United Way retools

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The United Way of Greater Greensboro is revamping its focus and the way it tracks its impact – and consolidating its fundraising.

While it still has the job of raising money, the United Way will put far greater emphasis on tackling human needs, says Neil Belenky, president.

As communities grow more diverse and social problems more complex, charities overlap with government, compete for support and look for ways to team up, he says, while donors seek greater accountability from charities and more choices for giving.

So rather than assuming that raising and divvying up dollars is its end goal, he says, the United Way will emphasize channeling resources to an integrated social strategy.

“The name of the game these days is collaboration,” he says.

And to expand the United Way’s fundraising focus from the workplace to individual donors, Belenky has promoted Brook Wingate, vice president for major gifts, to the new job of executive vice president.

 The United Way two years ago picked six broad social goals — supporting older adults, self-sufficiency and pre-school youngsters, meeting basic needs, boosting community health and promoting safe neighborhoods and community leadership.

Working with agencies and civic leaders, the United Way has set outcomes to achieve — and indicators to measure its impact — in each area.

This year, the United Way will assess local needs, pick issues to address first and create game plans for each issue, says Fred Newman, vice president for community investment.

At the same time, local United Ways throughout the United States have adopted new standards for handling and reporting contributions and expenses.

“What it’s really about is consistency and clarity,” says Belenky, a member of the National Professional Council of the United Way of America.

The changes were approved by the council, consisting of the heads of 54 local United Ways that raise $1.7 billion a year, or 43 percent of the United Way total.

Local United Ways, for example, will clearly differentiate between different types of resources they secure for the community, and between funds they raise locally and funds from workplace drives in other communities that they process.

That issue typically affects larger United Ways – unlike Greensboro’s  — that process pledges for corporate-wide campaigns for firms operating in more than one region.

Of the $14.1 million Greensboro raised in 2001, 9 percent went to other communities – dollars Greensboro will continue to count in its campaign. Breakdowns for the 2002 campaign, which has raised $13.2 million, are not yet available.

Greensboro’s United Way also provides resources beyond the campaign, including grants plus $15 million a year in products donated to the community through a collaborative Gifts In Kind program that is the largest in the United States – funds not counted in the campaign.

Overall, Belenky says, the United Way’s impact on Greensboro is $28 million to $30 million a year.

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