By Todd Cohen
ASHEBORO, N.C. — Hurt by local layoffs but facing growing demand for services, United Way of Randolph County aims to persuade donors to dig deeper this year by focusing on the community needs its serves.
United Way, which saw giving drop each of the past two years and fell short of the goals for its annual drives, expects to set a slightly higher goal this year.
United Way likely will set a $1.6 million goal for the drive, which kicks off Aug. 23 with a community carnival at South Asheboro Middle School and will be chaired by Curt Lorimer, director of workforce development for the Asheboro City Schools.
Stung by the region’s loss of 3,000 jobs over the last five years, United Way last year set a $1.55 million goal but raised only $1.47 million after setting a goal of nearly $1.63 million in 2001 and raising only $1.5 million.
Layoffs have hurt fundraising overall, but the number of donors making bigger gifts has grown, as has the need for health and human services delivered by United Way’s 31 member agencies, says Elizabeth Mitchell, a 16-year United Way veteran who was named chief professional officer in April after serving three months on an interim basis.
“We’re stretching our goal this year,” says Mitchell, who most recently served for nearly five years as senior vice president for direct services at Triangle United Way in Research Triangle Park and previously held United Way jobs in New Jersey and Connecticut.
This year’s drive, with the theme, “What matters?,” will focus on raising money to support programs that increase self-sufficiency, invest in youth, strengthen families and children, and promote health.
To gear up for the drive, United Way has visited local CEOs, named chairs for its industrial, commercial, residential and professional divisions, and begun to recruit 30 loaned executives to visit many of the more than 200 workplaces that will hold employee campaigns.
Individual donors who make “leadership” gifts of $1,000 or more account for just over $1 of every $4 the drive generates.
Launched in 1994, when it raised $64,000, leadership giving totaled roughly $400,000 from 210 donors last year after peaking in 2001 at roughly $445,000 from 220 donors, says Linda Cranford, director of leadership and legacy giving.
And last year, United Way enlisted 20 new donors giving $1,000 or more.
“We’ve got a good, solid core of leadership donors, every year, even despite the economy and enormous job loss in Randolph County,” she says.
Chaired by John Revell, plant manager for Oliver Rubber, and Nan Revell, a retail service representative in the South Asheboro branch of First National Bank and Trust Co., United Way’s leadership-giving committee will set a leadership goal later this summer.
“We certainly want to expand where we were last year,” Cranford says, emphasizing “the strong commitment to investing in our community that our leadership has.
“They understand that when we have a good, strong, healthy community, it helps all of us.”
Fred Smith, key accounts manager for Randolph Electric Membership Corp., is United Way chair.
Pro-bono support for United Way includes a 7-minute video produced for this year’s drive by Turning Point Productions, and a Web site developed by 3 Core Communications, both in Asheboro.