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On the rebound

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Triangle United Way raises sights, focuses on impact, CEO says.

By Todd Cohen

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Facing declining support and red ink in recent years, Triangle United Way has retooled itself and is heading into its annual fund drive with plans to boost its goal and focus on its impact.

“The economy has rebounded,” says Craig Chancellor, president and CEO. “I think we have turned the corner so now we’re beginning to talk about what is our role in our community and how can we play that role better.”

The drive, which is chaired by Bob Greczyn, CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, and raised $10.6 million last year for its general “community care fund,” aims to raise $11.2 million this year.

Plans to reach that goal include raising $200,000 from new donors and $1.4 million from donors giving $10,000 or more, up from $1 million last year, and enlisting several dozen “ambassadors” to visit CEOs of bigger Triangle employers.

Those plans are rooted in big changes Chancellor has instituted at United Way

When he arrived in January 2002, net assets were $1 million in the red, and United Way had drained its reserves and was not making payments on a regular schedule to agencies that donors the previous year had designated to receive $14.2 million.

That spring, Chancellor disclosed the financial problems to the staff, and announced layoffs and budget cuts.

That fall, United Way shifted the focus of its annual drive to its “community care fund,” encouraging donors to make gifts that were not designated for specific agencies.

While overall giving fell to more than $18 million last year from $26 million in 2001, and giving to the community care fund has fallen to $10.6 million from $11.8 million, the fund has grown as a share of overall giving to nearly 60 percent from nearly 52 percent.

Last summer, anticipating a cash-flow slowdown before campaign revenues began to flow, United Way opened a $1 million line of credit with Wachovia, repaying it by December.

And this year, after overall giving last year fell nearly $1 million from 2002, and giving to the community care fund fell $100,000 and missed its goal by $2 million, United Way reduced funding to local agencies by roughly $500,000, with reductions to agencies ranging from 13 percent to 28 percent.

United Way now pays designated gifts quarterly, its board last winter approved putting $200,000 into reserves, and the staff now totals 38 people, down six from last year.

United Way also picked Grant Thornton as its auditor, replacing Blackman & Sloop in Chapel Hill, and hired CPA Mark Langford of Nortel as chief financial officer, a new positions.

This year’s drive aims to broaden United Way’s reach, says Sarah Smith, vice president of resource development.

Goals are to increase to 100 the number of individuals giving $10,000 or more, which last year grew to 72 from 65, to recruit more first-time donors, who last year contributed $230,000, and to reach more women and African Americans.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield has agreed to provide $10,000 to match $4 for every $1 donated by up to 10 workplace drives or companies giving $250 for the first time.

And if United Way can recruit other partners to make similar matches totaling $25,000, the foundation will increase its pledge to $25,000.

United Way also hopes to raise at least $50,000 from the 21st annual Old Reliable Run, which the organization is producing for the first time this year and will be sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield and other companies.

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