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United Way aims high

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Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles on local United Way fundraising strategies to cope with the economic slump.

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Despite the grim economy and stock market, the United Way of Central Carolinas aims to raise $39 million in its annual fund drive that began Aug. 23 – 5.1 percent more than last year.

Meeting that goal, pinned on growing needs and an economic rebound, will require boosting gifts of $1,000 or more, particularly from minorities and women. Those gifts totaled $18 million last year, or nearly half the campaign.

And to reverse a spike last year in gifts designated for non-member agencies, the United Way will encourage contributions to its general “community care fund.”

Based on growing donor demand, the United Way for the first time last year let employers run workplace drives allowing employees to give to agencies outside the United Way.

Of the $37.1 million raised, up 3 percent from 2000, donors designated $4 million to groups other than the United Way’s 98 member agencies – three times the total designated a year earlier and representing more than $1 of every $10 contributed.

In a survey late last year, donors said keeping their dollars in the community was the biggest factor in whether they gave to the campaign.

This year, a media blitz will promote the community care fund, which supports five United Way priorities — children, self-sufficiency, health, families and communities, and the elderly and disabled.

The blitz — developed pro bono by public-relations firm Wray Ward Laseter, JTA Talent, Fleet Films, Mike Carroll Photography and Concentrix Music & Sound Design — features TV, radio, print and outdoor advertising.

“We don’t want to discourage philanthropy, so we still need to offer choice, but we sure want to make every effort to educate donors about contributing to the community care fund,” says Diane Wright, United Way vice president for marketing.

The United Way is paying special attention to five firms that provided nearly 40 percent of last year’s drive, and more than half the contributions of $1,000 or more – Bank of America, Carolinas HealthCare, Duke Energy, Microsoft and Wachovia.

Cultivating donors also is the goal of an Oct. 17 Wachovia workshop to promote women’s philanthropy and a Nov. 13 board-training program for women, as well as a Sept. 26 Bank of America breakfast to brief women on community needs.

This year’s campaign will be the fifth to promote giving among African-Americans and the first to ask area clergy – in a letter from Rabbi Murray Ezring of Temple Israel – to promote the United Way.

And Bank of America is offering $250,000 in matching funds to spur individuals to make annual undesignated gifts of at least $10,000 within three years.

The United Way also plans to build closer ties with individuals year-round through workplace workshops, volunteer projects, leadership training and planned or deferred giving.

“The United Way is so much more than a fundraiser,” Wright says. “We work with volunteers to help find solutions for our community’s most pressing needs.”

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