United Way looks to donors

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — After some grim years, the head of United Way of Greater Greensboro is guardedly upbeat about its annual fund drive.

The key will be to make sure donors know how United Way gets their dollars to causes they care about, and to reach out to donors based on their needs and interests, says Neil Belenky, president.

While United Way has not yet set a goal for this year’s drive, Belenky says his visits to corporate CEOs have found more giving mood.

“People are just tired of sitting around and waiting for things to happen,” he says.

This year’s drive, to start September 10 at a family picnic at the baseball field at UNCG, is chaired by Terry Stone, chief financial officer of Jefferson Pilot Financial and president of Jefferson-Pilot Communications Co.

While United Way last year raised only $13.1 million, $550,000 short of its goal and $800,000 less than in 2001, Belenky counts on workplace campaigns and gifts of $1,000 and more to fuel this year’s drive.

United Way is making a special push to cultivate big gifts from women, African Americans and people under age 40.

Last year, in the face of job losses and a weak stock market, eight new donors gave $10,000 or more.

And thanks to a foundation and some individuals who agreed to match gifts, 21 new donors gave $5,000 and promised to give $10,000 this year.

“We raised a lot of new money last year, but we lost more money than we raised,” Belenky says. “When you’re opening up new markets, it’s important that your traditional base holds significantly.”

Overall last year, 2,162 donors gave $1,000 or more, generating 21.5 percent of the total raised, and 156 donors gave $10,000 or more, generating 14.6 percent of the total, says Brooke Wingate, executive vice president.

For the first time this year, United Way will target “emerging leaders” under age 40 for gifts of $1,000 or more.

The initiative, which will hold a kickoff event Sept. 26 and is chaired by Kristen Yntema, director of mobile clinic care at Moses Cone Health System, also aims to involve donors on volunteer councils that advise United Way on funding for its 31 member agencies.

United Way also has launched an effort to cultivate and involve African-American donors.

Chaired by community volunteer Althea Truesdale and Michael McKinney, vice president of CCB, the initiative held a dance June 27 at the Empire Room downtown that attracted 150 participants.

Both new initiatives are modeled on a women’s initiative that United Way launched in 1998.

Last year, 78 women each gave $10,000 or more, accounting for half the donors who gave at that level.

“There are differences in our donor base,” Belenky says “and it’s important for us to relate United Way to donors in ways that speak to their values and their experiences.”

Working with local foundations, United Way also is set this fall to assess community needs and recommend in January a set of priority goals.

It also plans in January to launch an effort to generate planned gifts for an endowment it has created at the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro.

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