United Way targets $40 million milestone

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Counting on a thriving local economy and ongoing efforts to connect donors with the causes their dollars support, United Way of Central Carolinas hopes to raise more than $40 million in its annual drive that began Sept. 9.

Hitting and passing that threshold would be a first for the annual drive, which last year raised $39.1 million.

“The number of jobs created is up, retail sales are up, the housing market is healthy,” says Diane Wright, senior vice president for resource development.

Still, she says, hitting the goal will require aggressive efforts to show donors the impact their dollars have on the delivery of critical health and human services.

The kickoff featured a “day of caring” during which volunteers worked at agencies funded by United Way and at two public schools.

United Way also is offering “community impact tours” every Tuesday and Thursday during the drive to give donors and prospective donors “a first-hand experience and connection to how their dollars are reinvested back in the community,” Wright says.

Bank of America scheduled two tours in September for all employees who last year gave $10,000 or more each, or who might give that much this year.

The drive, chaired by Graham Denton, president of the Charlotte market area for Bank of America, will feature efforts targeting particular groups of donors and employers.

Coca-Cola Bottling Co., Piedmont Natural Gas and Lance, for example, have pooled $250,000 for challenge grants to spur more gifts of  $1,000 or more.

The drive last year received $8.6 million from 714 “Tocqueville” donors giving $10,000 or more, including 44 who gave $25,000 or more, and this year it aims to increase the total to just over $9 million, Wright says.

Chairing the Tocqueville effort is Frank Harrison, chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Bottling, who also has helped arrange for Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner, to speak at a special recognition event Nov. 8 for Tocqueville donors.

Gifts of $10,000 or more, plus gifts of $1,000 or more, represented 53 percent of all funds raised last year.

A new initiative, headed by Michael Smith, president of Center City Partners, will featured two tours Sept. 7 and 14 of United Way agencies for 200 businesses it is targeting that have never taken part in the drive.

Another new initiative, headed by Jim Nash, managing director of sports finance at Bank of America, aims to enlist more players and vendors from local professional sports franchises, and to build stronger partnerships with NASCAR and its vendors.

United Way also has created a volunteer committee, headed by Paul Franz, executive vice president of Carolinas HealthCare System, to develop new ways to share with major donors and the community information about United Way’s impact.

“Clearly, the needs of the community continue to increase as the size of the community increases,” says Denton. “So it’s a never-ending environment where we must be successful in order to continue to deliver the services that historically have always been available, but also expand those services.”

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