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On the uptick

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By Todd Cohen

HIGH POINT, N.C. — After falling $300,000 short of the $4.1 million goal for its fund drive last year, United Way of Greater High Point sees promising signs for this year’s drive.

While the United Way board will not announce this year’s goal until Sept. 15, it could total about $4 million, or up just over 5 percent from the amount raised last year, says Bobby Smith, president and CEO.

“I’m very optimistic,” he says.

High Point Regional Health System, for example, held an early “pacesetter” workplace campaign in May that has raised $161,000, up from $129,000 last year, even though the hospital reduced its workforce last year by about 50 employees, Smith says.

Thomas Built Buses has landed a state contract for school buses, opened a new plant and added about 100 employees, he says, while Bank of America has added 400 employees for its Triad servicing center in High Point.

Heading into last year’s drive, Smith says, United Way knew it was going to lose contributions totaling $100,000 to $150,000 each at Sara Lee and GE Financial, plus $110,000 combined from two individual donors who had made special pledges the previous year.

This year, in comparison, United Way expects to lose only $45,000 combined from GE Financial and CIT, which acquired the operations of GE Financial and moved them to Charlotte and other locations.

“I sense that things have bottomed out and we’re on the uptick,” Smith says. “I really don’t see too many glaring holes.”

The drive, chaired by Gary Gore, senior vice president and market president in High Point for Bank of America, kicks off Sept. 15 at the Bank of America call center in North High Point, a region United Way continues to target because of rapid growth at the Piedmont Center business park and other sites.

Gore says United Way is asking employers to run “model” campaigns this year that include incentives for employee giving and visits from officials of United Way member agencies.

United Way also is asking employers to encourage their employees to make “leadership” gifts of $1,000 or more, he says.

“We see opportunities with our existing companies,” he says.

United Way also is counting on individuals who make larger gifts to give even more this year, Smith says.

While donors who give $1,000 or more account for roughly 15 percent of the overall campaign, Smith says, they typically contribute the minimum needed to receive special recognition, including $1,000 to be a leadership donor, and $10,000 to be a Tocqueville Society donor.

This year, nine of the 55 individuals who gave $10,000 last year already have been asked to renew their gifts, and seven of them have opted to give $5,000 more, Smith says.

“We’re just trying to put more emphasis on moving up the ladder,” he says.

Tocqueville volunteers, chaired by Tommy Langley, director of investments in High Point for Wachovia Securities, include Jack Slane, retired owner and CEO of Slane Hosiery, and philanthropist David Hayworth.

United Way also has increased to 23 from 15 the number of workplaces in which it will run early pacesetter campaigns, including the City of High Point, United Way’s single biggest employee campaign.

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