United Way mess gets help

By Todd Cohen

Claudia Stowers, former president and CEO of the United Way of Greater High Point, is part of a six-member turnaround team at the scandal-ridden United Way of the National Capital Area.

Assigned by the United Way of America, the team will work for three months with the board and staff to develop a new business model and other initiatives for the organization, which has seen two CEOs quit in the face of allegations that funds were misused.

The group’s interim chief operating officer is working with the board to develop a new code of ethics and new bylaws for the organization.

And Stowers will help create a regional 211 phone system modeled on one created by United Ways in the Triad, and help increase the focus on “leadership” gifts of $1,000 or more – which account for one-fourth of High Point’s annual drive.

“United Ways are beginning to find more and more that the workplace campaign is not the bread and butter it used to be and will not be a growth area for the future, and corporate giving is on the decline,” Stowers says.

She will work with the leadership-giving program at the Capital Area United Way to “increase their awareness and understanding its potential within the campaign,” she says.

The D.C. organization, which is forming a new board, has made a commitment to cut its 90-member staff by about one-third, to slash its budget and to “become leaner and have more impact.”

With 1,300 agencies, the Washington-area United Way “may have been slow to implement changes,” Stowers says.

By comparison, High Point “could be more nimble” and may have been quicker to make internal changes, she says.

“The United Ways that are seeing significant growth in fundraising are changing the way they’re doing business,” she says. “They’re de-emphasizing the role of certain aspects of the campaign and putting more of their resources towards things they see that have real potential for growth, such as leadership giving and planned giving and giving societies, cultivating more personal relationships with donors.”

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