Forsyth United Way aims to expand base

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — United Way of Forsyth County raises $51 per capita, three times the United Way average, and higher than any of the biggest United Ways in the U.S.

Yet while one in three local residents benefits from those dollars, they represent the donations of only one in five local residents.

“That means we’re doing a really good job with a smaller and smaller base of contributing donors,” says Ron Drago, president and CEO.

In its annual drive that began Sept. 8, United Way wants to expand its base of donors, particularly in the face of continuing instability in the local economy, Drago says.

Reaching this year’s goal of nearly $16.4 million, just over the total raised last year, will mean offsetting losses expected to total up to $600,000 because of restructuring and job cuts at local companies.

To meet that challenge, United Way will be more direct than ever in asking donors to share the job of investing in efforts to meet critical health and human service needs, Drago says.

“It’s not entirely fair that, in general, United Way services and benefits are available to everybody in the community, and are being used by a significant portion of the population, but a much smaller portion of the population is supporting United Way,” he says.

That message will be delivered in a campaign video produced by CoyneBeahmShouse, the Greensboro communications firm, as part of a joint marketing effort for eight local United Ways in the region.

Narrating the video are Cameron Kent and Wanda Stark, news anchors for WXII Channel 12.

Chaired by Edwin L. Welch Jr., president of I.L. Long Construction Co., the drive aims to increase larger gifts by 10 percent.

Last year, gifts of $1,000 and over totaled $4.8 million, and gifts of $10,000 and over totaled $2.3 million.

The United Way has pledged $100,000 in matching dollars from its stabilization fund to spur more gifts of $10,000 and over.

And Bill Semans, vice president for investments at UBS Financial Services, is heading a new initiative to secure gifts of that size from emerging business leaders and entrepreneurs.

The kickoff featured United Way’s 10th  annual “Day of Caring,” with more than 1,000 volunteers from 25 companies working to complete projects at member agencies and other nonprofits.

And to meet demand for volunteer opportunities for the kickoff, United Way scheduled an effort to collect books to be distributed at local agencies.

The idea of the volunteer efforts, says Drago, was to “try to raise the level of visibility and get a little more energy and focus on the launch of the campaign.”

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