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United Way plans ad blitz

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By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Falling just 2 percent shy of its $17.3 million goal for last year’s annual fund drive, the United Way of Forsyth County is getting an early start on this fall’s effort.

The drive raised just over $17 million, boosted by seven workplace campaigns that generated 55 percent of the total, and by big individual donors.

Despite paring its workforce, Sara Lee raised more than $2.5 million, exceeding its goal and posting a 5 percent jump in employee donors.

Corporate and employee giving totaled $2 million each at R.J. Reynolds and Wachovia, which equaled its 2001 total despite losing employees in its merger with First Union.

The overall drive, chaired by Brenda Diggs, senior vice president at Wachovia, raised nearly $1.2 million at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, $600,000 at Novant Health, nearly $572,000 at BB&T and $257,000 at Krispy Kreme.

Womble Carlyle, another big campaign, raised $192,000.

The number of individuals giving $10,000 or more grew to 146 from 131 a year earlier and accounted for nearly $2.2 million, up $134,000.

“At the top end, despite the worst stock market in anybody’s memory, the United Way continued to be a focal point for people’s individual philanthropy in this community,” says Ron Drago, United Way CEO.

Giving fell at small businesses, public agencies and public schools.

While a stronger economy is the biggest factor that could boost this fall’s drive, Drago says, the United Way is gearing up for a year-round marketing push.

With free services from ad firm Coyne Beahme, recruited by its client R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, the push will focus on the United Way’s impact in four priority areas supported by its general community care fund — health, children and families, self-sufficiency and safety.

Although similar funds at other United Ways have declined because donors earmark contributions for specific agencies or causes, Forsyth’s fund last fall increased its share of total contributions for the third straight year.

Dollars that donors designate for specific agencies or causes fell 8 percent each of the past two years, declines that Drago attributes to proomoting the community care fund.

The new ad campaign will promote the fund by devoting a month or so to individual issues within the United Way’s priority areas.

Starting in March, for example, ads will focus on the estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Forsyth residents who lack medical insurance.

The United Way is working with Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Novant Health and Forsyth County to create a nonprofit to identify uninsured individuals and channel them to appropriate health-care providers.

“We know it is more critical than ever to really tell the story of how contributions to United Way impact lives,” Drago says.

This fall’s drive will be chaired by Steve Lineberger, president and CEO of Sara Lee Underwear and Socks.

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