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Charlotte just shy of goal

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By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Acting bold in a timid economy, the United Way of Central Carolinas bet it could raise $39 million in its annual fund drive last fall, up 4 percent from a year earlier.

While the United Way still is accepting gifts, it missed its mark by only $400,000.

And it made progress connecting with donors and positioning itself as a group that serves the community year-round, says Diane Wright, vice president for marketing.

“We focused on building deeper relationships, getting more people involved in United Way and branding United Way,” she says, “to help people understand United Way is much more than a fundraiser.”

The drive also helped donors better recognize that economic hard times feed demand for health and human services, she says.

Aiming for a 4 percent increase, she says, was ambitious in the face of the sputtering economy and stock market.

Depressed stock values hurt big gifts, stock gifts and retiree giving, she says, and many firms, particularly small businesses, discontinued corporate gifts.

So while the number of individuals giving $10,000 or more grew to 490 from 461, for example, all gifts of that size fell to $6.3 million from nearly $6.5 million.

And total gifts of $1,000 to $10,000 fell to $10.86 million from $11.5 million a year earlier.

Key factors in the drive were matching incentives and new workplace efforts, as well as campaigns at bigger companies.

Campaigns at Bank of America, Carolinas HealthCare System, Duke Energy, Microsoft and Wachovia, together accounting for 40 percent of the overall drive, grew 8 percent, while the top 250 workplace campaigns generated 90 percent of the total raised.

“We spent a lot of time and will continue building stronger relationships with those accounts,” Wright says.

Employee campaigns grew 20 percent to $486,000 at Harris Teeter, 28 percent to $86,000 at the Carolina Panthers and 2000 percent to $21,000 at Infinity Broadcasting.

Matching programs spurred overall campaigns of $247,000 at Coca-Cola Bottling Consolidated, up 56 percent from a year ago, and $109,000 at Transamerica, up 43 percent.

Giving at companies running workplace campaigns or making corporate gifts for the first time totaled $96,000 at SPX Corp., $81,000 at EnPro and $19,000 at Carlisle Companies.

Incentives to boost employee gifts of $1,000 or more generated $30,000 at Compass Group USA, $21,000 each at Family Dollar Stores and Mid Carolina Cardiology and $20,000 at Presbyterian Healthcare.

And a Bank of America offer putting up $250,000 in matching funds to spur individuals to make annual undesignated gifts of at least $10,000 within three years produced 60 new donors at that level.

The United Way also expanded to three months from one week the volunteer effort that is part of the drive.

“When people get involved and they see first-hand how their dollars are making a difference, it encourages giving,” Wright says.

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