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United Way targets donors

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By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Strengthening ties with individual donors is a priority at United Way of Central Carolinas.

By working more closely with employee groups and individuals, the United Way aims to increase the already-growing share of its annual drive generated by larger gifts, particularly from minorities and women, and to build a $100 million endowment.

“The question we’re going to be asking daily is, ‘How can we help you?’”, says Marsha Basloe, the United Way’s new senior vice president of resource development.

Using a new “relationship-management” strategy, individual staff members assigned to similarly run businesses will work year-round to identify employee needs and interests, and help employees better understand community needs and think about solutions.

The United Way also will work more closely with five firms that generated 38 percent of the 2001 campaign and 52 percent of contributions of $1,000 or more – Bank of America, Carolinas HealthCare, Duke Energy, Microsoft and Wachovia – and will assign key volunteer leaders to visit individual donors.

Larger gifts account for a growing share of giving to the United Way, but are made by only one-fifth of households with annual incomes of $100,000 or more in the three-and-a-half counties the United Way serves.

In 2001, 7,100 donors giving $1,000 or more contributed $18 million to the United Way, or nearly half of the $37.1 million it raised.

In 1997, by comparison, 3,700 donors giving $1,000 or more contributed $8.7 million, or nearly one-third of the $26.5 million raised.

To encourage bigger gifts, Bank of America has offered $250,000 to match specified minimum increases by donors giving $1,000 to $9,999 this year – and to donate $5,000 in 2002 and $2,500 in 2003 to match gifts by donors pledging $5,000 this year, $7,500 next year and $10,000 in 2004.

Blacks and women are getting special attention.

An African-American initiative raised $622,000 in gifts of $1,000 or more last year, up from $239,000 in 1998. Co-chairs this year are Napoleon Stephenson, managing director at Bank of America, and consultant Stephanie Counts.

And after raising $3.38 million last year from women giving $1,000 or more, up from $2.2 million in 1999, the United Way wants to solicit even more gifts from women. Co-chairs are Cathy Bessant, North Carolina president for Bank of America, and volunteer Sandy Burner.

The United Way also has created a committee — headed by Graham W. Denton Jr., executive vice president at Bank of America – to solicit gifts of $25,000 or more. The goal is for gifts of $10,000 or more to total $10 million in the annual campaign within three years.

And a new “legacy board” – headed by retired IBM executive Rogers Owens – aims to boost endowment giving. The goal is for deferred gifts, now totaling $700,000, to grow to $100 million in 15 to 20 years.

“We believe that in building relationships with our donor base, they can help make a difference in the community,” says Basloe. “The United Way has the ability to be our community-solutions provider.”

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