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Economy slows United Way

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By Todd Cohen

The sinking economy socked annual fund drives at Triad United Way affiliates, which just met or fell short of their goals.

The United Way of Forsyth County is 20 percent shy of its $17.3 million goal, the total it raised a year ago, while the United Way of Greater Greensboro is $450,000 short of its $13.65 million goal, down from $13.9 million a year ago.

And while the United Way of Greater High Point met its $4.3 million goal, it lagged the $4.7 million raised each of the past two years.

“It’s been a tough year,” says Ron Drago, CEO of Forsyth’s United Way.

Fueling the Forsyth drive, which ends the third week in February, have been large employers and growing businesses, Drago says.

Seven workplace campaigns account for more than half the total raised – BB&T, Krispy Kreme, Novant Health, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Sara Lee, Wachovia and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

But campaigns at smaller businesses and public agencies fell short of expectations, Drago says.

Wachovia offered to match gifts of $5,000, generating roughly 20 new donors at that level, he says.

But raising individual gifts of $1,000 or more — 38 percent of last year’s total – generally was tough, Drago says, “because we did not do as well as we would have liked with professional and individual donors outside the workplace who are affected even more by the stock market and economic conditions.”

Greensboro’s United Way faced job losses and the limping stock market, says Neil Belenky, president and chief professional officer.

“Greensboro’s been rocked,” he says. “There’s no easy turnaround.”

Strong workplaces campaigns included Lorillard, which raised $408,000, up 7 percent from a year ago, and ConvaTec-Bristol Myers Squibb, which raised $95,700, up 38 percent.

“Where the companies were relatively healthy, we did very well,” Belenky says.

The campaign landed 20 new donors who gave $5,000 or more, thanks to four private donors who offered to match up to $75,000 in gifts of $5,000 by individuals if they also agreed to give $10,000 in next fall’s drive.

High Point’s United Way met its goal with the help of big individual donors and workplace campaigns posting big increases, says Robert A. Rogers, campaign chair and senior vice president at High Point Bank and Trust Co.

Big workplaces increases included Thomas Built Buses, 51 percent; Wachovia, 45 percent; First Citizens, 35 percent; Mannington Wood Floors, 27 percent; GE Capital, 17 percent; and Sara Lee Sock, 9 percent.

The drive included a big push among new businesses in North High Point and a drawing for a free car for donors giving $25 or more.

By meeting its goal, Rogers says, the United Way may be able to avoid repeating the cuts of 10 percent to 15 percent it made last year in funding to its agencies.

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