United Way eyes change

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

By Todd Cohen

HIGH POINT, N.C. — As it gears up to begin its annual fund drive Sept. 18 in the face of the sagging economy, the United Way of Greater High Point is shifting its giving strategy and searching for a chief executive.

The United Way, which expects its goal to slightly exceed the $4.7 million it raised each of the past two years, is recruiting new employers for workplace campaigns and targeting female and younger donors, and also plans to enlist more black donors.

“We’re trying to do what we need to do this year to put the ask before all the people we think should be invited to support us,” says Bill McGuinn, a retired First Citizens senior banking executive who was named interim United Way president after Claudia Stowers resigned in July.

United Way board chairman Tony Cardoni hopes by the end of the year to hire a successor to Stowers, who doubled the annual drive during her 14-year tenure.

Patty Mead, director of resource development, said the United Way will recruit new employers in the Piedmont Parkway area of North High Point, where last year’s campaign raised $732,000 from drives at 30 employers among 175 in the region.

In an economy shifting from traditional manufacturing such as furniture and textiles, the United Way also is targeting lawyers, accountants, real estate brokers and other professionals and entrepreneurs, as well as retirees and individuals who don’t work in offices.

“For us to continue in our growth curve raising funds in our community, we need to seek out new corporations running campaigns,” says Cardoni, former co-owner of Guilford Packaging.

A big goal for the campaign, chaired by Robert A. Rogers Jr., senior vice president for High Point Bank and Trust Co., is to recruit more donors who give $1,000 or more. Last year, 70 individuals gave $10,000 or more, while 558 gave $1,000 to $9,999, accounting for more than 30 percent of the campaign, compared to 40 giving $10,000 or more in 1997, and 427 giving $1,000 to $9,999, or 28 percent of the campaign.

To help spur giving, Farr Associates is donating 30 leadership-development scholarships for United Way loaned executives, integrating campaign strategy into their training.

The United Way, which last year saw donors designate $500,000 for non-member agencies, also is shifting its focus from funding member agencies to funding programs based on their impact.

Based on a study last year of community needs, a United Way panel of volunteers, donors and agencies is developing a “social agenda” to guide the distribution of funds to the United Way’s 27 member agencies next spring.

In 2003, Cardoni says, the United Way could move entirely to funding programs based on its goals and the programs’ impact.

“I think we’re going to redefine our relationship with member agencies,” he says. 

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