United Way eyes donors

By Todd Cohen

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — After missing its goal last year, Triangle United Way is looking for new donors and businesses, promoting its year-round impact, encouraging community involvement and gearing up to solicit planned gifts and build an endowment.

United Way, which aims to raise $12.6 million, up $1 million from last year, launched this year’s drive in July, two months sooner than usual.

“We are working hard to get the campaign off to an earlier momentum,” says Sarah Smith, vice president of resource development.

Chaired by Smedes York, president of York Properties, the drive continues United Way’s year-old strategy of focusing mainly on its general “community care” fund that addresses priority needs in the community.

United Way adopted that strategy after donors in 2001 designated $15 million to specific agencies.

While the community care fund last year grew to 49 percent of the overall campaign from 46 percent in 2001, it fell short of its goal by $1.4 million, and the overall drive fell nearly $4 million to $22.2 million.

“We’ve got to turn the United Way around,” says York.

This year’s drive got a boost from early campaigns at companies such as Progress Energy, which raised $248,000.

And United Way aims to enlist companies to hold their first workplace campaigns, Smith says.

The North Carolina Biosciences Organization, for example, a trade group for 85 biotech firms and companies that serve them, is considering running United Way campaigns for members, says Sam Taylor, executive vice president.

This year’s drive also aims to reverse a decline in bigger gifts. By the end of 2005, Smith aims to increase to 150, from 66 last year, the number of donors giving $10,000 or more.

United Way also has recruited seven media sponsors that have agreed to donate advertising worth nearly $240,000 for this year’s drive, and more than $265,000 to promote United Way throughout the year in 2004.

And it is working with 11 companies to encourage their more than 48,000 employees to get involved in the community, and aims to work with 50 companies by the end of 2005.

To help launch a two-year effort to build a $4 million endowment, an anonymous donor has made a $1 million challenge grant.

United Way will get half the gift if it can secure commitments for $500,000 in direct gifts of cash and stock by the end of this year, and the other half if it can secure planned gifts through such vehicles as wills and insurance by the end of 2004.

United Way also has teamed up with 20 other Triangle groups to compete for a $3.5 million federal grant to address homelessness, and has hired Mark Langford, former director of finance for sales operations at Nortel Networks, as its chief financial officer.

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