Through the money we’re raising,” he said, “people’s lives are changing for the better and, in turn, the life of the community will change for the better, at least in the human-services arena.”

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