United Way drives slip

By Solja Nygard Frangos

Hurt by lost jobs and the weak stock market, only 15 of North Carolina’s 66 local United Ways reached their annual campaign goals last year, and only 12 rasied more money than in 2001.

Although North Carolina’s United Ways met their combined campaign goal of about $143 million, they raised almost $10 million less than a year earlier, according to preliminary estimates.

“2002 was the most difficult year in fundraising I have seen in a decade,” says Jim Morrison, president of the United Way of North Carolina.

Forty-four United Ways set goals that were higher than the totals they raised in 2001, while 16 set lower goals.

“Many United Ways increased their goals because the need for their services grew,” Morrison says, “but reaching those goals was hard due to the weak economy.”

Some local officials fear final results might be even weaker than announced because some donors might not honor their pledges.

“Employees who were laid off after they filled their pledge cards might not be able to give as much as promised,” says Diane Wright, vice president for marketing with the United Way of Central Carolinas in Charlotte.

Many United Ways that met their goals focused on attracting new donors and courting individuals who could give several hundred dollars, says Morrison.  

The United Way of Central Carolinas, United Way of Henderson County in Hendersonville and United Way of Iredell County in Statesville, for example, raised more than a year earlier.

Charlotte’s United Way, for example, raised $38.6 million, $400,000 short of its goal but $1.5 million more than it raised in 2001.

Fueling the campaign were matching incentives and new workplace efforts, as well as drives at big companies such as Bank of America and Carolinas HealthCare Systems, says Wright.

Henderson County raised $1.54 million, about $40,000 more than its goal and $10,000 more than a year earlier.

The number of individuals giving $1,000 or more grew to 261 from 199, playing a significant role in the campaign, says Henry Johnson, executive director.

Gifts of more than $1,000 grew to $356,000 from $259,000.

Iredell County raised nearly $1.52 million, about $50,000 more than its goal and the total raised a year earlier.

Iredell County exceeded its goal with the help of big individual donors and increased workplace drives, says Pat Stewart, executive director. Workplace drives raised nearly $1.08 million, up 5 percent from a year earlier.  

The United Way of Greater Greensboro and the United Way of Coastal Carolina in New Bern, among many others, fell short of their goals and raised less than they did a year earlier.

Greensboro raised about $13.2 million, roughly $400,000 short of its goal and $700,000 less than in 2001.

The campaign suffered from lost employment and the weak stock market, says Neil Belenky, president and chief professional officer.

New Bern raised $623,000, about $77,000 short of its goal and $12,470 less than a year earlier.

Uncertainty about jobs and investments reduced giving, says Sandra Phelps, executive director.

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